Review of Clio entries in Easton, PA.

I have lived in Easton for close to 18 years and I have often heard about its history, however, I have never spent any time investigating more closely. The application Clio actually facilitated this process. As user, Navigating Clio is very simple. Upon opening the app one can simply go to sites in your present location (if your device is set up to allow location services), or one can search by name of the city or by zip code. For my first search, I did not use location services, rather, I used entered a zip code. Interestingly, that first search resulted in three sites in Bethlehem PA, which is about 15 miles west from Easton. But when I entered the name of the city, Easton, I was able to find some historical markers in downtown Easton and the surrounding area. 

I decided to focus my visit on three sites in the downtown area of Easton. These were relatively small sites, none of which amounted to a full museum. However, it was for this reason that I appreciated they being included in the app. It is precisely small, relatively, uninteresting locations, that are often overlooked, and it was nice to be able to discover them and explore them with the aid of this app. 

Easton PA is situated right across the Delaware River from the New Jersey town of Phillipsburg. If one is traveling from the East to the West along interstate 78, Easton will be the first town they encounter. The first of three major cities that represent what is called as the Lehigh Valley: Easton, Bethlehem and Allentown. Allentown and Bethlehem are better known, Allentown has grown more large and important in the recent past, while Bethlehem was the site of Bethlehem Steel, a large steel- producing company that fueled much of the industrial revolution in the United States. Easton is the smallest of the three towns and the one that has suffered the most of economic decline. However, things have started to improve in the past twenty years and Easton is in the middle of a resurgence. This has allowed for some improvements in the  area of historical preservation particularly in the downtown area. 

As soon as one crosses the Delaware using the Free Bridge (there is a second bridge built more recently but it is only open to cars) one enters Northampton Street, which runs East to West across a grid that goes from First Street, starting on the second block and continues all the way to 25th street, well outside of what we would consider Downtown Easton. The first stop in my visit is located in 200 Northampton Street. In the corner with 2nd Street one sees a recently renovated building that still preserves much of its old architecture. Most of the buildings in Northampton street have been turned into restaurants or stores, so this particular one stands out. This is Bachman Public House. There is a small sign mentioning this, but not other references to the history of the building. It is by using the app that I was able to find out that this structure was originally built as a tavern in 1753 by Jacob and Katrina Bachman and this is Easton’s oldest building. The tavern served also as an Inn and, for a about twelve years also served as a court house. According to the app, the tavern hosted meetings between settlers and Native leaders and was the site for the signing of some treaties. It also hosted strategy sessions during the revolutionary war and offered lodging for John Adams, William Ellery and William Whipple. It continue to serve as an Inn and court house until the nineteenth century. In the 1920s it came to be known as the Blue Moon Cafe, a speakeasy during the prohibition era.  It was first acquired by the Easton Heritage Alliance in 2001, but efforts to renovate it were eventually abandoned. It is now owned by the Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society. It is used to host special events, historical re-enactments and it is the home for the Bachmann Players, an amateur theatrical troupe.

I would not have known any of this if it was not because of the application. The Bachmann Public House record includes not only a long description of the history of the house, it also includes pictures of of the interior, a Google Street View of the structure, a citation for the historical description and sources. There are also some links at other available resources, particularly more recent news pieces. In addition, one can also find useful information such as hours of operation, phone number. Most importantly, the entry also includes information about the person who created the entry, how many times the entry has been revised and by whom

From Bachmann Public House I walked a couple of block north up 2nd Street to find a blue historical marker indicating the place where Florence B. Seibert (1897-1991) was born. She was a famous bio-chemist who made her name by working on the development of a test for tuberculosis. The marker is relatively small and it does not include as much information as the entry in Clio. The entry in Clio also includes several pictures of Florence Seibert, google street view, sources, citation and credits. 

My last stop in this improvised walking tour requires that I walk back, towards the south. cross Northampton street walk an extra block south and then turn right until I get to 4th street where one can find another historical marker that commemorates the life of George Taylor, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence as representative of Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress. This entry is the shortest one and it is not clear what is the connection between George Taylor and Easton, other that having stayed at Bachmann House

Overall, the app Clio did offer me the opportunity the learn more about the history of Easton. It was very easy to navigate and the entries were well-written. The entries in Clio are written by volunteers and edited by trusted individuals and organizations. In this regard, Clio allows for a mixture of volunteer work that is monitored by a select group of more experienced editors. Individual entries can be combined to create a walking tour. I could have done that with the three sites I visited, although I decided I would have needed to add more contextual information. Given that two of the entries went back to the eighteenth century and a third one was from the twentieth century, it would have been necessary to fill some of the gaps. What this reveals is a view of history that is only interested in major events or figures and less on the everyday lives of regular people. I am sure one could add more entries on buildings that can help us tell the history of Easton from the perspective of the people who have lived here bot for whom there are no historical markers.

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