MILLION DOLLAR TOWN
By the early part of the 1900s, with over 5,000 residents and some say the highest percentage of self-made millionaires of any other town in the country, Catasauqua had risen to national prominence. During World War I, Catasauqua become the first community in the country to raise over one million dollars for war bonds— earning it the nickname “Million Dollar Town.”
The Borough of Catasauqua was founded in 1805 and chartered in 1853. Pronounced Cat-e-saw-kwa, the area was named by its earliest settlers, the Lenni Lenape, based on the word for “dry ground.” Today Catasauqua is home to a diverse, close-knit community of just over 6,500 residents. Referred to by locals as “small-town USA,” this northern suburb of Allentown is wedged between the hilly landscape of Whitehall on the western banks of the Lehigh River, Coplay and Northampton to the north, and Lehigh Valley International Airport to the east. Its history dates back to the industrial revolution, and it has played an integral role in iron, coal and silk manufacturing in the Lehigh Valley and the country. While Catasauqua’s legacy is linked to iron production and the area is often referred to as part of the nation’s “Rust Belt,” the community is now undergoing a substantial revitalization.
George Taylor, a colonial ironmaster and signer of the Declaration of Independence, built a Georgian stone house in 1768 in what is now the borough of Catasauqua. The George Taylor house is one of five National Historic State markers located in the borough and a showpiece of the community’s rich historical legacy. The other four state historical markers are Crane Ironworks, David Thomas Foundry, Dryer Silk Mill, and Biery’s Port, located at the southern tip of the borough near the Lehigh Canal and Towpath.
The industrial revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century during which major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the nation’s economic and cultural conditions. At the beginning of the anthracite iron industry in 1840, Catasauqua is perhaps most significantly known as the birthplace of the industrial revolution in America. David Thomas, a Welsh immigrant and father of the iron industry, relocated there from Wales and founded Crane Iron Works— named so after the town of his previous employer located in Craneville, Wales. Under Thomas’s direction, the area quickly became one of the most influential towns in the country. In 1882, Oliver Williams, started the Bryden Horse Shoe Company with a capital investment of $60,000. By the late 1800s it became the largest supplier of horseshoes in the country. In the early 1920s, Catasauqua was home to several major materials suppliers that provided resources for the construction of both the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels in nearby Manhattan.
Today, like so many other places left behind by the industrial revolution, Catasauqua remains striving to revitalize itself and become the bustling town it once was over a century and a half ago. From streetscape improvements to the preservation of Biery’s Port and The Mansion District, Catasauqua has already made significant strides in this effort. The area is also home to a wealth of locally owned businesses and community organizations striving to strengthen its modern economic and residential appeal while preserving its rich history and legacy.
SEE & DO
Catasauqua is home to two distinct neighborhoods listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Named after a prominent local family, Biery’s Port originally provided access to water transportation and served as the primary point of entry of imported goods.
1. The Biery House and Museum (c. 1826)
2. Lehigh Canal Park (Deily Coal Yard)
3. George Taylor Mansion (c. 1768), Park and State Historical Marker
4. Dery Silk Mill (c. 1897) and State Historical Marker
5. Biery’s Port State Historical Marker
In addition to several scenic locations from which to view the Lehigh River along Front Street and across Bridge Street, The Mansion District includes some of the most beautiful Victorian architecture in the Lehigh Valley.
THE MANSION DISTRICT
1. Crane Iron Works Extant Structures (c. 1839) and State Historical Marker
2. Catasauqua Public Library Historic Room (c. 1928)
3. Dery Mansion (c. 1899)
4. David Thomas Mansion (c. 1856)
5. Residences of Architectural Significance
EAT & DRINK
At Blondie’s, husband and wife team Chad and Becky Gillespie offer eastern and central European specialties such as pierogi casserole and Slovak and German halupkis. For desert or a night time snack, Becky’s mouthwatering cupcakes include a modern flair with unique flavor combinations. The most popular cupcakes include Peanut Butter Black Bottoms, Maple and Bacon Pancake, Blueberry French Toast, and Strawberry Shortcake. On Saturdays, guests who come from as far away as New York line up outside waiting for these scrumptious treats.
333 Front Street, 610.443.1741, blondiesfood.com.
Hill’s Restaurant is a local gem that’s been around forever –and for good reason. Locals pledge that this place has the best breakfast in the Lehigh Valley and describe the food as reminiscent of family breakfasts made by their parents on weekend mornings. Hill’s is best known for good old fashioned comfort food where regulars know the staff and one another on a first name basis.
215 Bridge Street, 610.264.2771.