The Road to Nowhere. If you are older than 25 and a native of Berks County you have likely heard the phrase. It was used to refer to a stretch of road that literally went nowhere, until slowly over the course of a few decades was added onto and connected to other major roadways.
It was originally built in 1962 as a small drag strip piece of road, spanning maybe three quarters of a mile between the intersection of Van Reed Rd/Paper Mill Road and north over the Tulpehocken Creek to Blessing Lane. It appears there was a bridge on Paper Mill Road that crossed over the then newly constructed Road to Nowhere. (pictured above). This bridge no longer exists. If you look closely on Google Maps you can see old sections of Van Reed road in the wooded areas parallel to the current Van Reed Road. It appears from the comparison photos that the entire southern end of the original Road to nowhere is now the Paper Mill Road Off-ramp, Turkey Hill and surrounding wooded area.
In 1968 they expanded northward further toward Route 183 and on to Muhlenberg Township, making a connection to 222 north to Allentown.
Further work stalled until the 90s. It took until 1999 for the southern dead end of the Road to Nowhere pictured above to be connected eastward over to the Warren Street Bypass/422 interchange. It was around that time the neighboring land that became Broadcasting Square Shopping Center was sold and planned for redevelopment. Then it reached its final form in 2006 as 222 south between 422 and 724 was finished, making it possible to get all the way to Lancaster from Allentown on Route 222.
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Before the shopping center called Broadcasting Square occupied the space between Broadcasting Road and Van Reed Road on Paper Mill Road, there was sprawling farm land a tall radio towers. The towers and land belonged to WEEU and were used to broadcast the AM radio station far and wide.
WEEU had it’s first broadcast on New Years Day 1932. According to WEEU’s website, “That business, then, was the Reading Broadcasting Company. The station’s transmitter building was located between Paper Mill and Van Reed roads on what was then called Broadcast Road. Next to the building were two 200-foot towers that supported a 500-foot antenna that was strung between them.” At some point between the 1930s and the above photo in 1958, two more towers were added.
From the 1958 & 1971 aerial photographs it appears there were four towers and a small structure, all sitting approximately between the strip mall portion that currently houses a Chipotle and Panera all the way over to the stand-alone Wendy’s.
In 1999, WEEU started transmitting out of a new cluster of towers off Route 78 near Shartlesville. This allowed them to sell the land between Broadcasting, Paper Mill and Van Reed Roads. It was purchased, redeveloped and Broadcasting Square Shopping Center opened in 2001.
The M. J. Earl Building pictured around the turn of the 20th century at 523/525 Penn Street in Reading. It appears there were a few offices inside. One was home to an office of Prudential Insurance, ran by J.S. DeHart. It appears there was also a Cigar manufacturer and a Fur Hat store. The rest was a part of the M.J. Earl company. According to their website, the M.J. Earl INC,
“Founded in 1842, MJ Earl Inc. was in the paper business when toilets were outhouses and printers were presses. First situated in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania, MJ Earl has since relocated to the Greater Reading region, and serves a multitude of businesses from Harrisburg to the Delaware Valley.” –http://www.mjearl.com/
Apparently they are still a local company, now residing on Pottsville Pike.
The words on the facia of the building boasted;
RETAIL, MANUFACTURER, JOBBER BAGS, ENVELOPES, ROPE PAPER, WALL PAPER, PAPER
Is it me or can you still see the faint outline of the word “EARL” on the facia?