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Commercial Building (Adelaide Silk Mill)

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Adelaide Silk Mill
1881. Race St. between Linden and Court sts.
  • (© George E. Thomas)
  • (William E. Fischer, Jr.)
  • (William E. Fischer, Jr.)
  • (William E. Fischer, Jr.)
  • (William E. Fischer, Jr.)
  • (William E. Fischer, Jr.)

After the Panic of 1873 local business owners, realizing they needed to diversify the town's economy from iron manufacturing, raised $68,000 to lure the Phoenix Silk Mill of Paterson, New Jersey, to Allentown. Their success resulted in several mill buildings, the seeds of an enormous Lehigh Valley textile industry. The largest building was the Adelaide Silk Mill on the bank of Jordan Creek, east of the original town grid. A 1916 boosters’ pamphlet proclaimed the importance of the new building, citing its opening as “the first great step forward,” further noting that “Allentown since that time has not ceased taking big steps.” The opening ceremony was the largest and best-attended public event to that point in the city's history. Like all such buildings, the silk mill was shaped by its industrial process. The huge three-story building comprised three long brick wings to accommodate the power train for looms. The wings are arranged in a U shape; a later two-story wing in the middle formed an abbreviated E layout. Rows of windows topped by brick segmental arches light each floor. Although the mill was clearly a utilitarian structure, it was not without some stylistic detail. Each long wing is marked by three pedimented projections and projecting rows of bricks give a classical rhythm. The mill, now closed, accommodates commercial businesses.

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas


What's Nearby


George E. Thomas, "Commercial Building (Adelaide Silk Mill)", [Allentown, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 2

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, George E. Thomas, with Patricia Likos Ricci, Richard J. Webster, Lawrence M. Newman, Robert Janosov, and Bruce Thomas. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 293-294.

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