The Reading Fire Department was officially organized on March 17, 1773, with the founding of the Rainbow Volunteer Fire Company. The Keystone Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, was organized on December 12, 1855. The company was known by various other names until February 24, 1884. “Hook and Ladder Company of Long Island” was the first name chosen for the company, deriving from the name given the section of Reading at the foot of Penn Street, opposite which there was then a long, narrow island in the Schuylkill River. On January 19, 1856, the name “Empire Hook and Ladder Company, No. 1, of Reading” was adopted. On April 8, 1857, the company changed its name to “Keystone Hook and Ladder Company,” but was incorporated on September 21, 1857, as the “Keystone Hook and Ladder and Hose Company.” The charter was amended on February 23, 1884, and the company changed its name to “Keystone Hook and Ladder Company.”
On September 2, 1884, George W. Miller, J. E. Weidner, and W. H. Yeich were appointed to confer with the city council about the purchase of a lot and the erection of a new firehouse. On August 3, 1886, the city appropriated $12,000. The money was not available until November 1897, and the company decided to borrow enough money to go ahead with the proposal. This was done with the assistance of William Arnold, who lent the company $11,000. A lot on the southeast corner of Second and Penn Streets was bought from Daniel Heas for $5,500. The new firehouse was erected during the fall of 1886 at a cost of $9,233.65. Furnishings for the house cost $1,000. The building committee consisted of William Mast, George W. Miller, J. C. Weidner, W. W. Wunder, Edward Yeager, and Harry Yeich. The horses and apparatus were reported, on June 7, 1887, as having been moved into the new house.
Below: Keystone Hook and Ladder Company, No. 1.
The fire station was closed in 1963. The former Keystone Hook & Ladder building was restored in 1988 by the by Keystone Historic Partnership as part of a S2 million rehabilitation of the old firehouse and two adjoining buildings at 204 and 206 Penn Street. The adjacent 3-story brick building at 204 housed the West End Social Club from 1900 into the 1980s. The Keystone Historic Partnership eventually failed to repay the City of Reading $250,000 in loans.
In 1992, the ground floor of the restored firehouse was leased to Beaujolies, a Washington-based restaurant firm that offered a moderately priced Italian menu. The Beaujolies Firehouse Restaurant and Bar, owned by Hassan Sedghatpour, opened in 1992. In 1996, a group of local businessmen purchased Beaujolies Restaurant and renamed it “The Firehouse.” In September, 1999, the owners of the Firehouse Bar and Restaurant, David Himmelstein, also known as Dave Stein, and Kevin Timochenko, declared bankruptcy. The building at 200 Penn St, officially called the “Keystone building,” is currently owned by Fortis Housing Services LLC and is occupied by the Supportive Concepts For Families, Inc., a privately held company established in 1993 that provides services and support for individuals with Behavioral Health/Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities.
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