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City Profile: Allentown

The largest of three Lehigh Valley cities,

Allentown

sits 60 miles north of

Philadelphia

and 90 miles west of

New York City

. It was founded in 1762 by

William Allen

, a former mayor of Philadelphia. The city is known for its award-winning parks system, The Allentown Band – the oldest civilian concert band in the country – and for hiding the

Liberty Bell

from the British from 1777 to 1778 underneath a church. Allentown is home to fun-filled

Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom

; the

Lehigh Valley IronPigs

, AAA affiliate of the

Philadelphia Phillies

; and the

Mayfair Festival

of the Arts which takes place over

Memorial Day

weekend every May.

A LITTLE HISTORY

Allentown was originally named Northamptontown by its founder, chief justice of Colonial

Pennsylvania

's supreme court, William Allen. From the beginning, nearly everyone called it "Allen's town." Despite its location along the Lehigh River, Northamptown did not turn into a commercial center because for most of the year river trade was impractical as result of the low water level.

In the 1850s and 1860s, the rise of a strong local iron industry and influx of German and Irish workers created a mini-Pittsburgh along the banks of the Lehigh. But the heyday didn't last long. In the early 20

t
h

century, silk mills had taken over from the dying iron trade and a diversifying economy produced everything from parlor furniture to beer and cigars.

Since

World War II

, there has been a rise of the service economy. City officials are trying to attract business to downtown, primarily as a way to find new uses for existing structures. The city's infrastructure offers state-of-the-art technology, including a fiber optic loop and uninterrupted electrical service, which plays a role in attracting businesses.

POP ALLENTOWN

Lauren Weisberger

, whose first book was "The Devil Wears

Prada

" is a graduate of Parkland High School.

Amanda Seyfried

, a 2003 graduate from William Allen High school, debuted in the 2004 film "Mean Girls" and has played in "Nine Lives," "Alpha Dog," "

Mamma Mia

," and

HBO

's

"Big Love."
Lara Jill Miller

, also a graduate of William Allen High School, joined the cast of the television show "Gimmie a Break!" at age 14. Lara later appeared on "The Amanda Show,"

"All That"

and "General Hospital," and has lent her voice to various animated films.

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