Perched atop the old Hampden reservoir (now an athletic field) to the North and South were once two Civil War-vintage .62 bore “Bronze Napoleon” field guns.
Viewed from the foot of the steep approach to Hampden Park they were formidable looking objects. Their muzzles pointed directly over the city, well mounted on concrete foundations and with pyramids of 80 cannon balls.
The guns were placed in the park in 1917, having been procured by the late Mayor Edward H. Filbert, and the late Frank A. Tyson, then superintendent of parks. Tyson obtained the pieces through Arthur G. DeWalt, of Allentown, then congressman from the Berks-Lehigh district.
Each cannon was made of brass and bronze and weighed 1,280 pounds. They arrived in Reading without mountings. Ingenuity was displayed by the men who erected the guns. Instead of placing them on brick or stone foundations, as had been suggested by the government, it was thought best to mount the guns on wheels. When the city changed from horse to tractor-drawn fire apparatus there were a number of pair of front wheels taken from the engines and it is two pair of these wheels that had been used to support the heavy guns.
In 1958 the guns were removed from Hampden Park by the 5th 105mm Howitzer Battery, Marine Corps Reserve. The guns were loaded onto 2-ton trucks and taken to their training center at the Reading Municipal Airport. Initial reports indicated that the guns would be fully restored to their ca. 1857 condition, new caissons would be built, and the pieces would be used in parades.
The 5th 105mm Howitzer Battery, Marine Corps Reserve never got the chance to restore the cannons and eventually the cannons went missing. The whereabouts of the cannons were unknown to the City of Reading and the Historical Society of Berks County.
In August of 2013 GoReadingBerks found the old cannons. GoReadingBerks discovered, through many phone calls to various government agencies, that the cannons (…tubes only…) were sent to the National Museum of the Marine Corps storage facility in Quantico, Virginia in 1988 from Battery I, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, and are currently in storage. According to the museum, they are still available to the City of Reading with the provision that they only be displayed indoors, because of their condition. Today the pads which once supported the field guns are the only thing that remains atop the old Hampden reservoir.
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