History of MacArthur Road Timeline
The Golden Strip of the Lehigh Valley
Although several homes had been built along MacArthur Rd. in the 1920s and 30s, the post World War II years and flourishing economy fueled a suburbanizing trend that took place on a national scale. Locally, Whitehall’s vast farmland, gently rolling terrain, and close proximity to the City of Allentown, became prime choice for housing developments.
At the same time, George and Adam J. Henninger realized the value of their farmland lying between Mickley Rd. and Schadt Ave. Small, family-owned businesses were first to acknowledge the need for stores in the suburbs for the convenience of consumers.
Wolf's Orchards and Kleckners Appliances
Joseph M. George of Kleckner & Sons, whose store had been located in Egypt, negotiated with George D. Henninger. “Grandpa Kleckner grew up in the Scheidy’s area. Henninger did not reside on the farm, but lived in the Drumhole area,” he explained.
“In those days, people used to visit each other because they didn’t have television. I came over to talk to him and get a price on the property. George first offered $6/foot, but I waited before I bought. I finally bought at $10/foot in 1948.” Kleckner’s opened for business on July 24, 1950.
Raymond and Joseph Wolf of Wolf’s Orchards also bought from Henninger in 1948. Their first stand was next to Kleckner’s, but moved to their present location in 1951. (Note: the second Wolf’s Orchard produce stand was demolished in July 1997.)
Nestor's Sporting Goods
Meanwhile, Peter Nestor of Nestor’s Sporting Goods, had purchased his lot from the Charles Diefenderfer estate in July 1947. Before opening their new store in October 1952, they had been located in Cementon. Nestors lived in a home that stood at the south end of the store. In 1962, they added to their property, and later purchased a former bank building located at 2530 MacArthur Road.
After Route 22 opened in 1954, traffic that previously used Allentown’s Tilghman St. now flowed through Whitehall Township. Larger, more aggressive stores soon followed.
Major changes in retail began in June 1957 when Two Guys from Harrison purchased 94 acres of Diefenderfer’s failed “Mickley Manor” development. Shortly after Two Guys opened in October 1957, a controversial “Sunday Sales” lawsuit began. Ending up in the U.S. Supreme Court, the lawsuit gained national attention. The court’s ruling in 1961 upheld the blue laws, but Two Guys persisted Sunday operations for which they continued to be cited.
The Whitehall Mall
Suburban shopping offered conveniences Allentown’s downtown stores could not, such as ample parking facilities. In spring 1965, ground was broken for the Whitehall Mall, the first enclosed shopping center in Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia. It was built by Donnelly & Suess Properties on land acquired in three separate tracts from Morris Butz.
Richard Solker and Dent Hardware Co. landscaped with indoor plants and fountains and the innovative Whitehall Mall opened in September, 1966, boasting heating and air-conditioning for year-round shopping comfort with protection from the weather.
Sears, Zollinger's and Leh's
People traveled from great distances to see this modern curiosity. The anchor stores of Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Zollinger’s began a trend of withdrawal from downtown Allentown. During this era, MacArthur Road was dubbed “The Golden Strip of the Lehigh Valley." Leh's later replace Zollinger's.
Residential growth accompanied retail development in a ripple effect. Whitehall’s separate villages of Fullerton, West Catasauqua, Hokendauqua, Egypt and Cementon began losing their individual identities in 1968 when the U. S. Postal Service centralized mail operations into one main office named “Whitehall, Pa” located at 2344 MacArthur Road.
Until 1970, the burden of development jurisdiction was borne by Whitehall Township’s Inspection Department. The division was then restructured into a Department of Development in order to better oversee the functions of planning, zoning, inspecting and enforcing codes.
The Lehigh Valley Mall
Just one month after the Whitehall Mall’s opening, plans were announced for “the biggest shopping center in the state” to be built on six tracts purchased from Max Hess Jr. for $2,200,000. Jarpenn Co. of Philadelphia experienced numerous delays and legal battles against PennDOT concerning traffic impact.
In anticipation of the proposed Lehigh Valley Mall, improvements were made to MacArthur Road. A tunnel was made under the highway for access to the mall, since southbound traffic would not be allowed to turn left into its entrance. However, the company failed to acquire the necessary land on the west side of the highway, and the tunnel was never put to use. (Note: the tunnel was demolished in 1996 when MacArthur Road was replaced with a new, concrete surface.)
The $30 million Lehigh Valley Mall opened ten years later, on October 6, 1976. Although it boasted 130 stores, the ten-year delay kept it from attaining status as the biggest in the state.
After many years of speculation, in 1975 Hess’s finally opened Hess’s North in Whitehall, which was later demolished.
The Golden Strip of the Lehigh Valley
Current appraised property values along MacArthur Road collectively total $162,815,400, from Allentown’s border to Eberhart Road, clearly defining the roadway’s nick - named, “The Golden Strip of the Lehigh Valley.”
©1995 Karen L. Gensey, Whitehall Township Historian
General Douglas MacArthur
On April 13, 1942, in a significant show of patriotism, the commissioners of Whitehall Township renamed a major corridor running through the municipality in honor of American General Douglas MacArthur. This action 75 years ago occurred without the three hearings ordinances typically required back then. Their decision came mere months after the United States’ entry into World War II and only a month after the General had been named Commander-in- Chief of the Pacific Theatre.
Over the years, the route now called MacArthur Road has been witness to the growth of both the Whitehall community and the Lehigh Valley. In 2017, Whitehall Township invites you to be part of the many community activities scheduled to mark the 75th anniversary of MacArthur Road.
By Karen L. Gensey—Sept. 27, 2016 M75
An historical marker stands near the Coplay Creek to commemorate the location of Fort Deshler, one of the earliest structures that stood along MacArthur Road at the intersection of Chestnut Street. Built by Adam Deshler, this noteworthy structure was demolished in the early 1940s when the roadway was extended northward.
During the time of the French and Indian War, the early settlers lived in constant fear of conflict with the Native Americans. A record of one attack in September 1757 states, "They have devastated our land far and wide... The place where Rev. (John Jacob) Wissler (of Egypt Church) labored has been pillaged and robbed of its inhabitants."
Deshler secured the land patent for the 203.5-acre tract on February 9, 1750. There, he built a tavern in 1757 on the north bank of the Coplay Creek. Although the war had officially ended in 1758, tensions still ensued, convincing Deshler to construct a stronger shelter in 1760, as a safe retreat when under seige.
This building, later named "Deshler's Fort" was a substantially built 2.5 story stone structure. Its dimensions were 40 by 30 feet and had one entrance door. A row of small windows, each with four panes of glass, were placed high in the gable ends. Concealed throughout the thick stone walls were strategically placed embrasures, or openings through which to shoot without exposing vulnerability to the enemy.
A huge fireplace was carefully located in the center of the house. Deep within the structure, the women and children could huddle around its warmth as safely as possible while the men, armed with muskets, defended the Fort through the gunports. It is said the mantel bore bullet scars as evidence of the devastating violence from those early days. An indoor well provided access to water without risk to its inhabitants.
Built much higher than other houses nearby, it was quite a mansion in its time. One room displayed exposed oak beams, smoothly finished and grooved. In the early 1900s, two of the original walnut doors with Dutch locks were still intact.
Adam Deshler was employed by the Provincial Government 1756-1758 during the French and Indian war to furnish supplies to the soldiers. Captain Wetterholt's Company, who created the tensions that caused the great Massacre of 1763, was stationed at Deshler's in 1756. Because the Fort had not yet been built, the men were housed in a frame building sufficiently large enough to accommodate twenty soldiers and a considerable quantity of military supplies. It stood immediately north of the Fort, fell into a state of ruins by 1815 and was razed soon afterward.
The Fort was the key defense of the frontier during the Massacre on October 8, 1763, the last such uprising in Lehigh County which left nine people killed and two wounded in Whitehall alone. The wounded were taken to Deshler's. Twenty soldiers stationed at Deshler's pursued the Natives but could not overtake them.
Deshler died in 1781, and the property passed to his son, Adam Deshler, Jr. He died in 1790, leaving it to his only son, David. After David's death in 1827, his son, James, acquired it. The property passed from the heirs of James Deshler to Daniel Schaadt, who added several larger windows and turned it into a tenement house. The center chimney divided both the lower and upper stories into two apartments.
Thomas Schaadt sold the fort and 151 acres of land on November 20, 1899 to the Coplay Cement Co. for $100,000. The company used the home as housing for its workers.
The History of Lehigh County (1914) by Charles Rhoads Roberts eloquently states, "This old stone mansion, the only building standing in Lehigh County which was used as a fort in the colonial period, should by all means be preserved and marked as a historic spot, not only as a memorial to the pioneers of this locality but also as a reminder to the coming generations of the hardships which their staunch and sturdy ancestors were compelled to undergo."