For three decades, one of the city’s most popular and interesting attractions was the yellow-brick play castle in City park, situated on the north side of Washington Street, above 11th.
The Reading City Park Kiddie Kastle was the brainchild of former city Planning Director Robert E. Bartmann who said he had been looking for something that children would love to play in that would not be expensive to maintain.
Bartmann didn’t get the idea from a trip to Disney World. He said the idea came from his lifelong love of castles that started when his father built a train set with a mountaintop castle.
Bartman designed the Kiddie Kastle over a weekend. City planner Robert Yuhasz helped with the working drawings and oversaw construction. Community development workers built it at a cost of $20,000. Begun in 1976 and opened in 1977, the castle was funded by federal community development money.
Robert Yuhasz said Bartmann had the knack of seeing the unique personality of each of Reading’s neighborhoods and was trying to bring that special quality to the City Park castle.
The Kiddie Castle got a lot of use over the years. During its first years, Reading High School class officers would leave their big “Castle on the Hill” and come to the little castle for class photos.
In 2006, time, elements, money, and societal ills had taken its toll on the City Park Kiddie Kastle. The castle was increasingly showing signs of deterioration. Bricks were cracking and missing, the swinging bridge was gone, the slide slid off long ago, and some of the turret roofs were broken.
The castle’s uniqueness may also have been its downfall. The same nooks and crannies and recesses that attracted children over the years also made convenient bathrooms or brief hiding places for drug users and lusty couples.
Reading could no longer afford to maintain the play site, which was beset with misuse by drug addicts and trysting teenagers. The city said it would cost more than $90,000 to rebuild it to modern safety standards.
On April 17, 2006, City Council gave the go-ahead to demolish it. On May 30, 2006 the Kiddie Kastle was demolished. The City salvaged some of the castle’s parts, such as a brick with the 1976 start of construction date, another brick with “Bart” on it (for Bartmann), and some of the smaller turret roofs.