Union and West End Cemetery

The Union and West End Cemetery is located in center city Allentown. The main entrance is on 10th Street at 10th and Chew Streets. The cemetery is mantained by a dedicated group of volunteers. Ten board members (also volunteers) serve the cemetery association and manage the finances, make application for grants, solicit donations and participate in the maintenance of the cemetery.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Old Allentown Cemetery - Allentown

On Friday and into Saturday, December 1st and 2nd, 2006 the Allentown area experienced a storm with rain and heavy winds. Wind gust up to 45 mile per hour were recorded.

When you are intimately involved with a cemetery with large, old trees, you are always concerned about high winds. Trees do come down, particularly old trees. And even when trees do not come down, large limbs sometimes fall, which could cause damage to the tombstones underneath the trees.

Sunday afternoon turned out to be a very nice day, mild temperatures and sunshine made it a great day to get outside, so I took the opportunity to visit the Union and West End Cemetery to do some historical research and to take photos of some tombstones for the blog.

On my way to the Union and West End Cemetery I passed the "Old Allentown Cemetery" which is located at 10th and Linden, just a few blocks away from the Union and West End Cemetery. This cemetery is the oldest cemetery in center city Allentown. What I observed as I passed the cemetery was a shock to the senses. A large tree situated in the cemetery had been felled by the high winds over the weekend.

As the photographs show, some stones received damage and some were simply toppled off their bases by the falling tree. It appears that only one stone received serious damage. Also, since this is a very old cemetery, it is possible that some of the stones on the ground were on the ground prior to the tree coming down.

Fortunately, unlike the Union and West End Cemetery, which is an independent, non-profit cemetery managed by volunteers, the "Old Allentown Cemetery" is owned by the City of Allentown and on Monday morning, crews will be in the cemetery cleaning up the debris, righting the stones that have fallen and generally putting things in order. Some cemeteries have it better than others.

Needless to say, I proceeded to the Union and West End Cemetery, just a two blocks away with a certain amount of concern and trepidation. Fortunately, the Union and West End Cemetery had been spared any serious damage.

The West End portion of the cemetery contains a large number of very old trees, trees that are over one-hundred years old; perhaps as old as One-hundred and fifty years. These trees line both sides of the roads that traverse the cemetery from east to west and they are huge. Removing deceased trees is one of the largest expenses the cemetery incurs each year. It cost upwards to $2,500 to remove a single tree. As previously mentioned, the cemetery association has a tree removal and replacement plan, but due to limited resources, the association can only remove one or two trees a year. Actually, removing a tree that falls, of its own accord, is cheaper than having a standing tree removed, but no one wants to see a tree come down on its own.

We were lucky this time, but there will be other storms moving through the area this winter, and all we can do is wait and hope.

I guess the expense of maintaining and removing trees is the reason that cemeteries all over the Lehigh Valley are being denuded of their vegetation. Unfortunately, this makes them far less pleasant to visit, which leads to declining financial support, which leads to further decline of the trees...
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