History of Historic Catasauqua Preservation Association
HCPA was formed in 1983 to preserve the historic and architectural heritage of the boroughs. In keeping with that mission, HCPA has acquired several historic properties which it owns and maintains. Included is their headquarters at 8 Race St, known as the Biery House, built by the Biery family in 1826 as a tavern for travelers crossing the river at Biery’s Port and later, traveling on the canal. This property was saved and restored by Ray Holland of Allentown and donated to HCPA in 2003, along with the original Summer Kitchen located behind the main buiding. A Designer Showcase in 2004 finished off the interior rooms of 8 Race St, highlighting the historic character of the house. HCPA also acquired the Deily Coal Yard and Scale House and the last remaining original canal mule barn in Lehigh County, all located at Union St and Canal behind 8 Race St. These acquisitions were accomplished through grants and fund raising activities. An early fund raiser was the March for Parks, which brought awareness to the canal and towpath bordering the property and helped to open it up for recreational use in conjunction with the creation of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. The Scale House recently hosted the Biery’s Port Blacksmith & Leather Shop, but is currently closed. The site also hosts the Catasauqua and North Catasauqua branch of the D&L Trail Tenders, who help maintain the tow path along the section of the canal within our boroughs. The D&L National Heritage Corridor has plans to complete the towpath restoration through the boroughs of Catasauqua and NorthCatasauqua for bike and pedestrian use in the near future.
HCPA created two historic districts for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places: The Biery’s Port Historic District & the Mansion District. Every two years, we hold an Historic House Tour to feature the early architecture, residents and history of the buildings in the boroughs. The first was held in 1984. The next is coming up in 2019.
HCPA has sponsored 5 of the 7 state historic markers located in the borough, the most recent for the Bryden Horseshoe/Phoenix Forge, which is still in operation. and the the Davies & Thomas Foundry and Machine Shop on Race St which fabricated tunnel segments for many of the underground rail, auto and utility tunnels of NYC. Others markers include Biery’s Port, David Thomas, the Crane Iron Works, The George Taylor House, and the Dery Silk Mill.
In 1992, HCPA compiled an updated history of the boroughs, “Catasauqua and North Catasauqua, A Profile of the Boroughs”, often called “the Blue Book”, due to its blue cover. The book is a popular reference for those interested in our history and is reprinted as needed .
Given the well-documented history of “the Iron Borough”, many photographs, drawings, maps and post cards have survived. Martha Capwell Fox has authored two “Images of America” (Arcadia Publishing) books on the boroughs which draw heavily from a large slide collection donated to HCPA by Tony Imhoff and a similar collection of pictoral records owned by Ray Holland. The Imhoff slide collection has been digitized by Robert LeFever, HCPA Board Member and Director of the Art Gallery at 8 Race St. Many of these photos have been included in the history and walking tour pages on this site. Some have also been compiled into CDs by topic and are available for purchase. Recent programs have featured presentations from this collection. We are also fortunate to have maps of the borough from 1872 and 1876; prints of which are available purchase. The upstairs rooms provide museum space to display our growing collection of Catasauqua memorabilia. We have the capability of providing traveling exhibits as needed.
In 2014, HCPA sponsored a 100 year anniversary celebration of the town’s 1914 Old Home Week event, partnering with the Boroughs of Catasauqua and and North Caasauqua, Catasauqua Mainstreets, the American Legion, the Catasauqua Area School District, Willow Brook Farms, the local YMCA and the J4 Committee of Catasauqua and North Catasauqua. The event in 1914 was held to celebrate the 75 year anniversary of the formation of the Crane Iron Works and the good fortune of the town, which was then in its heyday. Highlights of the 2014 celebration included a reunion of Catasauqua residents and alumni, day and night time activities in our beautiful parks, a downtown block party, a square dance, a pub crawl, the biannual historic house tour, J4 fireworks and parade, and the Reading of the Declaration of Independence at the George Taylor House. A commemorative coin was created to mark this event. This and other memorabilia are available for sale at 8 Race. Heritage Ts can be purchased at 8 Race, at the GTH, and at Catty Beverage on Race St.
Beginning in 2005, HCPA has held a family-friendly fall festival each year at our canal front property. The festival, Fest O’ Fall, has grown over the years to include Front St businesses and the George Taylor House site owned by the Borough of Catasauqua.
As a 501(C)(3), HCPA operated the beverage concession at the Lehigh River Blues Jam held each year at the Catty Park from 2006-2015 in partnership with the Borough of Catasauqua and the local Blues community. We also assisted the borough with alcohol sales at George Taylor events, upon request. Most recently, we’ve also partnered with the Borough and Catasauqua Mainstreets at the pre-redevelopment festivities for the Iron Works site. This aite was once the site of the Crane Iron Works and later the Fuller Company, and was purchased by the Borough from F. L. Schmidt in 2013. The site is under redevelopment by the borough with construction of a municipal services complex to begin in 2015. The Borough will partner with others to add mixed use business and residential units, expanding Catasauqua’s existing downtown business and residential area. The site extends west of Front St to the canal, from Willow St on the south to Pine St on the north. HCPA supports the redevelopment plan which will honor, and preserve where feasible, the rich history of the site.
HCPA is a 100% volunteer organization. Though we have no employee costs, we do incur significant operating and maintenance costs for the properties which need to be met each year through fund raising. The largest such expense is insurance on the buildings, followed by liability coverage for our officers and volunteers and those enjoying our facilities and events. Annual funds raised also go toward utilities, general maintenance and small acquisitions. For larger acquisitions and restoration work, HCPA is dependent on grants from public and private organizations, most of which require matching funds.
Following is a list of the individuals who have served as president of HCPA during its history. Their efforts and those of the many officers, directors, members, sponsors, benefactors and volunteers have sustained the organization since its inception. We honor their service to the community and organization.
- Betsy Hillenbrand (current)
- Deb Mellish
- Ray Smicker
- Bill Hegedus
- George Hillenbrand
- Chris Foltz
- Ben Ferenchak
- Judy Gemmel
- Roberta Burkhardt
- Brian Zettlemoyer
- Janice Lathrop