Where the Reading, Perkiomen and Philadelphia Turnpike (now Perkiomen Avenue) intersects Penn Street, there once stood a wall with a Stone Heart in the south face of the stone wall. The wall was about forty feet east of North Eleventh Street.
The wall was built in 1893. The sunny position it occupied suggested a warm and hearty welcome to travelers entering the former main thoroughfare of the City.
In May of 1974 the wall was torn down to make way for the widening of the street. The corner was reshaped so that Perkiomen Avenue could feed directly into North 11th street.
When the wall was being torn down City Councilman Douglas Palm did not know the Stone Heart had any historical significance. Mr. Palm was not alone. Although the Stone Heart had occupied this prominent place for close to a half century, few people had knowledge of its existence, and of the millions who passed by, few noticed it.
When Mr. Palm came to his historical senses, he sent city stonemason Saverio Rillio up to the rock pile to retrieve the stone. It had been separated from the rock pile and set aside by city workers who had noted its unusual shape. It was to be forwarded to the historical society. When Mr. Rillio arrived at the rock pile he discovered the stone was gone.
On April 11, 1978 the heart-shaped stone was recovered by Caernarvon Township Patrolman Donald L. Keim Jr. who spotted the stone down an embankment on the Morgantown Expressway. Keim said he had stopped a tractor-trailer on the Morgantown Expressway. The patrolman had issued the rig’s driver a citation and was getting back into his patrol car when he spotted the stone. The patrolman said the unusual shape of the stone attracted his attention.
The stone’s history dates back to 1893 when a stonemason, Frederick Kiedeisch, in search of a job appeared at City Park.
The man was turned away by other workers who told him there were no openings.
Undaunted, the stonemason borrowed a few tools while the other workers were on their lunch hour and began carving the rock. When the laborers returned to their jobs they found the big heart.
The stonemason, his dexterity proven, was hired on the spot.
Fred Kiedeisch was born Feb. 23, 1860 at Owen Oberamt Kirchhein U/Teck in the kingdom of Wuerttemberg, Germany, an area along the Neckar River. As a young man he learned stone-cutting.
He immigrated and came to Reading around 1882. Kiedeisch found more work as a stone-cutter and lent his talents to the construction of numerous stone-faced buildings, including the former Girls’ High School at Fourth and Court streets.
Fred met Pauline Stegmeyer, listed in the 1882 city directory as a domestic residing at 435 Penn St. Like Fred, she emigrated from Wuerttemberg.
They married and began housekeeping on Ash Alley (now Madison Avenue), beside the former Keystone Brewery. In 1884 their first child, Charles, was born.
The Stone Heart was moved to the second-floor exhibit case outside the council chamber in Reading’s City Hall but the location of it is currently unknown.