William AllenHigh School

Our History


Erected: 1916

Renovations/Additions: 1930, 1942, 1956, 1972, 1979, 1980, 1992, 2010

Sq. Footage: 443,021

Philadelphia councilman, mayor (1735-36) and Pennsylvania Supreme Court chief justice (1750-74), William Allen was one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Colonial America. In 1762, he founded Northamptontown on 5,000 acres of land he had purchased in 1735. In 1838, the city changed its official name to Allentown in his honor.

In 1858, fourteen students enrolled at Allentown High School, located at South Penn Street, near the present Allentown School District Administration Building. Classes were held separately for boys and girls, the former meeting on the second floor of the Leh Shoe Store and the latter in the Sunday School rooms of the First Presbyterian Church on North 5th Street. As enrollment increased, classes met in several different buildings.

In 1894... AHS_1906In 1894, Allentown erected a new building for high school classes (now Central Elementary) at Lumber and Turner.

Principal Daniel Hamm opened the doors of the present building on 17th Street in 1916, a project that cost a total of $585,034.32. The building housed grades 9-12 from 1916-1928. From 1929-1930, the ninth grade class was housed in the Raub building on St. Cloud Street and became part of the middle school system with the adoption of the 6-3-3 plan. In September 1981, the freshman class rejoined Allen High School.

In recognition of the District’s second, newly-built Louis E. Dieruff High School, Allentown High School changed its name to William Allen High School in 1960.

The Canary, the WAHS mascot, has a unique history. In 1916, when the present main building opened, the Allentown High School colors were yellow and blue. The faculty and students interested in producing literary journals developed a magazine entitled, “The Canary and Blue.” Somehow, the word “Canary,” denoting one of the school colors, caught on and the bird became the mascot for the high school. The brave canary is known locally as the only bird to fly safely through a hurricane in its hope to beat perennial rival Bethlehem Area School District Liberty High’s Hurricanes.

Today, thousands of students and visitors pass through the doors of our main entrance. Our stately Main Building, the oldest part of our campus, reminds us of our venerable tradition of excellence, and the high expectations of those who built it.


Centered atop the Seventeenth Street entrance to our Main Building is an illuminated clock of classical design. The flanking figures represent Science and Literature. The owl denotes Wisdom, perched on the Scroll of Learning. The east-facing, four-foot clock face greets the rising sun each morning. Sprawling over one and a half city blocks, our six campus buildings combine architectural features from several periods. William Allen's buildings include:

  • Clifford S. Bartholomew Center
  • David R. Hacket Natatorium
  • J. Birney Crum Stadium
  • J. Milo Sewards Gymnasium
  • Dr. John McHugh Auditorium
  • Lehigh Street Campus
  • Main Building