It was in 1762 that a little settlement of 12 cabins, which founder William Allen called "Northampton Towne," became officially registered as a location after a storekeeper there gave birth. And it was John Adams who passed through it as a small farming village in 1777, and called the place "Allen's Town." It's hard to imagine these humble beginnings gave way to era after era of change, and resulted in the bustling, diverse center we now call home. The population has expanded from predominantly Northern European – particularly German – to today's mix of Hispanic, Asian, African and Middle Eastern people. The landscape is different, too, with the busy sidewalks and storefronts of the 1930s, '40s and '50s, transformed into loft apartments, restaurants, office buildings and soon, a huge sports arena complex that will be home to the American Hockey League's Phantoms team. More planned changes to downtown would extend the Arts Walk and add more businesses and apartments. Here are some highlights in the city's varied history:
•When the Declaration of Independence was read publicly for the first time in Allentown on July 8, 1776, it was read in English and German.
•The Albertus L. Meyers Bridge (Eighth Street Bridge) was the longest and highest concrete bridge in the world when it was opened to traffic in 1913.
•The Great Allentown Fair is among the oldest fairs in the country and once featured horse racing.
•In the Saturday Night Live skit "Good Excuse" in Jan. 2009, a guest is urged to tell his girlfriend, as an excuse for his breakup with her, that his company is relocating to Allentown.
•The 1990 dark comedy film, "I Love You to Death," directed by Lawrence Kasdan, is based on an attempted murder that happened in 1984 in Allentown.
•Allentown is mentioned in the opening lyric of the Frank Zappa song "200 Years Old," which appears on his 1975 album Bongo Fury.
•In Sarah Strohmeyer novels published between 2001 and 2006, the fictional character Bubbles Yablonsky lives in the Allentown area.