The Shaping of Easton
In 1736 Thomas Penn, son of William Penn, and Benjamin Eastburn, Surveyor General, selected and surveyed the "Thousand Acre Tract" of land at the confluence of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers. William Parsons and Nicholas Scull began their survey for a town in the 1750s at a spot called by the Indians "Lechanwitauk" or "the Place at the Forks." The new town was to be called "Easton" in the new county of "Northampton", after Thomas Penn's wife Juliana Fermor's home estate of Easton-Neston, Northamptonshire, England. The Great Square (now known as Centre Square) was, and remains, a gathering place for residents and travelers. In fact, on July 8, 1776, the square was the site for one of only three public readings of the Declaration of Independence. This historic event is celebrated each year on Heritage Day, when thousands gather to join in reenactments of the reading and to revel in entertainment, good food, and fireworks over the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers.
On the northeast corner of Northampton and Second Streets is the Bachmann Tavern, the oldest building remaining in the city. The land deed was secured from the Penns by John Bachmann, its builder. The building served as a tavern and long time residence of George Taylor, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The tavern was visited by George Washington and Ben Franklin. It was, like many taverns, a social center of colonial times, and often served as a courtroom until the original courthouse was completed in 1765.
70% of the building's original fabric is intact. The upper windows are original, as is the interior. In 1991 the stucco was removed from the exterior, revealing the date marker of 1753. The Bachmann Publick House is owned and operated by the Northampton County Historical & Genealogical Society.
Surveyor William Parsons designed the city in a grid pattern radiating from the Great Square. The original courthouse was erected in the square in 1765 and demolished in 1862, when the new, existing courthouse was built on the Seventh Street hill.
The Great Square has been the site of the oldest, continuously operated outdoor Farmers Market since 1791. It is also the site where Robert Levers read the Declaration of Independence to the gathered public on July 8, 1776, standing on the steps of the courthouse. The Civil War Monument that now stands on the old courthouse site, is a 75 foot tall obelisk topped by what is locally called "The Bugler." Formally named the Soldiers' & Sailors' Monument, the obelisk was designed to honor all of the armed forces who fought in the Civil War, and was dedicated to local veterans in 1900. Each year, the monument is shrouded by a one hundred foot Peace Candle, which is ceremoniously lit the Saturday evening after Thanksgiving and remains on display through January.
The Canal Years
With the completion of the Lehigh Canal in 1829, the lands along the Lehigh River attracted great industrial development. The movement of coal brought capital & investment to Easton. All along Canal Street was built one of the largest industrial manufacturing centers of America during the 1830s and 40s. Easton continued to prosper as a center for industry, manufacturing, commerce, and culture at the Forks of the Delaware and along the great rail lines.
Easton Cemetery's parklike cemetery landscape design is based on the picturesque romantic styles of the early and late 19th century. Its landscape is set with thousands of examples of funeral artwork, in a variety of decorative styles, spanning Greco-Roman Revival, Gothic Victorian, and Art Deco. Established in 1849, Easton Cemetery is the earliest and best surviving example of a romantic parklike cemetery within the Lehigh Valley metro area. Architecturally noteworthy features include a Gothic Revival Gatehouse and office, stable, cemetery chapel, and a Gothic frame workshop. Today the cemetery gate has been listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Easton Public Library
The Easton Library Company was organized on July 4, 1811 as a subscription library with a $5.00 membership fee per person. The book collection consisted of 700 titles, mostly gifts, and was housed in the front room of the home of Peter Miller on Third Street. After many financial crises following the Civil War, the library reorganized and assumed a new name, Easton Public Library Association. In 1895, the Easton School District assumed financial responsibility of library service to the community and for the formation of the Easton Public Library. A new building was erected on the site of the German Reformed and Lutheran burial ground. Only two burial plots remain on the site, that of William Parsons, and Mamie Morgan.
The land was purchased from the church by public subscription for $4,000.00. The building was built and equipped with funds donated by Andrew Carnegie. The library was dedicated in 1902 and opened to the public in 1903. In 1913 an addition was added, again funded by Andrew Carnegie. A third addition, dedicated on September 28, 1968, completed the building as it stands today.
The First United Church of Christ
The First United Church of Christ, at North Third and Church Streets, was built in 1775. The brick portions were designed by Thomas Walter, architect of the dome of the United States Capital. During the Revolutionary war, this church served as a hospital and was visited by George Washington. It was also the site of the Indian Peace Treaty Conference of 1777. The church has a Star of David in honor of Meyer Hart, Easton's first Jewish citizen and a contributor to the original church building fund. The church archives include a hand illustrated Schlatter Bible printed in Switzerland in 1747, and the pewter communion set from 1746. The church congregation's office building, on Church and Sitgreaves Streets, dates from 1778, and was originally Easton's second school building.