A group of 15 people could be seen hiking around the outskirts of the park in Palmerton on May 30. Led by Betsy Burnhauser of the Palmerton Area Historical Society, the tour was part of the 20th anniversary of the Society.
Beginning in front of the Heritage Center, Burnhauser set the stage with a little history - Palmerton was founded in 1898, but was not incorporated until 1912.
The West Plant of the New Jersey Zinc Company was begun at the same time. There was no zinc ore in the area but coal barges passed the area on the Lehigh Canal and the river provided water. The town was founded in the valley between Stoney Ridge and the Blue Mountain.
It was a beautiful area and the broad streets and a park in the center of town were required by Steven S. Palmer, founder of the zinc company. The first street to be laid out was Lehigh Street and by 1900 there were street lights in town.
From in front of the Center, she pointed to the Northeast United Church of Christ Synod office building which was the site of an Acme Market. Strohl's Tourist Home was located where Vlossak Law Office is located.
The Kidz Corner had a previous life as a tailor shop operated by Paul Pupak. He always had dogs and the last one was a Pomeranian that rode in his bike basket.
Pride and Passion was once a shoe repair shop. Burnhauser said at one time taps on shoes was all the rage.
George Ashman said the roofline is still the same on the Diehl's Bakery building.
Burnhauser had a bundle of pictures to show what a building had once looked like, but she said the Neighborhood House (Municipal Building) did not need one because it is still much the same. The handicap ramp was the only exterior addition.
It was founded as an athletic and education center with a sociology department, small library, a stage and a fully equipped gym. Downstairs there was a bowling alley.
The sociology staff lived upstairs. There was a dumb waiter, bedrooms and bath as well as classrooms. On the east side there was a living room and kitchen.
A community nurse worked with people in their homes teaching them about nutrition and childcare. There was a kindergarten, but when that was added to the public school, the library expanded to fill the space.
Ashman said there are bunks and showers for people who are hiking the Appalachian trail. A rifle range has been added replacing the bowling alley.
The First National Bank building, which is now Palmerton Library, was actually the second bank building. She described the addition to the library as a super job, saying additions often look out of place.
The bank had opened in 1929 just in time for the Depression, but it survived
The words "Fatzinger" and "Hawk" were across the top of the Heritage Center building. Burnhauser would like to see the wording replaced for historical accuracy.
Tom Goodrich had an ice cream store, Tommie's, in the building purchased by the Society as a museum. It had marble fountains and booths.
"We took out a three-year lease but it went up for sale and we bought it," said Burnhauser.
The keystone in the arch, the dentils on top and the ridged columns were pointed out on the library. "It has held up remarkably well," said Burnhauser.
A toll bridge was built in Lehigh Gap in 1826 and burned in 1926. Because of the high quality of the iron, the bridge never needed paint. Some of the links of the chain supports are located as a memorial to the bridge in a corner of the park. The plaque was restored by Joe Plechavy because it was becoming unreadable.
The Zinc Company administrative building is now in use by the borough. A flagpole in the park had been donated by Steven Palmer's granddaughter.
The Central Research Laboratory, now Parkside Elementary School and the Palmerton School District administration offices, was responsible for the success of the Zinc Company. It was built because there was no room to expand at the West Plant, Many patents and trademarks came from the research done there. A license for a still was donated to the Historical Society. The still made two gallons of pure water a day.
When the East Plant was built by the Zinc Company, bricklayers were brought in from Philadelphia. Among them was Jack Kelly, father to Princess Grace, who introduced basketball to Palmerton.
The third building of the First National Bank fills the space once used by the Horsehead Inn, considered the most mourned former building. William Stone, New York architect, gave the Inn most of the amenities of a big city hotel. It housed visitors to the Zinc Company and some of the young men who came to work there. It had Tudor-style architecture.
Burnhauser said when Gulf and Western bought the Zinc Company it wanted as much money as possible and sold the Inn. "We have one of the first registers," she said. It listed Steven and his son Edgar as guests.
St. John's Episcopal Church is typical of English architecture. It was built by Steven Palmer in memory of his wife. It has two Tiffany windows.
Society member Bert Holtzman said he was a member of the last class to graduate from S.S. Palmer High School. During a strike by teachers the Zinc Company managers and their wives took over for the teachers.
The school was built with a donation of $150,000 provided it would be named the Steven S. Palmer High School.
The Living Hope Lighthouse Church has a great bell tower, but as far as anyone knows it never had a bell. The parsonage is connected to the church. Next door was a funeral home.
La Dolce Casa began its life as a company store. Unlike most companies, the Zinc Company encouraged competition, said Ashman. The present owner is interested in the history of the building.
When it was purchased by Tiffany and Jim Christman, the Palmerton Hotel regained the use of its old name, making many people happy.
The Nickelodeon, the first movie theater built in 1908, was a "lovely building. It looks like a Greek Temple," Burnhauser said.
"A lot of buildings have false fronts and we can still see the original façade," she said.