Sunday, September 23, 2018

Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center

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  Pennsylvania was founded in 1682 by William Penn, a Quaker, as a haven of religious freedom and tolerance. Quakers, Huguenots, Puritans, Catholics, and Calvinists all settled in southeastern Pennsylvania. The area was also a landing point for groups of Amish and Mennonites from Germany. The large German population was probably an attraction for the Schwenkfelders, a small Protestant sect that followed the religious doctrine of Caspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig.  From 1731 to 1737 most of the Schwenkfelders, 209 in all, sailed to America to escape persecution in their native Germany.  They’re still a very small group today with fewer than 2,500 members.

   The small museum has good exhibits with artifacts and historical information about Schwenkfelders.  Watch the short video for a quick history of the sect. Changing exhibits feature textiles and other items from the museums collections. Don’t miss the family tree carved by Amos Borneman in 1878.

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   The museum is accessible.

   The parking lot is large enough for any RV.  Museum  40.40062, -75.5061

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Allentown Art Museum

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  In 1960 Samuel H. Kress, the founder of the S. H. Kress & Co. five and ten cent store chain, donated 53 Renaissance and Baroque paintings and sculptures to the museum from his large collection. Subsequently other donors gave generous gifts of textiles and works on paper. The addition of contemporary and regional art  gives the museum a diverse and slightly eclectic collection of artwork. The delicate and precise craftmanship employed to create katagami, stencils carved from mulberry bark and used for printing repeating designs on cloth, and molas, colorful inserts for blouses made by indigenous Panamanian women by layering  cloth and reverse-appliquéing, are especially intriguing. 

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   A small park with sculptures and a large mural is located on the opposite side of 5th Street.

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  The museum is accessible but getting to the entrance from the parking lot involves a uphill push along the sidewalk of 5th Street.

   Five spaces in the parking lot are reserved for museum visitors. There are also two accessible spaces. All are suitable for cars or vans only. RVs can be parked on Linden Street but turn your mirrors in as the street is narrow. Museum  40.60464, -75.46807

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum

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  Major highlights of the valley’s history from Native American settlements, to the Revolutionary War, European immigration at the turn of the century and WWII are all touched on in this small museum. It gives a good allover look at the human history of the area but nothing is covered in depth. Also on the grounds is the 1770 summer house of James Allen, the son of Allentown's founder. James Allen, who was loyal to the British during the Revolutionary War, used the house as an escape from Patriot activity in Philadelphia. The house is furnished with period pieces and is open for tours on weekends in the summer.

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  The museum is accessible. I believe the first floor of the house is accessible but we did not visit it.

  Parking is limited. DO NOT attempt to park in the lot located at the rear of the museum if you have a large vehicle. The street is very narrow and the lot is really small. Visitors with mobility issues should call ahead and get permission to park in the drop-off area in front of the museum. The parking spaces on the street are okay for cars but RVs may be too wide to fit due to the narrowness of the street.  Museum  40.60218, -75.46561

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

America On Wheels Museum

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  Everything with wheels is on display in this small, nicely done museum- even restored pedal cars made for rich kids. Many of the cars and other vehicles have a connection to the area. A full-sized diorama features the complete service garage of local gas station owner. Another gallery explains the process of restoring an antique car from a barn find to a finely finished showpiece. The changing exhibit gallery has new exhibits every six months. The café, which is opened for business on weekends only, is a fully restored 1950’s soda fountain.

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  The museum is accessible.

  The parking lot is large enough for any RV.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Mack Trucks Historical Museum

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  The Mack brother’s first company manufactured large carriages and wagons so when they decided to build motorized vehicles they focused on passenger buses and heavy duty trucks. The AC model truck, which was introduced in 1916, proved to be invaluable to both the US and England during WWI. The British soldiers compared the reliability and durability of the truck to the tenacity of a bulldog, the symbol of Great Britain. The bulldog symbol was adopted by the company in 1921 and the first hood ornament appeared in 1932.

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   Today Mack builds trucks for semi hauling, construction, refuse and the military. The cab and vehicle assembly plant is in  Macungie, Pa. and heavy-duty diesel engines, transmissions, and drivelines are manufactured in Hagerstown, Md. The  Engineering Development and Test Center has been moved to Greensboro, NC freeing up the building for a corporate showroom of new products and the museum.

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  The museum, which is fairly small, consists of a exhibit room with Mack trucks of different eras and uses; a testing room where the trucks were subjected to very cold and hot temperatures, run for hours on a treadmill, and subjected to high winds; and a super insulated quiet room used to check for stray noises. The museum is opened on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Guided tours are given on the hour and half-hour. Visitors are requested to wait for a guide but after the tour it’s okay to wander around on your own.

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  The museum is accessible.

  RVs will fit n the lot if parked through two spaces or lengthwise across the spaces.  Museum  40.57258, -75.4938

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

National Museum of Industrial History

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   Many of the large pieces of machinery in the museum are from the 1876 Centennial International Exposition which showcased state of the art technology for the time. The biggest piece is a Corliss Steam Engine that powered everything in the Centennial’s Machinery Hall. Other galleries include models of the Bethlehem Steel plant, exhibits about the Lehigh Valley Silk Mills, and information on a method for distilling propane discovered by Walter O. Snelling, a chemist from Allentown. There isn’t a lot about the history of Bethlehem Steel or the steelworkers themselves.

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  The museum is accessible.

  The parking lot on the opposite side of 2nd Street is large enough for any RV.  Museum  40.61286, -75.37021

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Hoover Mason Trestle at SteelStacks

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  The Bethlehem Iron Company, the embryo of Bethlehem Steel, was founded in 1860 to make iron rails for the Lehigh Valley Railroad. In 1873 the company constructed long stone buildings to house Bessemer converters and began producing steel, a stronger and more versatile metal. As the company expanded, the  stone buildings were put to other uses but sections are still standing today.
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  Eventually Bethlehem Steel grew to cover 1600 acres and became know for its innovative method of creating a strong but lightweight  beam that was essential in the construction of tall buildings and long bridges.  80% of the buildings in New York City skyline were built using Bethlehem beams. Bethlehem steel was also used in many iconic structures including the Golden Gate Bridge, Madison Square Garden, Rockefeller Center, and the Hoover Dam.
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   In 1995, after being in business for 135 years the mill, which had not been updated to modern steel making standards and could not compete against small mills and imported steel, was shut down. Former steelworkers looking out the windows of their homes on the hill above the mill saw a clear sky, a silent and deserted mill, and the end of way of life that had been passed down through generations. Fortunately, even as many of mill buildings were being demolished, the massive complex of blast furnaces was saved. Most of the land was sold to developers but the nucleus where the blast furnaces are located is being developed as a cultural center called SteelStacks.
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   SteelStacks is the site of performing arts center, a festival area, a free concert stage, a cinema, an outlet mall, a museum, and the Sands Casino. A visitor center offers local information, a short video about Bethlehem and the mill, and guided tours of the Hoover Mason Trestle. The tour has a fee but free self-guided tours may be taken anytime the trestle is open. The trestle is a 1/4 mile, elevated, concrete walkway that allows visitors to get a close up look at the amazing jumble of pipes, ladders, gangways, rivets, bolts, conduit, smoke stacks,and beams that make up the blast furnaces. Interpretive signs explain the functions of the mill. Since the area is a work in progress many of surrounding buildings are fenced off but walking around and peeking through the chain-link is interesting. I’m hoping that in the future a brochure or signs explaining the history of these buildings will be available.
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   All of the venues at SteelStacks are accessible. The sidewalks and curb cuts are in good condition. An elevator near the visitor center provides access to the trestle. The casino is accessible.
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  The visitor center lot is large enough for any RV. The casino has a large parking lot with a section for RVs and buses but sleeping overnight in an RV is prohibited. The security team was very considerate and did not knock on our door until 8:00 AM so we got a good night’s sleep. :-)  Trestle  40.61491, -75.37019
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