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This week in Lehigh Valley history: Musikfest moves south in 2011; Easton-P’burg free bridge halts tolls in 1921 (Aug. 1-7)

Lehigh Valley Then is a weekly series that recalls historical headlines from affiliate The Express-Times and its predecessors from 10, 25, 50 and 100 years ago. These stories were pulled from microfilm at the Easton Area Public Library. The original text is edited for clarity and length.

This week in Lehigh Valley history: It’s Musikfest season. Ten years ago, Musikfest 2011 introduced a big change by adding venues in Southside Bethlehem and moving headliners from Sand Island to the SteelStacks. For the first time, the 10-day fest was on both side of the Lehigh River.

In 1996, Bethlehem was in the midst of an effort to re-establish local professional baseball with plans for a stadium, more than 10 years before the IronPigs.

In 1971, Pennsylvania began Sunday sales of alcohol in restaurants — a move embraced immediately in the Poconos but less enthusiastically here.

And in 1921, the Easton-Phillipsburg free bridge actually became the free bridge as new owners removed tolls.

This was the Lehigh Valley then.

10 YEARS AGO: Key change at Musikfest

Lehigh Valley Then Aug. 6, 2011

The front page of The Express-Times on Aug. 6, 2011, marked the opening of Musikfest. That year, the 10-day festival added South Side venues, including the headliner stage in front of the SteelStacks. Inset file photo: Bill Adams | For microfilm via the Easton Area Public Library

Aug. 6, 2011: For organizers of this year’s Musikfest, the opening ceremony was just as much about honoring the past as it was looking toward the future.

The ceremony recognized longtime Musikfest supporter and owner of Banko Beverage Co., Frank Banko. … Banko’s name is well-known as the first two words of the SteelStacks’ Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas.

[Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan] said Bethlehem is “a city that never forgets its past” but also has a lot to look forward to, starting with this year’s Musikfest.

… Callahan said the festival taking place on both sides of the Lehigh River was not only historic but will be a boost for businesses on the Southside.

25 YEARS AGO: Inside baseball

Lehigh Valley Then Aug. 7, 1996

The front page of The Express-Times on Aug. 7, 1996, reported that forces in sports and politics were trying to re-establish a new independent professional baseball team in the Lehigh Valley, more than 10 years before the IronPigs were established here.Express-Times microfilm via the Easton Area Public Library

Aug. 7, 1996: The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball Clubs is the new owner of a proposed independent professional baseball team hoping to play in Bethlehem next spring.

With the change in ownership, city council postponed a pair of zoning decisions related to construction of a stadium for the proposed team [at East Broad Street and Stefko Boulevrd].

… The independent league, which has an agreement with The Ballyard Inc. to field a team here, takes over ownership of the Lehigh Valley Black Diamonds from Elmore Sports Group, which has been prohibited from involvement.

… Elmore owns six franchises in the [National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues] and therefore must respect territorial rights provided the association’s member franchises. The proposed stadium site falls within protected territories for both the Sussex (County, N.J.) Cardinals and the Reading Phillies.

50 YEARS AGO: Sundays, boozy Sundays

Lehigh Valley Then Aug. 7, 1971

The front page of The Easton Express on Aug. 7, 1971, reports on the immenent opening of Sunday liquor sales for Pennsylvania restaurants. It was expected to be a huge boon for Poconos resorts, but Lehigh Valley establishments were reluctant to shell out cash for a permit.Express-Times microfilm via the Easton Area Public Library

Aug. 7, 1971: Liquor will be flowing legally in the Easton area tomorrow [Sunday], but a survey of restaurant and hotel operators indicates the flow won’t be a flood.

Gov. Milton J. Shapp yesterday signed into law a bill which will permit sales of liquor tomorrow in establishments where at least 40 per cent of the business is in food.

… Nearly all major hotels — more than 300 of them — in the Pocono Mountain resort area planned to be open tomorrow, but there was no stampede among Easton area restaurants or hotels to obtain the $200 Sunday liquor sales permit.

Mrs. Louise Bruno, who is part owner of the Colonial Pizza & Spaghetti House at 136 Spring Garden St., Easton, said she and her husband have not yet applied for a permit.

“That $200 is a lot of money,” said Mrs. Bruno. …

… Henry Friedel, owner of the Gourmet Inn, near Northampton, said his restaurant will be serving liquor tomorrow, but added that many others may not.

“To open up seven days they’ll have to have more help. Then the owners themselves will have to be there,” he said.

100 YEARS AGO: Freed bridge

Lehigh Valley Then Aug. 3, 1921

The front page of The Easton Express on Aug. 3, 1921, reports that tolls were lifted by the new owners of the Northampton Street Delaware River bridge, now known as the Easton-Phillipsburg free bridge. Inset photo: fileExpress-Times microfilm via the Easton Area Public Library

Aug. 3, 1921: The Easton-Phillipsburg Delaware bridge was formally taken over this morning by the joint commission of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, for the elimination of toll bridges, at a meeting … where representatives of the commission paid $300,000 over to the bridge company officials and received deeds for the property.

… Each state paid $150,000.

The meeting ended at noon and word was immediately sent to the collector’s office at the bridge to stop taking tolls as the structure was free to traffic.

… The present bridge was constructed in 1895, and has been known during the past twenty-six years as one of the best and most attractive structures in this entire section. The bridge took the place of a wooden structure that had been erected in 1806. This former bridge is well remembered. It was a covered structure with windows on either side.

The bridge that to-day became the property of the State of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, was designed by J. Madison Porter, of this city [Easton]. It is a cantilever bridge, the first of its kind to be erected in this country.

… When completed, [the original covered bridge] was a very strong and substantial one, which in 1841, safely withstood the tremendous test of the great flood by which every bridge above Trenton, except this, was swept from the Delaware. … The proceeds from tolls paid [about $20,000 in company debt] in about six years. Toll for [foot] passengers was abolished on November 1, 1856.

The new bridge was thoroughly tested in 1903 when many of the Delaware bridges between Easton and Trenton were damaged by the high water.


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