Whitehall-Coplay Press

Monday, March 25, 2019

Rescheduled historic walking tour set for April 27

Wednesday, February 20, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Local News

Hokendauqua event will begin at 150-year-old First Presbyterian Church

A walking tour of the historic village of Hokendauqua, postponed from October 2018 because of rain, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m.-3 p.m. April 27. There is a rain date of May 4.

Whitehall Township Commissioner Jeffrey Dutt said the free hourlong tours are hosted by Whitehall Historical Preservation Society. He said the tour is designed to make people aware of the historical significance of the area created as a “company town” for the 19th-century Thomas Iron Works.

Dutt said there has been a good response to the rescheduled date, with more than 40 people already registered for one of the walking tours.

He said the tour will begin at First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua, 3005 S. Front St. The church is more than 150 years old and had its cornerstone laid in 1867. Prior to that, a barn owned by Thomas Iron Works had been used for a church and an active Sunday school for the community.

The area includes approximately 100 factory homes built for workers of the iron plant in the 1880s and comprises the area from Front Street to Third Street and from Quigg Street to Carbon Street.

Thomas Iron Works was built by David Thomas, a Welsh iron maker who came to the Lehigh Valley in 1839 to pioneer hot-blast iron making in the region.

Thomas, who was born in 1794, emigrated from South Wales to the township, where he built the first successful anthracite-burning blast iron furnace in the country.

Thomas began Thomas Iron Company in 1854 on 185 acres of farmland, along the Lehigh River, which he bought for $200 per acre.

That same year, Thomas and his son Samuel designed the street plan for the new village, which they named after the Lenape Indian words “Hocki,” meaning “land,” and “Dochwe,” meaning “searching or seeking.”

Thomas established Hokendauqua after the English concept of a company town where an employer owned all the housing and businesses, which it provided for its workers.

The advantage for workers was the two-story brick twin homes were nicer than they likely could have afforded elsewhere, with yards, fences and outhouses.

Notable structures in the area include Geiger’s Store, site of the original company store opened in 1870; Hokendauqua Fire Company No. 1, the original fire house for the Iron Works; and “Pen-y-Bryn,” the Victorian mansion at Center and Front streets, homestead of Thomas’ son John, who was made the first company superintendent in 1867.

Whitehall Township has proposed designating the community as a historic preservation district, which would be the first such district in the township.

The register is the official list of historic places worthy of preservation, and being on the register would help the township identify, evaluate and protect the area.

Anyone interested in registering for the tour should call 484-951-6179 or email Dutt at jdutt@lccc.edu.