Title: History of Hess's Department Store Told in New Book
Author: Staff Writer
While the history of Hess's Department Store is on display in a temporary exhibit at the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum in Allentown, it will live on forever in a new book released today. Images of America: Hess's Department Store was compiled by Frank Whelan and Kurt Zwikl and published by Arcadia Publishing.
It's available on-line and in many local book stores. The book, complete with many old, seldom-seen pictures, describes Hess's as a unique department store with a combination of style and showmanship that made it a shopping legend for almost 100 years. It was founded in 1897 in Allentown by brothers Max and Charles Hess. Over the year's, the company's flagship store at 9th and Hamilton streets in downtown Allentown would play host to a who's who of celebrities and politicians, including Jimmy Carter, Johnny Carson, George Reeves, Hubert Humphrey, Lassie, and Rock Hudson. Perhaps one of the most popular features of the store was its basement restaurant, The Patio, famous for its towering strawberry pie.
Over the years, Hess' would grow to include nearly 80 stores before its demise in the early 1990s. Bon-Ton bought Hess's flagship store, but declining sales and a growing cost to operate the massive building, prompted the company to close it in January 1996. The building would stand empty for the next four years before PPL tore it down and replaced it with a modern office building.
The subject of the book came easy for its authors. Frank Whelan contributed to a TV documentary about Hess's. He's currently director of special projects at the Lehigh County Historical Society. Kurt Zwikl is a former state representative from the Lehigh Valley and former chair of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. His late father, William Zwikl, was the longtime photographer for Hess's.
The Hess's exhibit at the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum, 423 West Walnut Street, Allentown, features dozens of old photos, a recreation of the store's famous French room, Hess's turn-of-the-century horse-drawn wagon, and some of its crystal chandeliers. "I remember as a little girl going to Hess's and being mesmerized by the beauty, the chandeliers, twinkling lights, huge trees," said Jill Youngken, curator of the interactive exhibit. The museum is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10AM until 4PM and Sundays from 11AM through 4PM through December 31. After January 1, the hours will be Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10AM until 4PM and Sundays from noon until 4PM through January 11. Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for children. Members are admitted free.