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The Old Farmers' Hotel

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Farmers' Hotel - 1817

This sketch shows the appearance of a 2-story house at the northwest corner of 5th and Washington when it was first converted into a hotel in 1817.

Philip Erpf secured the lot, 60 by 230 feet, from the Penns in 1761, and Michael Brecht (Bright), sr., bought it from Mr. Erpf, Jan. 31, 1762. Shortly thereafter his son, Michael Brecht. jr., built a house on the lot for himself and family, and opened a saddler shop there. Having prospered in business, the son, erected on the property a substantial two-story stone house, 32 by 34 feet, having bought the property from his father. In 1817, Michael Brecht, jr., rented his two-story stone house to Jacob Kline, who opened a hotel there.

Jacob Kline was succeeded as innkeeper in 1819 by Jacob Boyer, who was followed in 1821 by Daniel Kerper, who was succeeded by Abraham Levan and his son-in-law, John Smull. They were followed by Samuel Beard, who kept the public house for many years. It became a very popular place and was familiarly known as "Beard's Hotel." His son, Herman Beard, succeeded him and continued as landlord for a long time.

In 1825 David Bright, who then owned the hotel, put a 3rd story of brick on it, and in 1888 Francis Bright added another brick story. Francis Bright, who was born in 1812 and died in 1894, took the Farmers' Hotel at its appraisement under the will of his father, David Bright. Charles S. Bright, son of Francis Bright, sold the property, 32x230 feet, to Thomas A. Wilson, July 20, 1896, for $27,000. Mr. Wilson sold the property, April 1, 1905, to Hamilton Godfrey, for $50,000. The hotel at that time had 42 guest rooms. There was a stable in the rear of the building, which quartered the horses of farmers when they attended the markets here. The hotel also was a stopping place for the Bernville and Allegheny stages.

Israel Ritter was the landlord of the Farmers' Hotel in 1856 and Abrnbam Krick in 1866. George Dreibelbis the land lord in 1871, Bennevllle Shartle in 1881, John Peltieoffer in 1886, and he was succeeded by Wm. B. Bickel. William C. Esterly was the next landlord and he was succeeded by his widow and then by his brother, John A. Esterly, who vacated when Mr. Hamilton Godfrey took charge. After the death of Godfrey in 1917, the hotel was taken over by Godfrey's nephew, Harry R. Laird, who had served as manager. Laird's lease on the property expired on April 1, 1920.

A short time later all the furnishings of the hotel were sold in a two-day auction conducted in the dining room. Antique dealers came to Reading from New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other cities, expecting to bid on a bed in which, they had been told, George Washington slept. They were disappointed when they learned that, if the bed was then in existence, its whereabouts was unknown.

A report of the auction in The Reading Eagle of those days disclosed that the furnishings of 40 bedrooms brought less than $400. Beds with bedding were sold for as low as $2.25 each, and the entire contents of one room brought only $4.

Farmers' Hotel - 1900
~Click Image to Enlarge~

Additions had been built, extending the structure to Madison Avenue, and when it was dismantled it consisted of five stories.

In the 1920's, the hotel was bought by the late Jacob C. Luden for $80,000 after attempts had been made to sell the real estate at auction. The highest bid then was $70,000.

The 16-story Abraham Lincoln Hotel replaced the old landmark. It was built in 1929-1930 and was opened on May 22, 1930.


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