The Heart of Easton

For the last four years, I’ve had cause to go in to Easton, PA once a week. It’s the hometown of former heavyweight champ Larry Holmes, who was apparently nicknamed “The Easton Assassin,” although I had never heard such a nickname until I moved to the area. It has a certain reputation, deserved or not. It’s quite hilly, and the serpentine drive along US 22 is much like a trip on the Wild Mouse at the State Fair.

Lafayette Bar and Coffee House, 2012, Easton, PA

Lafayette Bar and Coffee House, June 2012

Over a year ago, I posted a photograph on Instagram that I took of the Lafayette Hotel/Bar/Coffee Shop in downtown Easton. So I related the story of the picture’s origins: I drove up and parked in front, got out of the car with my Pentax k20d in one hand and my iPhone in the other and snapped off a few shots. A couple of guys were moving a ratty-looking couch out of the building. Another guy asked me what I was doing in that kind of city-dweller way where you’re not sure if the person is looking for a) a friend, b) a couple bucks, c) a good conversation, or d) a way to rip my camera from my cold, dead hand. I presumed it was somewhere in between a and b and left after about ten minutes because I was doing more talking than snapping.

A few days later, I tell this story to my friend Oscar. And he tells me a hair-raising story of an experience he once had down there. So, fair or not,  I half-hint at this in my Instagram post.

Nearly a year later, and I find out that I’m in the midst of a slight disagreement. The Easton Main Street account on Instagram took issue with my opinion—or at least with my half-hint—and defended the Lafayette with honor. I made my apologies and we moved on. A few days later, Easton Main Street posted a fascinating shot of a sign just around the corner and tagged me on it. A couple bought this old brick place on the far side of the block, which had this old sign that read “Horns,” stripped of its neon, but a lovely, rusty relic.

You didn’t have to ask me twice.

So on my weekly trip to Easton, I skirted back into the heart of the city. There was another sign I was after that I had spotted out of the corner of my eye one day. The State Café Grill, just around the corner from Easton’s famous State Theater. I didn’t know if it was old and well-kept or new and of the tradition, but it was just my speed. I hit this one up first:

State Cafe Grill, Easton, PA

One of the true high points of the drive along Northampton Street in Easton is the Northampton National Bank sign on the side of the grand old building. I tried to get some information on this online, but somehow that proved fruitless. Please let me know if you have any information regarding this restored sign:

The Northampton National Bank, Easton, PA

On to the Lafayette. My memory is a little fuzzy from my first visit, but it seems to me several things have changed.

  1. The street is one way there, and one way in the opposite direction. I think that may have changed. I had to go around the block to park.
  2. The area around the Lafayette seems to have cleaned up considerably since the last time I was there. For certain, they’ve added some cool jazz-themed murals along the side. Again, maybe I’m mistaken, but it sure seemed that way.
  3. There’s a record store across the street. I’m definitely sure that wasn’t there before. Old vinyl and old signs, these are a few of my favorite things.

Fortunately, where I came to park put me in the perfect position to catch the “Horns” sign. Now that, I’ve seen it up close, I want to give it a great big hug:

Horns, Easton, PA Closeup of Horns sign, Easton, PA

I stopped in at the record store. Some decent stuff. I always gravitate toward the jazz section and I always seem to judge a record store by such things. Double Decker (mentioned earlier, across from Zandy’s) is still my favorite in the area, but this is a good one.  I find it fascinating that both record store locations are just across from classic signage.

Even though I had the previous shots from the Lafayette in practically the same weather conditions, I took some more just to see if I could improve on my previous ones. I got one from across the street and focused in on the jazz paintings on the wall:

Lafayette Bar and Coffe House from across the street, Easton, PA Lafayette Bar and Coffee Shoppe, Easton, PA, 2013 Trumpeter Mural, Lafayette Bar, Easton, PA

So, does Easton deserve a bad reputation? Probably not. It’s definitely improving, and rapidly so. I lived in Chattanooga and saw the changes that were made to it. When I first saw it in 1990, it was a shabby, soot-covered wreck with very little to recommend it. Look at Chattanooga today. It gets on all sorts of lists as a tourist attraction and as a great place to live. Will Easton get to that point? Here’s hoping. The seeds are there. I think they should be given every chance to grow.

8 thoughts on “The Heart of Easton”

  1. My husband, Bill Carr, and his business partner, Steve Myers, did the sign on the side of the National Building. It was owned by Koehler-Kheel Realty, which generously took the extra effort to restore the sign, which was so faded as to be nearly imperceptible. Thanks for noticing. I am happy every day when I get to walk by this sign.

  2. The next time you’re in Easton, stop in at The National Building at 4th & Northampton St. I work in the lobby and will be happy to tell you about the restored Bank sign on the side of the building.

  3. I just read this most interesting article. But I was even more surprised to see the Horn’s sign. What memories go along with that sign! As a young woman, I spen most of my pay check at that store! And it makes me feel good to see the Lafayette Hotel getting back in shape. I used to eat lunch in the Lafayette Coffee shop at this location. The Easton Farmer’s market is such a great Saturday morning event and the new restaurants make it a real foodie destination. Go Easton!

    Thanks for the memories.
    Trudie Boccadoro Lear

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