Boscov’s West Fire

In 1962, the company began its expansion program with the opening of an exciting, contemporary “Boscov’s West” in November, located at 3564 Penn Avenue in Sinking Spring/West Lawn.

 Boscov’s West caught on fire on November 20th, 1967 only 5 years after it had opened, and ironically the same exact day Boscov’s East, the newest venture was opened. It was determined to be started by an ember from the incinerator.

Sinking Spring

Friendship firemen, called in from Reading for special assistance, peer into a smoke-filled opening on the east side of the store.

Boscov's West Fire

Water is poured continuously on the east section of the department store by the Schuykill company after the side of the building is reduced to almost a skeleton.

Sinking Spring
Boscov's West Fire

A huge blaze breaks out in the incinerator area toward the rear of the store and smoke bellows forth. In the foreground are semi-trailer trucks parked at the store.

Boscov's West Fire
sinking spring
sinking spring

The West Reading Fire Co. ladder truck has moved in closer to enable its man to spray better with the ladder hose. The action here was crucial in order to save the adjoining supermarket. the water poured constantly from the “pipe” prevented the blaze from reaching the supermarket.

sinking spring

A Christmas star is still visible on the top of the front entrance. This section of the wall withstood the flames

Boscov's West Fire
sinking spring

sinking spring
sinking spring

The Boscov’s West fire gutted the store. The decision to rebuild Boscov’s West was made after thousands of phone calls swamped the switchboard and letters weighed down mailmen, all pleading “please give us back our store.” A rebuilt West opened in November 1968.

Born and raised in Berks, I am fascinated by the style, design & culture of the mid-late 20th century. I started this website to research and build a collection of the places, things and stories I have heard about my entire life. Read more here.

6 Replies to “Boscov’s West Fire”

    1. Hi Kim, Boscov’s West moved to the Berkshire Mall in 2002, and the old building in this Sinking Spring location was torn down in 2010.

  1. I was 14 years old and attending confirmation class at St Johns church on Penn Avenue in Sinking Spring. Fire sirens were wailing during the entire class. When I got home, my mom was already home from her part time job evening job at Boscovs West. My sister and I walked the 4 blocks to see this event. It was the most intense thing I have ever witnessed, even to this day. I remember Al Boscov standing on Penn Avenue with the fire fighters. I felt so bad for him. Boscovs East ironically just opened that very same day. The incinerator was located inside the store behind the toy department, right before you got to the stock room. It was an extremely fast moving fire. I remember hearing the ammunition going off when the fire reached the sporting goods department. They managed to save “Rays IGA”, the grocery store attached to Boscovs.

  2. I was 16 and working there that night as a stock boy. The fire started when flames from an incinerator used to burn boxes spread to a pile of boxes awaiting burning. Some of my fellow stock boys — Dean Sensenig and Barry Bertolet maybe — were treated for smoke inhalation. The fire was quickly burning above the suspended ceiling and by the time we left there was plenty of smoke to go around.

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