The Mill Project
For over 100 years, the Bushkill Creek Corridor was one of Easton’s primary centers for commerce, industry, and innovation. After several decades of disinvestment and decline, today a large-scale initiative is underway to revitalize this important Corridor by leveraging and celebrating creativity, sustainability, and our community’s proud cultural heritage.
Through an innovative public/private partnership between the City of Easton, Easton Redevelopment Authority, Lafayette College, and VM Development Group, the Simon Silk Mill is being redeveloped as a world class mixed use complex known as Silk: A Creative Community. The vision for Silk brings together the world’s best creative industries professionals, a green/sustainable technology incubator, unique retail establishments, fine restaurants, gardens and trails, cultural and educational experiences, condominiums and lofts, a boutique hotel and conference facilities, and hundreds of thousands of visitor each year. In June, it was announced that internationally renowned sculptor Stephen Antonakos will create the first signature artwork at the Silk site, a neon piece that will adorn the Mill’s iconic smokestack. Construction of Silk is scheduled to begin by the end of 2011, with the initial phase of building rehabilitation starting in 2012.
Less than 2 miles downstream, Lafayette College is advancing one of the most transformative initiatives in its long and illustrious history. The Williams Arts Campus at the base of College Hill will be anchored by the Williams Visual Arts Building and will feature an experimental black box theater, a state-of-the-art film theater, a sound stage, and a high-tech media and teaching lab.
Connecting these two projects is the newly constructed Karl Stirner Arts Trail. Named for the renowned sculptor and Easton arts pioneer, this 2.5-mile hiking and biking trail serves as a canvas for a mix of local, national, and international artists, the identification of whom is guided by the Council for the Arts, a committee of dedicated artists and community members with close ties to the highest quality artists and arts organizations in the world.
Easton has a diverse and colorful history dating back to its inception in 1739, when Europeans settled at the confluence of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers. The town itself was formally founded in 1752.
William Penn, an entrepreneur in his own right and original owner of the land upon which Easton sits, named the town after his father-in-law’s estate in England, Easton Neston near Towcester, Northamptonshire, England. It eventually became the county seat for Northampton County. Its fortunes have survived the economic fluctuations over time, while playing pivotal roles in our country’s transition from colony to country. It was the site of the signing of the Treaty of Easton, during the French and Indian War. It served as a critical military center during the Revolutionary War, leading to it being one of only three sites where the Declaration of Independence was read.
In the 1800′s, Easton’s geographic assets made it a transportation hub for the steel industry, first utilizing its canals and later the railroads, linking coal regions in the North, ironworks to the West, Philadelphia’s seaport and New York’s business district. During Prohibition, Easton’s proximity to The Big Apple, a mere 67 miles by train, earned it the nickname, “The Little Apple” because of its flourishing nightlife fueled by the availability of booze at a time when it was largely unavailable everywhere else. Ironically, Easton has also been known as “The City of Churches,” boasting the highest church-to-population ratio in the nation at the time.
Easton continues to be a rare blend of contrasts, viewing challenges as opportunities, reinventing itself many times over during its colorful history. That mindset has spawned luminaries from nearly every discipline, including entertainment, sports, literature, education, science and politics.