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New Tripoli: 100 Years Ago
By: Edgar W. Kern
Post Card Collection courtesy of Glenn Koch
East Wayne Street
East Wayne Street, New Tripoli

It is hard to realize how isolated and self-sufficient the village of New Tripoli was in 1910. Located 20 miles northwest of Allentown, no paved roads existed. In fact, no automobiles served the community at that time.

Farmers made the one day trip to Allentown by horse and wagon, usually staying at the Johnny Hendrick's Hotel, (who had approximately 20 horse stables) on South Seventh Street. They returned to New Tripoli the next day or two. They would take their farm raised products, such as potatoes, corn, wheat, horseradish, etc. along with chickens in crates, meats, such as salted hams, dried beef, cured bacon and other meat products, on huckster routes in Allentown. On their return from the big city they would purchase necessary equipment, hardware and clothing, etc. to survive for the next several weeks or months.

One of the most productive farmers in the New Tripoli area in 1910 was Franklin Metzger who on a 200 acre plus farm raised 15,000 bushels of potatoes a year and ran a fertilizer business. He also operated a slaughter house on a part time basis. He was a very community minded, and politically oriented, person. He was known on his huckster route to deliver home brewed beverages that pleased the tastes of his adult customers.

The Hotel German
The Hotel German, New Tripoli

Today, New Tripoli is just another bedroom community for Allentown, but in 1910 it was truly a self-supporting community. The population of New Tripoli was 400 then. There were 600 dwelling units then as well as 60 stables, for each family had to have a horse or two. In 1910 the community had not electricity or telephone service. Homes were lit by kerosene lamps. The lamps had to be filled, usually daily, or every other day, depending on the time used. Filling of the lamps was done on the back porch usually by the junior member of the family. Electricity and telephones came some 20 years later.

The community was served by 2 hotels located in the same area as today. There were two general stores that sold everything from molasses in 52 gallon barrels to kerosene, shoes, clothing, dry goods, groceries and you name it.

New Tripoli Church
New Tripoli Church

The village contained a railroad station, served by the Reading Railroad. Trains would run from Reading to Slatington making two round trips a day for passenger train service, and one trip per day for freight train service. The railroad had served the community since 1874. We will elaborate more on the importance of the railroad later in the article.

The community had a union church which had served both the Lutheran and Reformed faiths since 1761. The village had a pubic school house for grades 1 to 8. The New Tripoli Bank, which was founded just a few years before 1910, had its first directors meeting on March 1, 1910 in its new bank building located at the corner of Decatur and Market Streets, now the home of the historical society.

The village had a grist mill, shirt factory and blacksmith shop. A printing shop served the community. There were two saddlers located in the community serving the farmers with all kinds of harnesses. The community had 2 barber shops, 2 warehouses and a slaughter house. A manufacturer of bar fixtures was located in the community and his products had been sold to more then 100 hotels throughout Eastern Pennsylvania.

A wallpaper store was located in the community and an implement dealer served the more than 40 farms in the general area. A shoe store and two cobbler shops were located in town. A watch repairer, bicycle repair shop and a restaurant were located here. A physician, a dentist and an undertaker and coffin maker made their residence in New Tripoli in 1910. Also the town had a Justice of the Peace, a notary public and a veterinary surgeon who tended to local farmers' horses, cattle and other livestock. A future state Senator resided in New Tripoli in 1910. His name was James Miller and he would be elected to the Senate in 1911. He and his brother, in partnership, owned and ran the Hotel German, one of the two hotel/taverns in town.

Senator James A. Miller residence
Senator James A. Miller residence

Getting back to the importance of the railroad to New Tripoli and to the other communities in Lynn and Heidelberg Townships, potatoes were the main crop raised in the general area because of good soil conditions. It was necessary to have a system to transport large quantities of the crop and the railroad served that purpose. To give you an idea, William Hoffman shipped 160,000 bushels of potatoes a year from the New Tripoli station. Fred Pfeifly of Lynnport shipped 100,000 bushels and two potato shippers, Lewis Leiby and Bittner Brothers shipped 300,000 bushels of potatoes in 1912-1913 from the Germansville Station.

Other products shipped or received by the railroad were coal, flour, feed grain, cement, crushed stone, sand, fertilizer and live stock. All these products were handled and sold by the previously mentioned merchants.

Tripoli Station Building
Tripoli Station Building

Passenger train service was used by the residents of the community to travel to Slatington and Reading. From Reading they could connect with trains going to Philadelphia. From Slatington they connected with trains going to Allentown, New York and Philadelphia. Students from Lynn and Heidelberg Townships who wanted to continue their education after the 8th grade had to take the train to Slatington and attend the Slatington High School. Several hundred students over the years completed their education in this manner, riding the "Berksey" to school on a daily basis. Traveling in 1910 was a very time consuming venture. However, life was conducted at a much slower pace.

I hope this article has given you a better insight and understanding of our ancestor's lives as it existed at that time, as compared to our present day high-speed life style.

View more of Glenn Koch's postcard collection.


The Lynn-Heidelberg Historical Society is a registered 501(c)3 organization.