This home was acquired by the College as a new residence for its president in 1963. It was built for a family whose members were famous not only in Allentown, but internationally.
The home was constructed in 1929 for Joseph D. Leonard, co-founder and president of the Charis Corporation, and his wife, Rose Morrison Leonard. The home was built by M.A. Potruch, a significant property developer in Allentown.
The Leonards were Jewish immigrants from Iași, Romania, from whence they emigrated in 1907. Settling in NYC, Joseph co-founded the Fifth Avenue Corset Company, which moved to Allentown in 1921. The abandonment of corsetry in the Roaring ‘20s led to Joseph’s development of the “Charis,” a more flexible option, which was sold by saleswomen traveling to homes, rather than in retail locations. The company changed its name in 1928, and built a large office and manufacturing building on Linden Street in 1929.
The Leonards were pillars of the Jewish community in Allentown. Joseph was on the finance committee for the new JCC building in 1928, and served as President in 1929. Rose was a leader in Senior Hadassah, and the Morning Call in the 1930s and ‘40s is filled with mentions of her hosting events at 339 North Leh St.
The Leonards had three children: Ira, Francesca (“Frances”), and Herman. According to the 1930 census, a Black couple, Hattie and Thomas Giles, lived with and were employed by the Leonards. In 1940, it was a Czech couple, Andy and Susie Platchko.
Ira Leonard (1913-1997) followed in his father’s footsteps and became president of Charis Corp. After retirement, he assumed leadership of Judd’s, a men’s clothing store that was located in the Americus Hotel.
Francesca Leonard (1918-2007) married Eugene Raskin. The Raskins were living at 339 N. Leh with Francesca’s parents in October 1939 when their son, Michael, was born at Sacred Heart Hospital. By 1946, they returned to Allentown as celebrated folk singers. “Gene and Francesca” wrote “Those Were the Days;” Paul McCartney overheard them perform it in a London club and, remembering it a few years, arranged its performance by Mary Hopkin.
Herman Leonard (1923-2010), the only child born in Allentown, attended Allentown schools and developed an affinity for photography at an early age. The Morning Call records his return from overseas wartime service in 1945. Herman Leonard became a world-renowned jazz photographer who worked with Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra, as well as with Marlon Brando.
In 1950, the home was sold to Robert and Arra Betty Stoudt; Robert was a principle at H.E. Stoudt & Son, a contracting firm.
In July 1963, the College purchased 339 N. Leh from the Stroudt family for $65,000. Speculation about the purpose of the purchase included the property’s use as a fraternity house, but within a few days the clarification was made as to its future as the president's residence.
In 1992, the house was remodeled (under Curtis Dretsch’s supervision) before Arthur and Katherine Taylor moved in.