James Nolan, president of Reading Trust Co. and a railroad and bridge contractor for many years, was born in Ireland in 1844. His dad moved to New York in 1849 where he worked as a stone-cutter. In 1855, part of the family relocated to Wernersville where senior James Nolan engaged in stone-bridge-building for the Lebanon Valley Railroad. Young James Nolan stayed in New York for some years to learn stone-cutting and at 17 worked on St. Patrick Cathedral as an apprentice. In time he joined brothers Charles and William and, as the Nolan Brothers, the firm contracted with the Pennsylvania Railroad and the P & R for various projects – for 30 years. Their specialty was bridges. Locally, they constructed the Hampden Reservoir and extensive sections of Reading’s storm-sewer system. The large brownstone apartment house on the northeast corner of 4th and Walnut was a Nolan project. James Nolan was a director of the Farmers National Bank, Reading Steam Heat & Power Co., Reading Brewing Co., Reading Stove Works, Reading Academy of Music (Rajah, later), Reading Electric light & Power Co., St. Joseph’s Hospital, and president of Reading Trust Co. James Nolan, who died in 1914, was the father of 3 children, one of whom was James Nolan, III – better known as attorney and local historian J. Bennett Nolan.
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