4th & Penn, Before & After CNA

Before 4th and Penn was torn down in 1980 to give way for the construction of CNA, there were multiple businesses on the block. On the corner all the way on the left was Saylor Food, a fresh produce and goods store. To the right of that was a State Liquor store, which was once Liner’s Furniture, and besides that was an Acme Food Store.

photos from the Collection of M. Willett

4th & Penn 1970s
Before (1970s)
4th & Penn 1980
After (1980)
4th & Penn
Today (2018)


The Strand Theatre – 9th & Spring St.

The Strand Theatre
The Strand Theatre
Opening Night February 21, 1920
The Strand Theatre

Located at the corner of NE 9th Street & Spring Street. The Strand Theatre was opened February 21, 1920. By 1941 it was owned and operated by Goldman Theatres of Philadelphia. It was a fairly large theatre with a balcony, and had a huge wrap-around neon lit marquee. For years it was a neighborhood double feature second run house.

In around 1968, Goldman began to program first run features. In 1970, the Strand Theatre was badly damaged in a fire, which occurred around the same time as a fire which destroyed the Embassy Theatre in downtown Reading. The fire at the Strand Theatre was set by three kids, and it possibly never reopened. In 1972 the property was sold to Budco, however, it was torn down and replaced by a restaurant. – Cinema Treasures

The Stand Theatre
1970s Fire – photo by Reading PA Fire
The Stand Theatre
1970s Fire – photo by Reading PA Fire

Sights of North Side Penn Street in the 1940s

Penn Street – North Side – 400 Block….1940s…Reading: We look to the Northeast corner to the landmark Saylor food business stand. In the foreground is car 809 as it appeared in 1947, end-of-the-line year for city trolleys. Looking to the background is an imposing grey-stone structure built as Reading Girls’ High School. At this juncture, it was Reading’s “special school” for students with learning problems.

North Side Penn Street 1940s

Off to the right is a large old building that years ago was the Roosevelt Hotel. At the time this picture was taken – on Oct. 13th, 1946 – its lower level contained two retail stores, one of which was the Charles Store, which soon afterwards moved across the street to the building occupied by Sears & Roebuck prior to their relocation to Lancaster Avenue in Shillington.

North Side Penn Street 1940s

Looking to the North Side of Penn Street, Warner Theatre – 755 Penn – 1940s – Courthouse in Background, Reading: Most prominent in this view is the imposing sign for the Embassy. Between the Embassy and northwest corner of 8th and Penn was the Warner, a relatively simple theatre with aisles on the left and right sides of the auditorium. Originally, when the theatre-site was developed as the Hippodrome, Reading’s premiere vaudeville house, the auditorium and stage were huge. The west end, perpendicular to Penn, was cut by 2/3 – for storeroom creation – and what was left became the State Theatre, a venue largely characterized by the showing of cowboy films. Indeed, Roy Rogers made a personal visit in Dec. 1938. In 1941, Warner Brothers leased the theater and proceeded to make major renovations; a new marquee, box office, lobby, restrooms, and a smoking room! The theatre, with seating for 1,228, opened Apr. 12, 1941. Like the Astor, the Plaza, and other theatres experiencing dwindling audiences and revenue, latter-day fare increasingly included R-rated films. On March 14, 1963, the Warner closed and was removed to make way for the projected Penn Street Mall, an ill-fated venture if there ever was one! -Photo Courtesy of Joseph DeAngelo

All images and copy from the Passing Scene

Franklin Street Station


Franklin Street Station
Refurbished in 2013

The Franklin Street Station served the railroad from 1930 until 1981 when SEPTA diesel service ceased operations. From 1981 until 2013, the building sat vacant until BARTA acquired and refurbished the building for bus services. The plan was to alleviate overcrowded services at the BARTA Transportation Center located about a block away.  –Wikipedia

Barta refurbished the building, but it still remains racant. According to this WFMZ article,

BARTA acquired the dilapidated train station in 2005 and spent $5 million to transform it into a modern transit center that could serve both buses and passenger trains.

Buses on a route between Reading and Lebanon rolled out of the station soon after its 2013 reopening, but the service was ended several weeks later due to a lack of ridership.

Franklin Street Station

In July of 2017, the building was used to host several showings of “This is Reading”; Lynn Nottage’s transmedia performance-art installation about the city.

A month later, BARTA and local officials met again about the future of the building.

As a result of that meeting, BARTA officials will accept proposals from organizations wishing to lease the space. Representatives from arts and social services organizations also attended Thursday.

Kilmer said BARTA has to follow procedures for funding reasons, such as officially requesting proposals, but the agency plans to choose which proposal seems best, and work with organizations as much as possible. Leases will likely be one to five years, he said.

Though questions have been raised about restoring passenger rail service at the station, Kilmer said that probably won’t happen in the foreseeable future.

Franklin Street Station

We look southeast toward the Franklin Street Station and the old Metropolitan Edison plant, both located along South 7th Street, between Franklin and Chestnut. The walled-around open portion on the left side of the electric plant marks the site of the first Catholic Burials in Reading; see Passing Scene – Vol. 6, page 29. – Photo Courtesy of Joseph L. Gerhart, Reading, who took the picture.

Franklin Street Station

Before 5th Street – North Reading – 1930s

Before 5th Street - North Reading
Before 5th Street

In the late 1920s, people were expanding outwards from the city, into what is now Muhlenberg Township.

According to this article,

The petition to create the borough of Laureldale was made Feb. 29, 1929. Leading that effort was Frederick W. Shipe, a housing developer frustrated by the lack of side streets in the area (only Elizabeth and Bellevue Avenues were in decent shape) who had managed to see streetlight installed by 1924. In the petition to incorporate were the “villages and real estate developments” known as Rosedale, Belmont, Belmont Park, Laurel Hill, Rosedale Addition, Roselawn, and adjacent territory. President Judge Paul N. Schaeffer, on April 8, 1930, signed a decree making Laureldale the 29th borough in Berks County.

The new development happening north of the city meant there had to be an easy way to travel between. Thus, the first portion of 5th Street was planned and finished by 1931.

5th Street Newly Constructed
5th Street Today