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Remember: Fountain Park: Part 2

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fountain Park: Part 2

Revisiting Fountain Park today, following my grand experience yesterday, I had to take a side trip before I could cover the rest of the park.

I have lived in Allentown my entire life and this was my first journey up the legendary staircase. Following the first set, I walked through the tunnel and up the steeper second set of stairs.

The staircase is certainly not in the best of shape. There are broken steps, cracked macadam walkways, graffiti, and in one particular instance a porno mag torn apart and strewn about. Walking these stairs (and you weren’t kidding MM, I was way out of breath by the time I reached the top), I began to develop a nostalgia for something I had never experienced. That feeling intensified as I walked through the second half of Fountain Park.

Fountain Park and Jordan Park were created around the same time in the early thirties and while there are some definite similarities between the parks, the one I noticed most was that they each had the same stone water fountain poolside. On this strangely cool July afternoon, it didn’t appear that the pool was open. It looked ready to swim in though.

Behind the pool lies the frequent star of our city parks, the Little Lehigh Creek. Here, there is a dam and waterfall as well as a Riparian buffer zone that surprised me. I did not know it was there.

There is a basketball court here to complement the baseball diamonds and soccer fields on the other side of 10th street.

Behind the basketball courts, a paved urban trail begins and heads straight towards, and eventually underneath the 8th street Bridge.

Farther down, past another small parking lot and across Lehigh Street is the Wire Hill Meadow Memorial Arboretum. It is signed as maintained by the Allentown Garden Club and is another wonderful addition to our park system by those folks.

The urban trail continues past the arboretum.

Here though, looking at the city of Allentown that feeling I began noticing on the WPA staircase really manifested itself. I looked at the city, and down the trail at Fountain Park and I couldn’t help but wish that with a snap of my fingers I could see this area in its heyday. This is not an urban park as I called it yesterday. It is a post-industrial park caught between two eras of Allentown, just as we are.

Adding to the emptiness this afternoon was the absolute lack of anyone else in the park. I realize this was on account of the rain but it just seemed to amplify the forlorn nature of where I was standing. When I got home I asked my mother what Fountain Park was like when she was a kid. She told me an hour’s worth of stories that solidified my desire to turn back the clock and see what this ghost was like when her heart was pumping.

I do not know what park renovations may occur at Fountain Park over the next few years but I sure am curious as to what they may be. I can’t help but wonder, with a blighted area around it and a city looking for a new identity, if Fountain Park and all our other parks can’t be that identity we so desperately need.

With the proposed trail network, a revitalized environmental awareness, and what I hope is a dedication to preserving what we already have while making new improvements, I think Allentown can live up to its moniker as Pennsylvania’s Park Place again. For now, at this moment, the city still seems a little lost. Fountain Park shows both that sense and the sense of something new, of something to come. It is the same at Canal Park and Keck Park. These urban parklands deserve the same respect as the Lehigh Parkway and what they have to offer us is priceless. They offer the city and its citizens a reason again.

We're on the way. (fingers crossed)



Blogger michael molovinsky said...

kevin, in your mother's youth the park ended at the swimming pool and basket court, it didn't continue under the bridge and across lehigh street to the wire mill arboretum. (there were houses there, and in my youth the actual wire mill building). although the park was smaller, it was maintained much, much better. the steps were keep weeded, thus no saplings caused the damage you witnessed. the "fountain" would never have been filled with trash. there was no master plan, or even people with master's trying to "improve" the system, but there were good stewards who knew and appreciated what we had. andrew, nice documentation

July 22, 2009 at 6:37 AM  
Blogger LVCI said...

Bit off topic (links)... Then there was Adam's Island area . (PIXS)

Old timer's will remember the river ferry to the island. The swim area, etc.

Here's a bunch of great old pixs way before we were born: Images Of America: Allentown

July 22, 2009 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Andrew Kleiner said...

LVCI, I love those Images of America books. For this area, they are probably the easiest way to find out a significant amount of local history.

July 22, 2009 at 9:40 AM  
Blogger LVCI said...

WLVT did a good one for the area's historical amusement parks too!
Carousel of Memories

I made a YouTube video based on Bob Ott's/Wally Ely's Images of America:Dorney Park, but I took it off because I feared it violated copyrights

July 22, 2009 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Lydia said...

I used to pass those stairs on my school bus everyday. Just looking at them gave me that "nostalgia for something I had never experienced." I have always wanted to explore there, and did not even realize it was a part of bigger park. Now my interest is really peeked and a trip that way is in my near future.

July 23, 2009 at 10:46 PM  

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