Community Opinion

Hellertown’s Dimmick Park: Then & Now

Dimmick Park

Nearly a century ago, Hellertown’s Morris Dimmick spearheaded the development of a public space for recreation and relaxation that is still enjoyed by countless local residents. Today, that space bears his name.

Est. Read Time: 4 mins

Squinting my left eye, I let go of the stick and watch it drop, with a burbling splash, into the currents of Hellertown’s Silver Creek. As Pooh and Piglet did during their games of Poohsticks, I
lean over the bridge’s railing to track my stick’s progress. Rolling over flat stones and dodging leafy dams, it briefly slips out of sight beneath the footbridge before triumphantly reappearing on
the opposite side.

Dimmick Park

The entrance to Dimmick Park in Hellertown, Pa. (FILE PHOTO)

Back home again after four years of college in North Carolina, I spend the first warm afternoon of February enjoying the quiet of Dimmick Park. As a graduate student studying creative writing, I don’t often have much time to relax in the park. I really should be working on a research project, but old habits die hard. Many Sundays of my childhood found me in Dimmick Park, competing with (and losing to) my siblings at Poohsticks, and the game provides a comforting respite from the hours of study that fill the days of my spring semester.

Bored of dropping sticks and moving on to dropping dandelions, whose yellow petals float like asterisks above the brown floor of the creek bed, I’m reminded of the fireworks that burst above the Dewey Fire Company Carnival every July. Like Poohsticks, the Dewey Carnival was a requisite component of summer for my siblings and me. Even viewing the show from the grass rather than the baseball bleachers was an offense to tradition. The Carnival was as indispensable as a Hellertown Pool pass in June, or a wish at the old fountain, or a roll down the slopes hemming the baseball diamond. Dimmick Park was as much a mode of living as it was a piece of land.

Morris Dimmick

Morris Dimmick was Chief Burgess of Hellertown borough from 1925 to 1945. (FILE PHOTO)

After finishing Poohsticks, I kick around for the dryest patch of grass and sit down beside the creek. The water bubbles a non-sequitur, the currents making a prism from the afternoon sunshine.

My many memories of Dimmick Park, and the ones I have yet to experience, are all thanks to the visions of Morris J. Dimmick, a blue-eyed stenographer who hoped to create a space of community and recreation in his birthplace of Saucon Valley. Standing at almost six feet tall, Morris was undoubtedly a figure who commanded people’s attention, and politics came naturally to him. He was elected the Chief Burgess* of Hellertown in 1925, and it was during his 20 years serving in the position that Morris managed to make his vision for a public park a reality. Shortly after taking office, Morris purchased 15 acres of land from the Bethlehem Steel Company for a whopping one dollar! The small portion of land was developed over the years, and in 1931 it opened to the public as East End Recreational Center, which would feature a pavilion, playground and swimming pool. The Recreational Center enjoyed much success, and in 1966, the park was renamed in honor of its founder. By the time of his death in 1972, Morris had witnessed his park flourish for over 40 years.

Reflecting on Morris’ vision, I toss a rock into a deep pool near the bridge and get a satisfying blup. After considering the history of Dimmick Park, my afternoon by the creek feels more pleasant. Morris designed his park precisely to provide people with the opportunity to relax, gather or escape homework assignments. In a way, my few hours spent playing Poohsticks on the bridge and sitting beside the creek was a sign of my appreciation for all Morris did for the community. Morris believed in the value of recreation and its ability to build happy memories, and it is the people who come after him that can benefit from and continue his vision. So next time you need a rest, or are simply passing through Hellertown, thank Morris by enjoying a few moments in his beautiful Dimmick Park.

*The elected office of Chief Burgess was the equivalent of the modern-day position of mayor.

Helen Behe is an MFA candidate at DeSales University, where she is studying through the program’s poetry track for a degree in creative writing and publishing. Aside from her studies, Helen enjoys gardening, boxing and rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles. She is a resident of Bethlehem.


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Helen Behe

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