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Before Durkee
William Gieske
Jun 15, 2003
There has been a lot of news about the Durkee plant on 8th avenue. I think about how that area looked years ago. The first use of that place that I can remember was Holland Furnace. They made big old hot air furnaces that took up so much room in the cellar. At the entrance to the plant sat a small shanty, this was the office of the State Police drivers license examiner. Here is where you took your test for driving. All this was years before route 378 or the Martin towers came into being. At that time 8th avenue did not go through to Shoenersville road but stopped at Eaton Avenue. After Holland furnace stopped oporations there Rollar Smith moved in. They had shared space with Sarco out in west Bethlehem near the area called the tollgate. They did extensive work to make the building suitable for their needs. Sarco moved over to Fountain Hill and later to all new facilities elsewhere.

After they closed up the building again sat empty with weeds growing in the rear of the building heavy enough to provide cover for a large number of ring necked pheasants.I know this because I used that area to train a bird dog several years. Much of the area north of there was open fields at that time. The area to right of the bridge as you cross 378 was the location for the AM transmitter for WGPA. There was a small building along the road that housed the transmitter with the large tower to the rear. Going up 8th avenue to Eaton the building on the left was built by a silk company. They were only in business for a short while and after they left a company used it as a wharehouse for polo shirts. The whole place had hardwood floors and the girls stocking the shelves used rollor skates to get around. It was later purchased by the Bethlehem Steel and became the data center. 8th avenue was cut thru to Shoenersville road and it was the route to use to go to Northampton.

Jacksonville road at that time was known more as Chickentown road. Beyond the Hanover township school were several places selling eggs thus the name. That road was dirt from where the horse farm is now until you exited on airport road. Much has changed since then. Nitschman school has been enlarged, 378 now runs thru there, the radio tower was relocated and many new homes have replaced the open area that once was there. But as much as it has changed I still think of it like it was when a small boy camped out on the hillside near the Martin Tower and never pass thru there with out growing nostalgic about those good old days.

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