The Park Theatre – 1016 Penn St

The Park Theater opened November 11, 1926, and it was closed by a fire on May 19, 1978. The theater was demolished the following year.

James S. Maurer operated the theater as a X-rated movie and live burlesque house, and in 1964 he was arrested along with two strippers in a raid by the Reading police.  In the late 1950s and 1960s, the raids were fairly common.  Maurer eventually bought the theater building, circa 1975.  The building may have been leased to a New Jersey company in 1976, but Maurer was still involved in the management and operation of the theater.  Burlesque shows returned, and he was arrested in another raid in January 1977. On May 3, 1978, the city declared the Park Theater and the adjoining Daniel Boone Hotel “unfit for human habitation”.  Maurer appealed the ruling and both businesses stayed open, but shortly after, the fire destroyed everything.

1936

One of the featured strippers, “Jada” was connected to Jack Ruby and the Carousel Club in Dallas:

According to his 1993 Obituary,

James S. Maurer, died June 28, 1993, age 69.

President of James S. Maurer Investments, Inc.

Owned the Park Theater, the Park Luncheonette, the Frontier Bar, the Daniel Boone Hotel and the Park Bowling Alley.

In May, 1978, a fire destroyed the theater and damaged the hotel.  Two months later, a fire destroyed the hotel and taproom.

In January, 1979, charges of arson against Maurer were dropped following a hearing before a district justice.  He had been charged in December, 1978, with starting the blaze.

He was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for mayor in 1967.

He appeared several times before a federal grand jury in Philadelphia, which probed kickbacks to officials in Reading and Berks County.

Huge thanks to David Procter for putting together all of this information!

Reading Hospital Photo Mystery

I got an email asking for help to solve the mystery of where the below photo was taken. The photo is of the back of the Reading Hospital around the time it was built in the mid-late 20s.

I checked out a few aerial photos I have of the area from 1927 and 1940. Due to the angle of the shot being straight on, I concluded it have to be on the museum grounds, and had to have been taken in the general area circled below.

When I looked a little harder at the photo the below things popped out at me. I believe a stone wall, Wyomissing Creek and Parkside Drive North (which was just a dirt road then) are visible in the photo. The stone wall is still at the museum, it runs along the Museum side.

Stone wall today

However, the image doesn’t appear to be taken from the museum itself. Does anyone remember another structure being on the museum grounds? Maybe some sort of stone gazebo with the swan decorative railing? Any information would be appreciated.

Paul’s Men’s Shop – 527 Penn St

the 1950s

Paul’s was a men’s clothing store along the 500 block of Penn street in the 50s and 60s. Couldn’t find a date on when it closed.

2019

Today the building is occupied by a pizza place.

On this day, 1985 – Downtown Pomeroy’s Closes it’s Doors for Good

On this day in 1985 – Pomeroy’s Department Store in Downtown Reading closes after 109 years in business.

On this day, 1985 - Downtown Pomeroy's Closes it's Doors for Good
A crush of shopper prepares for the final charge into Pomeroy’s downtown store Saturday. The department store closed shortly after 5 p.m., ending 109 years of operations as one of the anchors of Penn Square. 
Downtown Pomeroy's Closes it's Doors for Good

 

Downtown Pomeroy's Closes it's Doors for Good
Downtown Pomeroy's Closes it's Doors for Good

The future remained uncertain for the historical building for many years, with renovation plans falling through. Eventually it was demolished to make way for new construction.

Downtown Pomeroy's Closes it's Doors for Good

General Battery and Ceramic Corp

Image from “Berks Countians; The Wonderful Way We Live”

The roots of General Battery can be traced to 1921, when Bowers Battery & Spark Plug Co. was founded in Reading by Clarence P. Bowers. Bowers sold it in 1956 and it was renamed General Battery and Ceramic. Source

General Battery was bought by Exide in 1987.

Exide operated a lead smelter and recycled lead batteries. The EPA found that Exide contributed to lead emissions and toxic contaminant releases that impacted the soils in the surrounding community and conditions at the site that required extensive cleanup and remediation of toxic contaminants in the area in 1996.[75] In 2012, Exide announced plans to idle their lead-recycling operations in Reading/Laureldale and laid off 150 workers with plans to keep their permits active should they decide to re-open in the future.[76]

In 2015, Berks County pursued legal action to strengthen air-pollution monitoring near the Exide facility to better protect residents’ health and safety but a federal appeals court denied the County’s request to relocate a pollution monitor or install an additional air monitor near the plant. County Commissioner Mark C. Scott noted that the appeal was filed as a preemptive measure to protect the community from air pollution if the Exide plant decides to reopen.[77]

In 2017, the Reading Eagle newspaper published a series of stories that focused on a study that found lead levels remain high in the borough despite remediation efforts ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about two decades ago at hundreds of properties near the Exide plant.[78] A team of reporters worked in collaboration with a chemistry professor at Metropolitan State University in Denver to conduct soil studies in Laureldale and found strong signs that decades of toxic emissions from the Exide Technologies’ battery factory in Reading are taking their toll on neighboring properties.[79]

News of the study has raised strong concerns from residents in the community about Exide’s past practices and pollution and any impacts it may have had on the health and safety of residents that live near the plant.[80] For example, there was a story about one Reading family’s plea for help on social media for an investigation into the cause of lead poisoning in their family.[81] And there was a story about a local high school reunion and “a darker truth” that “local industry and the pollutants it creates may be to blame” for the above average loss of many classmates over the years.[82]

In late 2017, the federal EPA commenced cleanup of soil contaminated with lead from the idled Exide plant.[86] The breadth and cost of the cleanup is ongoing.

Today

In response to the study and findings of elevated levels of lead near the idled Exide plant, State Sen. Judy Schwank called for review of the original Reading/Laureldale cleanup.[83] A bipartisan group of lawmakers also created a task force to assess the scope of Pennsylvania’s lead problem and recommend changes to the way the state tests and remediates lead contamination.[84] The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers grabbed soil samples from six residential properties in Laureldale and Muhlenberg Township to test whether lead concentrations pose a public health risk as part of a federal follow-up to a recent soil study that found high lead concentrations in properties that should have been remediated a decade ago near a now idled battery plant owned by Exide Technologies Inc.[85] 

– Wikipedia