Monday, March 8, 2010


Posted by: Tere

It has been nearly 20 years that I have lived in Easton. My parents, weary of city life, decided to move us out of The Bronx, far and away to the City of Easton. Take away a few years I spent away at university and Easton has been my home since. Specifically I have lived (and still do) in the West Ward. However, I never knew it was called the West Ward until about 3 years ago. My father mentioned the title in a conversation we were having about development programs being offered through a local community organization. The programs were for West Ward residents. I had for years known my neighborhood as Overtown.
Overtown is the area of Easton from Sixth Street to Fifteenth Street, and although it is west of Downtown, it is technically over Downtown since you can see straight down to the Circle at various points on Northampton Street. When I was in high school a fellow classmate had asked me where I lived, and when I told him, he said “Oh! You live overtown!” I finally had an idea of what my area of Easton was called. I knew of Southside, West Easton, Downtown, Palmer, Forks, Wilson, but I never knew had a name for the middle.
Now I have no idea if Overtown is one word or two, or whether it is capitalized or not as I have never seen this word in written context before. Upon consulting with a fellow Eastonian we agreed that it is one word, and I feel it should be capitalized. For example, just as you can live downtown or in Downtown, you can live overtown or in Overtown. Do you live in Overtown?


noel jones said...
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noel jones said...

I like the name Overtown--thanks Tere, I didn't know that before you told me the other day. It's interesting...there must have been some sort of PR campaign to get people to start calling it the West Ward instead...I wonder when and why?

I'd love to hear from other readers who have been here a long time like Teresa, as to when you remember the switch starting to happen...or do you still call it Overtown?

Anonymous said...

First time I heard West Ward was when Weed and Seed started in 2000. The state identified the "target area" as the West Ward.

noel jones said...

Thanks, Anon--I wonder where Weed & Seed got the name from...

Anonymous said...

I have heard "Overtown", but I have heard that term used in more places than Easton. It just seems to be a reference point to a place outside of the main town. I would put it in the same vein as "the right side of the Circle" which is a favorite meeting place for many Eastonians. Now, you ask, what is the right side? When you get there you will know.

West Ward was always used by Easton people. There was the West Ward Savings which eventually became Valley Federal. West Ward Savings had their offices downtown. There was a West Ward Water Co.

But, living as a youngster on Bushkill, we always referred to our neighborhood as Easton. Easton High School (12th and Northampton) was in Easton. Cottingham Stadium was in Easton. Northampton Street was a street in Easton. Now, Northampton is a street that ends in downtown and restarts in the West Ward. If you were from the West Ward you said that you were from Easton. Southsiders were from South Side and Collegehillers were from College Hill.

continued on next

Anonymous said...

about 40 - 50 years ago people living in the West Ward were upset that political elections either favored South Side Democrats or College Hill Republicans. The West Ward was split between the two parties. West Ward was unable to elect any home candidates. This was frustrating because as early as 1965 West Ward residents were complaining about the lack of parks, playgrounds and code enforcement.

Irony-the three member Zoning Hearing Board managed to become the political prize for West Ward politicians and was controlled by West Ward precinct captains. Much of the apartment conversions were granted by this group who used the board to further their own political agenda.

The name, West Ward, became a political cause. I remember going to a candidates night sponsored by the West Ward Neighborhood Assocation. There were nine candidates for council and only one came from the West Ward. The issues were recreation and housing. In that election a minister ran for Mayor from the west ward. I forgot his name. That was forty years ago.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this background. This is good stuff to know!

noel jones said...

Anon 3:16/24--wow--thanks for this information!

Anonymous said...

The minister was Rev. Maue of Olivet Church at 12th and Northampton Sts. He was then named Director of Planning by the successful candidate, although he had no experience or training in planning.

Overtown was mostly used by South Side residents because they had to go overtown to get to then high school.

Sandra Walters Weiss said...

The West Ward has been around for a while but only as a Ward for elections.With the original"Communities That Care" grant it was necessary to target an area,well some political movement back then I can only imagine resurrected the name West Ward because there once was an area known as Dutchtown Gallows Hill because history tells of public hangings at the intersection of 6th & Northampton Sts.where the Mt.Vernon Hotel now stands. This was the original area that was the targeted population for CDBG funding.When Weed & Seed came into the picture after the first round of funding from the PCCD for the "Communities That Care" the powers that be renamed the newly targeted district the"West Ward". I too remember Overtown and even Old Town which I always though of as part of West Easton. It only goes to show that Easton is a City rich in History and now has the politically correct term "West Ward" and along with that comes "Neighbors" and the "West Word" new jewels to add to the other many hidden treasures of our City.

Nikkita said...

It's real funny to be hearing the history of this name because my daughter started saying she lived in Overtown and I didn't know why she was saying it. When I asked her she said that's what all her friends call where "we live". Now I know!

Dennis R. Lieb said...

I was a member of Olivet Church, along with most of my elementary school classmates who lived on the north side of Northampton between 7th and 15th...usually refered to as Easton Heights because of the proximity to Easton Heights Cemetary. (There are actually two, contiguous cemetaries between Juniper Alley and the Bushkill Creek - Easton Heights from 12th to about midblock at 9th and then Easton cemetary from mid 9th to

We re-coined Easton Heights for our neighborhood group in 1999 after the name spent decades in obscurity.

Rev. Maue was the minister when I went to Olivet as a kid. He had a son in Sunday School with me who was two years older and a wiseguy/bully type that I got fed up with and finally hit in the head with either a Bible or a chalkborad eraser - can't remember which.

Anyway, I vaguely remember Maue running for something but do not remember the political uproar over the West Ward...a bit young for politics back then. The previous comments are correct that we didn't call ourselves by that name in the 60's/70's...everyone who wasn't from College Hill or "the side" was just from Easton (and no one was associated with downtown after redevelopement knocked it into a hole - you just went there to shop.) Otherwise, you were from "the projects".

West Ward - as a neighborhood moniker - has been used most of my adult life, though only in the political sense of a voting district with rough physical boundaries of 7th to 15th Streets. I don't know if it had a previous history as a name (like Easton Heights) or was just a political contrivance.

In any event, Weed and Seed used the title but they didn't invent it and there was no problem using it to describe where I live since everyone already knew the term. The one thing I find a bit weird is the term West Wardian. We never used that before the WWNP came along. We were always West Warders. And this Overtown thing...there's one in Philly and I'm sure elsewhere. Never heard it used once in Easton my whole life.


Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says
I know that the Anon is correct about the use of overtown to reference the WW area. My mother grew up on Stewart St and used the term often and yes because she had to go to school overtown. Of course they didn't have to walk around the river to the bridge they had the 2 cent bridge which was a suspension bridge over the Lehigh and took you from Canal St to the 10th St area of the WW.

I recall in the 60's when I played in Easton midgets that the area was called West Ward and yes Easton Heights.