Founded as Millerstown in 1776 by Peter Miller, the second oldest borough in the county changed its rather popular name in 1875 to avoid confusion. It may be only one square mile, but it's one square mile of great businesses, natural beauty and record-setting manufacture, with enticing improvements on the horizon.
The Buckeye Tavern
An almost 300-year-old building houses this widely known restaurant on Macungie’s Brookside Road. What started as an inn in the 1700s (changing hands at one point for the adorable sum of ten pounds, 13 shillings and three pence) has gone through multiple incarnations, including the East Macungie Hotel and The Load of Mischief. Finally, it became a family-owned eatery in 1987 and it’s been a favorite nosh-spot for folks across the Valley since.
Buckeye Tavern’s long history is a point of pride, reflected in the renovations undergone in 2000. The restoration of its original stone walls together with warm light, wooden beams and rustic decor make this a cozy setting for drinks and dinner with an old-time tavern feel. It’s a good idea to make reservations, because the comfortable atmosphere and vast menu creates loyal diners who make it a habit to come back, so the place can get packed.
With a history as long as the Buckeye Tavern’s, exactly no one will be surprised to hear that the place has picked up a restless spirit or two. The restaurant is one of the Valley’s most haunted destinations because of unexplained noises after hours and the smell of sizzling bacon that sometimes wafts up from the basement, which housed the kitchen at one time. Both a young girl who died in the building and the spirit of an old man are suspects in the haunting, but it remains a tasty, local mystery.
3741 Brookside Rd., Macungie | 610.966.4411 | buckeyetavern.com
Before the colonization of the area by European immigrants, the area now known as Macungie was home to a people called the Lenni Lenape, a branch of the Algonquian peoples. Through the U.S. government’s policy of ethnic cleansing, their descendants now live in Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Ontario, but their language survives here in place names like “Macungie,” whose original spelling has many variations, including “Maccongy” and “Maguntsche,” which means bear swamp or feeding place of bears.
Located between Emmaus and Macungie, where Leibert Creek flows from the Little Lehigh River, Camp Olympic started out in 1960 as one of the area’s first commercial sports camps for youngsters. It’s had a long run in that capacity, but in 2008, this naturally- and historically-rich 120-acre property became Lower Macungie Township’s 16th park, with projected developments that will give the community a lot to enjoy.
The plan for Camp Olympic includes an eco park, or nature-based playground for kids, a BMX pump track and a disc golf course donated by Bear Creek. A pump track uses the momentum of going up and down rises and embankments to propel the bike rather than pedaling, and is a great place to hone BMX skills.
Camp Olympic also offers more low-key leisure elements in the form of community gardens, which have been blossoming successfully for the past four years. Additional parking will give gardeners better access to their plots, which are approximately 20 x 30 feet, tilled and marked for your convenience. Lower Macungie Township residents pay just $20 a season for a spot to grow what they might not have room for at home, but the gardens are also available to other Valley denizens for $30.
Already a 5k hiking and walking course has been set up at Camp Olympic by Rodale’s Budd Coates, and Eagle Scouts have swooped in to help establish trails and install bird houses—it’s this type of community investment that will truly help the park succeed. Community contributions as simple as signage to help people find trails, work days to keep the park tidy or fundraising to cover maintenance costs will go a long way in supporting all the work that has gone into turning Camp Olympic into a great destination for leisure and activity. Get in touch with the Lower Macungie Township’s Public Works department to see how you can pitch in.
3120 S. Cedar Crest Blvd., Emmaus
John Fries' Rebellion
John Fries’ Rebellion was one of a handful of uprisings around the turn of the 18th century motivated by tax grievances, including Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts and the Whiskey Rebellion in Western Pennsylvania, and Macungie saw part of the action.
When Congress voted to impose a tax on lands and houses to help pay for an undeclared war with France, many Pennsylvanians found the idea unacceptable, especially with the added difficulty of coughing it up in the form of gold or silver. Folks were already upset about the recent Alien and Sedition Acts intended to squash dissent, so conditions were ripe for unrest.
When assessors came into town, they were threatened and intimidated and their records destroyed. It didn’t help that the assessors were drawn from the Quaker and Moravian population, who had abstained from involvement in the recent war, while the German communities they were assessing had strongly supported the revolution. Housewives poured hot water on assessors from upstairs windows to get rid of them, making the Hot Water Rebellion an alternate name for the conflict.
John Fries, son of a German immigrant, veteran in the Continental Army and auctioneer, became active in the anti-tax movement, leading a group of armed men all over the countryside driving assessors away.
Soon enough the U.S. Marshal was sent in to make arrests for tax resistance. In what was then Millerstown, he came up against a feisty crowd of people blocking him from one man, and he was forced to move on. A group of 23 was arrested and held at the Sun Inn in Bethlehem. Joining with another band of rebels, John Fries led a party from Macungie to demand their release, and the prisoners were freed. John Fries and three others were sentenced to death for treason, but thankfully pardoned soon after by President Adams.
Allen Organ Company
The organ is one of Europe’s oldest musical instruments, originating in ancient Greece. Today it lends depth to popular music and of course inspires church congregations with its resonant, symphonic sound. With over 80,000 installations worldwide, Macungie’s Allen Organ Company has manufactured a staggering number of them.
The factory produces digital classical, theatre and combination digital/pipe organs, and was a forerunner of digital music long before dubstep came on the scene. Founded in 1937, Allen Organ Company produced its first digital organ in 1971, when the only other digital consumer product on the market was the calculator.
The creation of these complex and powerful instruments is a multi-step endeavor and combines the skills of electronics technicians, woodworkers and expert assemblers. From keyboards to the drawknobs, Allen organs are built with meticulous precision for amazing sound quality.
The process of building an organ begins with recordings from authentic pipe organs that are then drawn from computer memory to recreate nearly identical tones. One of Allen's digital theatre organs even held its own against a pipe organ in a side-by-side concert duel at the American Theatre Organ Society’s convention last year. It was almost impossible to tell the difference!
To learn more about the history of this impressive, longstanding landmark of Macungie, check out the Allen Organ Company’s website. You’ll find online tours of the organ factory as well as the Jerome Markowitz Memorial Museum, which you might choose to visit in person while taking in one of the Allen Organ Company’s spring concerts. See how these pioneers of digital technology weave together science and sound to create their line of world-renowned digital instruments.
150 Locust St., Macungie | 610.966.2202 | allenorgan.com
Costco and Whole Foods at Hamilton Crossings
Last summer a township commission unanimously approved a new shopping center for Macungie, to be built between Hamilton Boulevard and the Rt. 222 Bypass in the near future. Hamilton Crossings is a project of special significance because it promises to bring the first Costco and Whole Foods to the Lehigh Valley.
Costco is a wholesale retailer known as the “anti-Walmart” for paying employees a living wage and good benefits, while Whole Foods is an upscale purveyor of natural and organic groceries. Along with other stores like Target, Ulta and Pier 1, the construction and staffing of these forward-thinking businesses is expected to create 500 construction jobs and 900 full- and part-time positions.
The $140 million development has seen some controversy over a Tax Incremental Financing plan in which half the property taxes for the first 20 years go toward the site’s infrastructure costs. The area was once a 19th century iron mine, and whether lasting damage from this use and storm water problems make the property suitably blighted to be eligible for this financing has been a matter of debate.