Early in 1972 reports were circulating in regard to construction of a new motel-hotel on the site where not long before were scattered remains of 18th century industry, small storage sheds, and piles of scrap metal. The project was proceeding without delay despite the fact it lay on what had long been identified on old maps as part of “the Reading flood plain.”
On June 22, 1972, about ten hours after local officials broke ground for the 150-room hotel, the site was inundated by floodwaters brought about by Tropical Storm Agnes. The water nearly extended to 3rd and Penn.
Below: Hurricane Agnes caused extreme damage and loss to Berks County when it hit June, 22nd 1972. In Reading, the Schuylkill River reached a record flood of 31.5 feet.
Work resumed on the hotel in September; official opening occurred in March 1975.
Below: Holiday Inn, North Second Street between Penn and Franklin Street, 1976.
Even though there was considerable interest in the place and some Reading-area organizations used its facilities for banquets and meetings, the hotel was a financial disappointment. The Reading Eagle on Sept. 30, 1977, reported that just over two years after the Holiday Inn opened, Reading Area Community College (RACC) bought the building in a 5.7 million-dollar deal. RACC paid off the hotel’s 2.5 million-dollar mortgage and used a 3.2 million-dollar bond issue to acquire the site and convert the property to college use. RACC was chartered 1971 at a time when 2-year colleges were coming into their own. At its inception, RACC had 265 students who met with instructors in existing classroom space, initially in old Reading schoolhouses that had been vacated, two of which were Schuylkill & Greenwich and the Northmont building.
Below: Reading Area Community College as it now appears. An extensive RACC complex also exists north of the Penn Street Viaduct.
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