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Allegheny Aqueduct Historical Park

The Allegheny Aqueduct was built by the Schuylkill Navigation Company in 1824 under the direction of Engineer Ephriam Beech. This "bridge for boats" was needed because the Allegheny Creek could not be incorporated into the canal system.

The Schuylkill Canal, a slackwater navigation system, began at Mill Creek, Schuylkill County, and traveled to its destination in Philadelphia; both the canal and the aqueduct ceased to be used as a transportation system in 1931.

The aqueduct is a massive 112 1/2 foot structure consisting of five red sandstone and brownstone arches done with the "keystone" theme. In the 1830's, bricks were added underneath the arches to prevent leakage. The canal was originally lined with clay, but in 1870 a concrete liner was formed into the top of the aqueduct, and metal spikes that protruded from the concrete were used to hold timber planking that prevented the canal boats from scraping on the concrete.

In 1983, the Schuylkill River Greenway Association began efforts to restore the aqueduct and subsequently had the structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The restoration efforts were celebrated in February, 1990, and now the Berks County Parks and Recreation Department administers this historic landmark from Berks County's past.


Beidler House

Located adjacent to the aqueduct, the Beidler House was built in 1783 by Conrad Beidler to serve as a home for the operator of the nearby mill.

The Beidler House is open to the public for an "Open House" in the Spring for an Interpretive Program about the history of the house, mill and aqueduct conducted by costumed guides.

The Beidler House is also open in December for a "Colonial Candlelight Holiday Reception".


Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles

The Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles houses dozens of automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles that were manufactured in Southeastern Pennsylvania while the industry was still in its infancy. Prior to that time, the region produced multitudes of horse-drawn vehicles, of which many examples can be found at the Museum.

The Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles is located in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, approximately 35 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

Discover rare and handsome vehicles you have never seen before and won't find anywhere else. Trace the history-making evolution of road transportation into tomorrow's high tech solutions; investigate engines, steering, lighting, and brake developments. See vehicles of all types: gas, steam, electric, horse drawn, high wheelers, safety bicycles and motorcycles. Enjoy the 100 beautiful color plates in the Gallery of the American Automobile by Clarence Hornung. Learn about the electric powered cars of tomorrow in an exhibit of more than one hundred years of EV development. Explore the region's vehicle building history. The names of "Fleetwood", "Duryea", "Daniels", and other early automotive giants will become a part of your lexicon. Shop for books, auto items and gifts in the Museum Store.


C. Howard Hiester Canal Center

Through an extensive inventory including artifacts from the Schuylkill Navigation Company and the Hiester Boatyard, the C. Howard Hiester Canal Center presents a coherent story of canal transportation. It displays this country's early growth and specifically the important contribution the canal system made to the history of Berks County.

Canals saw their rise and fall in the 19th century. They offered means of bulk tranportation and travel in the era prior to railroads when the only alternative to walking was the horse and wagon.

Mr. Hiester gathered as many artifacts and representative items as possible from that section of the Schuylkill Canal between Reading and Philadelphia. He accumulated a wealth of memorabilia that might otherwise have been lost. This included the houseboat "Mildred," which plied the Schuylkill Canal between Reading and Philadelphia, a toll collection booth, and a pilot house from the tugboat "Dolphin."

The end result was that Mr. Hiester had aquired the largest private collection of 19th century canal memorabilia in America. Through the efforts of one man, we have the opportunity to view the most extensive private collection of a former era.


Centre Park Historic District

The Centre Park Historic District was established on October 27, 1982. Situated in the northwestern part of the City of Reading, PA, the District is generally located between Centre Avenue to the west, North 5th Street to the east, Charles Evans Cemetery to the north, and the Lebanon Valley Railroad to the south. The name of the District is derived from Centre Park, an attractive focal point for the neighborhood. The Park is situated on the south side of Douglass Street between Centre Avenue and North 4th Street.

Almost entirely residential in character, the Centre Park Historic District is comprised of 840 structures. It features a wide variety of architectural styles and high levels of quality craftsmanship which are evident in even the more modest homes. Most of the residential development occurred between 1895 and 1915 when the trolley service made the neighborhood one of Reading's first suburbs.


Conrad Weiser Homestead

The Conrad Weiser Homestead is a Pennsylvania state historic site located in Womelsdorf, Berks County, Pennsylvania which interprets the life of Conrad Weiser. Weiser was an 18th century German immigrant who served as an Indian interpreter and who helped coordinate Pennsylvania's Indian policy. He played a major role in the history of colonial Pennsylvania. The Conrad Weiser Homestead is located on Rt. 422, within easy driving distance of Philadelphia, Lancaster, Hershey and Harrisburg. Come and enjoy this rural countryside dotted with the surviving period stone houses and traditional farms. The Conrad Weiser Homestead includes period buildings, and a new orientation exhibit, on a 26-acre Olmsted-designed landscaped park.


Daniel Boone Homestead

The Daniel Boone Homestead, located near Reading, Pennsylvania, is a state historic site which preserves a number of historic structures. The Homestead offers many historic programs and exhibits, preserves 579 acres of open space, and provides passive recreational areas.

Daniel Boone's parents first settled the site in 1730 and the region was populated by many diverse people - English, Welsh, Scots-Irish, Germans, Swedes, Huguenots and Lenape Indians. Daniel was born here in 1734 and spent his first 16 years here before his family migrated to North Carolina.

Today the site tells the story of Daniel's youth and the saga of the region's 18th century settlers by contrasting their lives and cultures. This region left a lasting impact on Daniel Boone's life, and on the history of Pennsylvania.


Deppen Cemetery

Begun as a family burial ground, Deppen Cemetery was originally located a half-mile west of Mt. Pleasant, south of Pennsylvania Route 183. Known locally as "The Catholic Cemetery," it was moved to this spot by the Army Corps of Engineers' Philadelphia District during the summer of 1978 in connection with construction of Blue Marsh Lake on nearby Tulpehocken Creek. The first known burial took place in 1808, the last in 1915. An extensive search of the cemetery and vicinity revealed 68 graves, only 36 of which were identifiable. The others were unmarked and may have included the 20 to 30 Irish laborers who fell victim to "canal" or "swamp" fever while constructing the Union Canal during the 1820s. [From a plaque on the cemetery wall]


Ephrata Cloister

One of America's earliest religious communities, the Ephrata Cloister was founded in 1732 by German settlers seeking spiritual goals rather than earthly rewards. Gathered in unique European style buildings, the community consisted of celibate Brothers and Sisters, and a married congregation of families.

At the zenith of the community in the 1740s and 1750s, about 300 members worked and worshiped at the Cloister. Today, the National Historic Landmark is open for tours, special programs, and on-going research opportunities.


Gruber Wagon Works

The Gruber Wagon Works survives as one of the most complete examples of an integrated rural manufactory of its kind in the nation. Erected in 1882 by Franklin H. Gruber, the wagon works evolved from a single craftsman shop, having a variety of specialized hand tools, into a family-operated business which employed up to 20 men who utilized mass-production methods. Unlike a modern assembly process, wagon parts were transported back and forth between various rooms in order to complete a segment of the work.

Wagon wheels were constructed in the bench shop, and wooden parts of the wagon were made from patterns in the wood shop. Wheels were "tired" and wagons were "ironed" and assembled in the blacksmith shop. The distinctive striping and scrollwork were applied by hand in the paint shop.

During the winter of 1976-77, the Gruber Wagon Works was moved by the Army Corps of Engineers from its original location near Mt. Pleasant. In 1978, the Gruber Wagon Works was designated as a National Historical Landmark by the United States Government, commemorating its historic significance as an industry from a bygone era of American craftsman.


Historic Joanna Furnace

Nestled in an area rich with iron ore, abundant woodland for charcoal, limestone, and waterways, lies Joanna Furnace - a historic remnant of Berks County's thriving early iron industry. Unlike today's corporations with their large buildings and complex hierarchies, the 19th century iron industry at Joanna Furnace was the product of rugged individualism. From the semi-wilderness of Robeson Township, in 1791, Joanna Furnace was started by Samuel Potts, Thomas Rutter III, Thomas May and Thomas Bull. The furnace was named in honor of Pott's wife Joanna Holland Potts.

Joanna's owners included Thomas Bull, Thomas May, Samuel Potts, Thomas Rutter III, John Smith, Thomas Bull Smith, Levi Bull Smith, William Darling and L. Heber Smith. The furnace "blew out" in 1898, after L. Heber Smith's death.

Joanna was a cold blast, single stack, charcoal iron furnace most of her life. Water powered until the mid 1850's, Joanna used steam power after that. Under the guidance of the ironmaster (after 1800, one of the Smith family) and founder/keeper (or manager), guttermen, fillers, and potters worked in twelve hour shifts tapping the iron twice daily. The average blast was one year, but some blasts lasted two or three years. During a blast, the fillers and guttermen worked every day of the month, including Christmas and New Year's Day. Woodcutters, colliers (charcoal makers) and teamsters added to Joanna Furnace long and productive life.

The Charcoal Barn was rebuilt, after an 1856 fire, with additional height and storage area.

A major technology change occurred in 1889. At this time, fifteen feet were added to the furnace stack height (increasing it from 30 to 45 feet). A Weimer blowing engine, downcomer pipe, blowout door, and bell and hopper (of which the derrick/crane is still visible on the top of the furnace) were installed. In order to facilitate getting the iron ore, limestone and charcoal to the top of the stack, a water hoist was installed on the outside of the stack between the Bridgehouse and Furnace Stack.

At the 1898 death of the ironmaster, L. Heber Smith, the furnace was never again operated.

In 1979 Bethlehem Steel donated historic Joanna Furnace to the Hay Creek Valley Association and our organization took on a new challenge of preserving a treasured piece of America's past.

The furnace is located three miles north of Morgantown on Route 10 and is open for visitors on the 3rd Saturday of every month.


Historical Society of Berks County

Founded in 1869, the Historical Society of Berks County is a museum and library located at 940 Centre Ave, Reading, PA. The Society's mission, as described on its website, is "to focus attention on the unique local history, the vast material culture, and the diverse cultural heritage of Berks County by preserving, archiving, and promoting this material to instill in our citizens of all ages and ethnic groups an awareness of this growing treasure trove of information. This allows the Historical Society of Berks to be a major cultural magnet, drawing people to our community."

The Historical Society houses materials relating to the early history of Berks County in its Museum, in the Henry Janssen Library, and at the historic Hendel House. Over 10,000 members and patrons visit during the year. The Society educates students from public and private schools in the area and is visited by researchers from all over the country.

The museum has an historical object collection exceeding 20,000 items. Included are works of art by Ben Austrian, Jack Coggins, Ralph D. Dunkelberger, G.B. Kostenbader, Earle Poole, E.S. Reeser, Christopher Shearer, Victor Shearer, and Frederick Spang. The Society has a large transportation collection, including bicycles, a very rare horse drawn streetcar, a Conestoga Wagon, a Duryea automobile, and other wagons, some of which are on display at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles located in Boyertown, PA.

In July 1869, a call was made for interested citizens to gather "for the purpose of collecting and perpetuating the historical reminisces of Berks County." Following the first meeting in August, the Historical Society of Berks County was incorporated on December 13, 1869. The first president was the Honorable William M. Hiester. After a period of stagnation, President Albert G. Green revived the Society in 1898. Meetings were held in the Exchange Building located on North 6th Street in Reading, PA. The first female member was Kate E. Hawley, wife of Reading Eagle founder Jesse G. Hawley, a charter member.

The Historical Society first started collecting objects in June, 1898. Its first building, purchased in June 1904 from the Reading Gas Company, was located at 519 Court Street. At that time, membership was 150. Less than ten years later, the burgeoning Historical Society needed a larger building, and J. Bennett Nolan led the search for a new structure. In the summer of 1928 the cornerstone was laid for the present building located at 940 Centre Avenue in Reading, PA and construction was completed the following year. Made of concrete and brick, it was designed to be a fireproof structure to house the collection and archives. The present facility was dedicated on October 1, 1929.

Needing more office, display, and storage space, the Historical Society embarked on a fund raising campaign in the 1980s. The new building addition was opened in 1988, providing the library with its own dedicated storage and research space.

Again faced with storage concerns, the Historical Society took possession of its first off-site property in 2000. Known as the Hendel House, it is located directly across from Centre Park at 746 Centre Avenue, the ornate Victorian structure is used for meetings, programs, and object storage. The Historical Society of Berks County's Hendel House, donated by Marjorie Hendel-Perfect, is at 746 Centre Ave. The northern end of the structure dates from 1877. Mrs. Perfect "gave" the mansion to preserve it for posterity in honor of her father who erected the 1897 addition and transformed the structure into an elegant residence. Adelaide K. Hendel was the last of the Hendels to live here. From 1949 to 1999 it was used as a Lutheran church. Following restoration, this adjunct facility will be used for Society-related functions, meetings of various kinds, some office space, and storage.

The Hendel House is also available for weddings, private parties, holiday affairs, business meetings, luncheons, family reunions and other special events.

It can accommodate up to 100 people. There is an in-house sound system and heating and air conditioning depending on the season.

For more information and/or to reserve the Hendel House, contact the Historical Society of Berks County at 610-375-4375.

In 2005, the Historical Society purchased the former M&T Bank building at 160 Spring Street, directly behind the main building located at 940 Centre Avenue. Formally named The Henry Janssen Library, this premier research facility opened to the public on November 11, 2008 after extensive renovations. The Henry Janssen Library is the center for genealogical and historical research at the Historical Society of Berks County. The Henry Janssen Library is acknowledged to be one of the best and most thoroughly indexed collections of county data in Pennsylvania. The Henry Janssen Library contains a wealth of information dating back to the early 1700s. HSBC's archival holdings have grown extensively since the founding of the Society in 1869 and include both personal and family papers as well as the records of churches, cemeteries and local businesses.


Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in southeastern Berks County, near Elverson, Pennsylvania, is an example of an American 19th century rural "iron plantation". The buildings include a blast furnace, the ironmaster's house and auxiliary structures including a blacksmith's shop, a company store and several workers' houses.

Hopewell Furnace was founded in 1771 by ironmaster Mark Bird for whom Birdsboro was named. The site's most prosperous time was during the 1820-1840 period with a brief boom in production during the American Civil War. In the mid 19th century changes in iron making, including a shift from charcoal to anthracite rendered smaller furnaces like Hopewell obsolete. The site discontinued operations in 1883.

Today, Hopewell Furnace consists of 14 restored structures in the core historic area, 52 features on the List of Classified Structures, and a total of 848 mostly wooded acres. Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is surrounded by French Creek State Park on three sides and the State Game Lands to the south which preserves the lands the furnace utilized for its natural resources.


Kutztown Area Historical Society

The Kutztown Area Historical Society museum showcases many artifacts and photographs from the Kutztown area. Their non-circulating library holds many historical publications and is a great source for local historians. The building is also used for activities throughout the year. The most popular event is the Annual Holiday Festival, which is held on the second weekend in November. Regularly scheduled activities include Monthly Program Specials (third Wednesdays) and the Ten O'Clock Scholars program in April. The Society also sponsors other special events such as quilt and art shows, open houses, trick-or-treat nights, and special exhibitions relating to specific aspects of local and regional history. Tours of the building can be taken, and library research arranged, during any of our events or by appointment.

The Kutztown Area Historical Society (KAHS) was formed in 1974-75 and incorporated in 1976 as one of the first regional historical societies in Berks County. Responding to the American Bicentennial and recognizing the need for a local history resource and repository beyond the auspices of the venerable Historical Society of Berks County, founded in 1869, the society's founding members created an organization to serve northeastern Berks, comprised by the school districts Kutztown, Brandywine Heights, and Fleetwood. On February 27, 1979, the KAHS purchased the 1892 Public School Building from the Kutztown Area School District. This late Victorian marvel, on the National Register of Historic Places, houses the society's museum and administrative offices. The museum showcases many artifacts and photographs from the Kutztown area. The library holds many historical publications and is a great source for local historians.


The Pagoda

The Pagoda, located atop Mt. Penn is an historical landmark that has served as a shining beacon for Greater Reading for more than 100 years. It is owned, loved and cared for by the city and citizens of Reading, Pennsylvania. Visitors from around the world come to see the Pagoda. This out-of-place and yet extraordinary building has an unforgettable view and is a comforting sight for many, especially the red glow of lights at night.

Commissioned in 1906 at a cost of $50,000 by William A. Witman, Sr. to cover his stone quarry, the Pagoda was completed in 1908. It was originally intended to be a luxury resort atop Mt. Penn, but due to the bank foreclosure and the denial of a liquor license, Witman never opened the Pagoda. By 1910 the Pagoda and surrounding 10 acres were deeded to local business owner, Jonathon Mould and his wife, Julia (Bell). On April 21, 1911 they "sold" the Pagoda to the City of Reading for the sum of $1. Since then the Pagoda has been owned, loved and cared for by the citizens and City of Reading.

The Pagoda is only open Saturday & Sunday - Noon to 4pm.

Admission to the building is "FREE", however, a donation of $1.00 per person, (children 6yrs to 12yrs - $.50, 5yrs & under - FREE) is asked for to go to our top floor observation area.

These funds are used to help preserve the Pagoda.


Wertz's (Red) Covered Bridge

From an age long ago, Wertz's Red Bridge stands as the longest single span covered bridge in Pennsylvania. Stretching 204 feet across the Tulpehocken Creek, it serves as a link between Bern and Spring Townships. It was erected in 1867 using the Burr Arch-Truss construction design. In 1979, the bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Also at the Heritage Center is the Gruber Wagon Works, C. Howard Hiester Canal Center, Deppen Cemetery, Melcher's Grist Mill, the Salad and Herb Garden, and the Reeser Farm House.


William Penn Memorial Fire Tower

The William Penn Memorial Fire Tower was built in 1939 as a fire observation tower and tourist attraction. The Tower is named in honor of William Penn, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania. The imposing stone and reinforced concrete tower is 120 feet tall and sits atop Mt. Penn, overlooking the City of Reading and its surroundings. The tower is situated in a park setting on Skyline Drive, one mile from Reading's landmark Pagoda. From the top of the tower there is a 60 mile panoramic view. The tower is 950 feet above 5th and Penn Street, the center of the city, and 1,015 feet above the Schuylkill River, and 1,239 feet above sea level. The top of the stone structure peaks higher above sea level than the Empire State Building.

In 1889, a wooden fire tower was constructed at the same location to keep watch over the city's 5000 plus wooded acres and surrounding farmland. In an ironic twist of fate, this fire tower burnt down in 1923. It would be another fifteen years before Mt. Penn would be outfitted with another tower. In early 1930s Reading, a stagnant economy was in need of aid. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal created the Public Works Administration in the mid-1930s, Reading had found a way to create jobs. On September 15, 1938, the city received $15,091 in Federal grant money for the tower. This amount was combined with the city's $18,445 and in the wintry months that followed construction began.

G.C. Freeman designed the new tower, incorporating cosmetic and functional elements from over a half-dozen towers scattered throughout the county as far away as St. Paul, Minnesota. Initial design elements were obvious; the tower would be constructed of entirely fireproof materials. Stone supplied the base for which the brick tower was built. In August 1939, the 120-foot tower was completed.

Inlaid on the entry wall is the "shield of arms" of the William Penn Family designed in colored tiling. The exterior and interior walls of the tower have a sand finish with molded shale brick, and a center entrance floor of brick-and-stone design. All stone used in construction is local to the mountain.

The interior of the tower includes a small room that houses 3 transmitters once used by the Forestry Department. Rest rooms located in a one story rear wing are supplied with 1400-gallon reinforced concrete septic system, and the main line exists for water service. Steel stairs with concrete platforms rise to the lower levels of the tower. A spiral stair case reaches to the upper levels of the tower, eventually to an observation area enclosed in glass block. The top floor of the tower includes an outside observation deck. A dome roof finished in copper with turret-sized windows encased in bronze completes the tower. The tower has lighting rod protection from pinnacle to base. The glass-walled observation room contained 16 spotlights that generated over 2,400 watts of light with signal lights flashing red and white communication codes. The interior of the octagonal dome was originally illuminated by an R40 reflection lamp in the center, built of radial construction.

The macadam drive, picnic area and parking lot are located on either side of the tower, with the forest of Mt. Penn behind and below. The picnic areas are still in use.

On the property site, to the left end of the tower, are the remnants and foundation of the back porch and storage shed from the "Summit Hotel". Picnic and parking areas are still in use, as are the numerous, well-maintained, trails across the mountain.

Years of neglect took a toll on the tower. In the summer of 2000, the Pagoda-Skyline, Inc., a non-profit, citizen volunteer organization dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the Pagoda, the Fire Tower and the Skyline Drive area, began restoration of the Fire Tower.

The steel spiral stairway that leads to the observation deck was replaced by Bachman Iron Works of Reading, the same firm who fabricated the original stairway back in 1939 when the tower was constructed. The damaged concrete railing on the observation deck, heavily damaged by decades of wind and weather, was repaired and a steel safety railing was installed. All of the original windows were replaced. The stone work was repointed inside and outside. The copper dome on the top of the tower and the windows on the fire lookout level were replaced. The heavily corroded metal work on the fire lookout level was cleaned up and painted. The tower was reopened on a limited basis on Oct. 28, 2004, its 65th birthday.

Although the tower remains open on a limited basis, it has begun to generate some of its original interest. On any given weekend cars can be found in its gravel parking lot. Since 2005, an annual Easter hike walks the trails up Mt. Penn, ending at the tower. And despite being the lesser known of the two fantastic structures atop the mountain, the tower still bests any view offered from any other vantage point near or far. On a clear day one can see all the town houses, old manufacturing plants, and modern art buildings dispersed throughout the city. Beyond this, the view from the William Penn Memorial Fire tower lets visitors see past the suburban shopping centers and neighborhoods to the farmlands, finally giving way to the forests and rolling mountains throughout Berks County.




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