By Al Lowe
Contributing Writer 

100th birthday party planned to celebrate Grandview Park


September 22, 2009

A celebration is planned on October 3 for the 100th birthday of Grandview Park. The event will feature vintage cars, music, food, crafts and more.

Mount Washington resident Anabell Kinney remembers that there was a time when "no one knew where Grandview Park was except for us."

The Allentown park that borders the two neighborhoods was not mentioned in a city summer directory published several years ago.

"It looked kind of sad, not taken care of," said Diane Delmer, who is involved in the neighborhood group, Friends of Grandview Park, formed ten years ago. "It was my neighborhood. I wanted to do something about it."

Now the park, looking kind of spiffy due to improvements made by the city and often suggested by Friends, is celebrating its 100th birthday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 3. The park event features vintage cars, music, food, children's activities, and food and crafts booths. Artwork made by students at nearby Grandview Elementary School will be displayed.

Ms. Delmer, a Mount Washington resident, said that the park is now listed with the other parks in city published directories.

"The park was always maintained. But no one took a special interest in it. The Friends group is very passionate about the park," said Judy Hackel, president, Allentown Community Development Corporation. "Because they're here, the park is one less thing I have to worry about."

"They're very dedicated to the park's sustainability," Chris Beichner, executive director, Mount Washington Community Development Corporation, said.

Ken Wolfe, a Friends member, said he lives near the park and his grandmother lives near its edge. "I have lived in Allentown all my life. I didn't want to see the park a shambles," he said.

Residents and former residents cherish their park memories.

"When I was little I played every summer day there," Anne Rudolph, who still lives near the park, said. "It was my place to be that I loved."

She said she was the last child to ride the park's carousel, demolished in 1947.

A Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph photographer asked her mother if he could take a picture of her daughter for one last carousel ride. Her brother, Glenn Miller, now deceased, held her on the horse and was also photographed.

She recalled that the carousel was deteriorating and was stationary at that time.

Ms. Delmer said one of her dreams is to have a carousel back in the park.

The park developed her love of nature that led to mountain climbing, said Ms. Rudolph, who also trained for marathons in Grandview Park.

 Marilyn Kautz, who manages the Allentown Senior Center, and three senior friends meet weekly and have "a nice quiet walk on its paths."

"We usually stretch beforehand. It's a nice little workout," she said.

"It's a good meeting place for seeing nice people," said Helen Baney, who has lived all of her 85 years in Allentown.

She particularly remembers visiting the park in September of 1947. "The steamboat Island Queen blew up on the Mon wharf. We ran up the park to see it. It was quite a sight. It was a tragedy."

Cheryl Brody, who now lives in Plymouth, Mich., remembers sled rides and Easter sunrise services. She and other girl scouts explored park trails.

But her favorite memory is of "a fairly new addition to the park." Six years ago she donated a bench as a memorial to her late father, Louis Loeffler.

"Dad went there as a child. He took us there as we were growing up." When Ms. Brody visited him in recent years they would go there and talk.

 Most of the improvements were made to the park before Mount Washington resident Jessica Smith began visiting it. "I never saw it when it was bad. I love it. It is close to my heart."

Such improvements include sandblasting the stairs and Bailey Avenue entrance to improve its color, pruning trees and shrubs and adding new pavement and picnic tables. City workers are currently rebuilding the park overlook. Ms. Delmer and other Friends planted flowers at the entrance.

The Student Conservation Association, a local chapter of a national organization, rehabilitated trails, Mr. Wolfe said.

"It looks much better after some tender loving care," Ms. Rudolph said.

Community events, activities and classes are regularly held there. The Art Cart gives children opportunities to paint and to make masks. The Park Bark is for dogs and their masters and offers prizes and adoption opportunities. City sponsored movies are shown during the summer.

Summer fun also includes yoga classes.

Ms. Delmer said a couple weddings are held there each year.

Ms. Hackel said she is encouraging Grandview Elementary teachers to have their classes use the park more often.

Crafts booths at the upcoming birthday celebration will include African Art, handbags, doll accessories, baby toys and jewelry.

"There has been a lot of research that has shown that a community engaged in its green space is a safer one," said Ilyssa Manspeizer, MWCDC park resource manager. "Also, homes closer to green space are higher in value.

"A park is an important resource. People become fit and healthy within more natural settings."


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