Allentown’s West Park
A beautiful green space that boasts nearly 400 different varieties of trees and shrubs, Allentown’s historic West Park is located just east of William Allen High School, between West Linden and West Turner Streets.
Established at the turn of the 20th Century, the park was created primarily through the efforts of Allentown business magnate Harry C. Trexler. Arguably the city’s most powerful and influential business owner, Trexler amassed a fortune in the timber industry before turning an eye towards Allentown real estate development.
After more than 100 years, West Park is still considered one of Allentown’s most precious gems.
Influenced by the principles of the “City Beautiful Movement”, which called for introducing “beautification” and “monumental grandeur” in urban areas, Trexler began planning for West Park in 1907. To assist him in the park’s design, he hired acclaimed landscape artist J. Franklin Meehan of Philadelphia to develop the planting plan. Meehan, who had previously helped design Philadelphia’s first golf course, modeled the park’s winding pathways after an idyllic English garden.
To create the park’s band shell, which would serve as a center of community events, Trexler hired another highly respected Philadelphian – architect Horace Trumbauer. Perhaps best know for designing opulent mansions for the era’s “robber barons”, Trumbauer also collaborated on the creation of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and designed much of Duke University’s campus.
Finally, in an effort to pay tribute to local heroes, Trexler also sought the talents of renowned sculptor George Brewster. Revered for his war memorials, Brewster was commissioned to create the park’s First Defenders Monument, which honors members of the Allen Guard. One of the first militia groups to sustain casualties during the Civil War, the Allen Guard’s rich history includes being called to Washington DC to help protect the city from Confederate forces. For their heroics in defending the capital, Congress later honored the Guard, and President Lincoln personally met with them to thank them for their service.
When West Park officially opened on September 17th, 1908, it became Allentown’s first public park. The occasion drew hundreds of people from the Lehigh Valley, and included a performance by the Allentown Band – the oldest civilian concert band in the United States. Founded in 1828, the Allentown Band was considered one of the premier bands of the era. Approximately twenty of its members were even recruited to play for celebrated conductor John Philip Sousa at the turn of the 20th Century.
After more than 100 years, West Park is still considered one of Allentown’s most precious gems. Over the decades the park’s natural beauty has grown to include additional plant species, while the 78 varieties of trees have all been mapped and labeled for visitors’ enjoyment and education. The area where the First Defenders Monument still stands has also evolved to include memorials for veterans of more recent wars, while additional bench seating has been added around the park’s centrally located fountain and along the walking paths. The current Allentown Band still holds regular performances in the park’s band shell.
Today, the West Park Civic Association is primarily responsible for preserving, promoting, enhancing, and protecting the park and the surrounding neighborhood. Founded in 1976, the organization works in conjunction with Allentown city leaders and the Harry C. Trexler Trust to maintain the land and host family-friendly community events. In 2001, the group also succeeded in having a portion of the neighborhood surrounding the park designated the West Park Historical District. This area, which stretches from approximately West 14th Street to West 17th Street, between Chew and Court Streets, is home to some of the area’s most architecturally significant homes.
Attend Some Events at West Park
Sunday, May 22 – Music and Brunch in West Park, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Pack your favorite brunch item and meet some friends at the West Park band shell to enjoy good food and a musical performance. Admission is free and plenty of seating is available, but if you would like to reserve a spot you can by emailing [email protected].
**This event will also take place on Sunday, September 18.
Saturday, June 18 (rain date June 25) – 42nd Annual “Art in the Park”, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This event showcases original works of art by more than 100 artists. Musical and dance performances also take place throughout the day. Admission is free. For more information, please call 610.434.0657.
Sunday, June 19 – 34th Annual West Park Historic District House Tour, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Enjoy a self-guided tour of a variety of West Park homes showcasing the rich architectural heritage within the West Park neighborhood. For more information and ticket sales, please call 610.737.7132.
Saturday, July 23 (rain date July 24) – Dinner and a Movie, 6:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
Bring your own picnic dinner and come enjoy an outdoor movie (TBD) in the serene setting of West Park. Admission is free. To reserve a table, complete with tablecloth and flowers, call 610.434.0657.
**This event will also take place on Saturday, August 13 (rain date August 14).
Saturday, December 3 – 10th Annual Tree Lighting Event at West Park, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., stop by The Church of the Mediator at 1620 West Turner Street to help make edible ornaments for the park’s “furry and feathered” friends. Then, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., come to the park to help decorate the tree and enjoy a musical performance. Event is free. For more information, please call 610.434.0657.