100 block Penn Ave: Before the Bypass

We all have driven on route 422…the stretch of highway that runs past Reading and along the¬†Schuylkill River down to Pottstown. This stretch of road did not always exist. In fact it wasn’t until the 1960s that US 422 in the Reading area was rerouted from surface streets through downtown Reading onto bypasses built south of the city. The former routing of US 422 through the city became US 422 Business. Prior to this, there was a section of buildings and businesses along the first block of Penn Ave right before the Penn Street Bridge. They were ultimately taken and torn down, to accommodate the building of the clover leaf ramp system for the new 422. Below are a few images of the area before the highway was built.

 

View from the road; looking toward West Reading, before the bypass 1950s
An aerial shot from 1929
Before – 1950s
Today

 

Swinging Bridge to Reading’s Outer Station

The Swinging Bridge - Reading Outer Station

Built in 1874 by the same firm that designed the Brooklyn Bridge, Reading’s rail bridge was heavily used by pedestrians to get over the train yard to Reading’s Outer Station. According to this Reading Eagle article,

The Outer Station, which stood off North Sixth Street, handled passenger and freight service on Reading Company lines.

and yes, the bridge did swing…

“You and your friends could actually make it swing if you had the right rhythm,” he explained. “It would swing enough to make mom nervous.”

The Outer Station closed in 1969 and fell victim to arson nearly 10 years later. Still, the swinging bridge survived until 1983 when Conrail, the successor to the Reading Company, tore it down.

It turns out that when word got around that Conrail was going to tear down the bridge, a group of local engineers approached the company about taking the span, said Joel Caves, an engineer with Spotts, Stevens & McCoy in Wyomissing.

Not all of the bridge could be salvaged, but the group moved both towers to the Berks County Heritage Center in Bern Township.

The metal stood there until the early 1990s, when members of the United Labor Council were looking for a project to honor union workers, Caves said.

The Worker’s Memorial was completed in 1991, and the one tower has stood at Heritage Park ever since.

The Swinging Bridge - Reading Outer Station