The Penn View Motel was part of a chain of nine motels called Host Ways Motel. It was built in 1965, and along with the other 8 locations boasted the mid-century modern pyramid. It was located on the block between 2nd and 3rd Streets on Penn Avenue in West Reading. The striking blue pyramid would become a landmark of sorts, and could be easily seen by passing cars on the 422 bypass just down the road.
The chain is no longer in existence, and the only trace left of this chain is found in New Jersey at the Ivory Tower Motor Inn.
Over the years the Penn View became more and more infamous, being widely known for rampant prostitution, crime and drug problems. Quite a few deaths occurred within the walls of it’s motel rooms, mainly from overdoses. In 1990, there was a murder outside the motel over cocaine.
In 1995, Dateline NBC came to the Penn View to follow Berks Sheriff’s Deputies as they delivered warrants in an effort to see how fugitives are brought to justice.
The Penn View was deemed a blight finally taken by eminent domain in 2006, and razed shortly after. It had a few long-term tenants that were relocated.
“The motel’s last tenant checked in about 2 a.m. Monday, Alan said. When the man left later that morning, Alan refunded the $55 motel bill and gave him a bottle of champagne.” – 8/22/06 Reading Eagle
Plans for a new hotel were met with some adversity due to community member’s fears it would devolve into the same nefarious activities as the Penn View. A Candlewood Suites was eventually built on the grounds of the old Penn View, and as far as I know has not been an issue for the surrounding community.
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?
Completed in 1908 at a cost of $50,000, this pagoda was intended to be the hotel/restaurant centerpiece of a luxury resort. When plans for the rest of the resort were abandoned, the 7-story wooden building on 10 acres of land was donated to Reading in 1911. It is now part of the Mount Penn Reserve, 1,595 acres of municipally-owned land. – Source
There was originally another building built just down from the Pagoda in the same style, and was know as an “Out building”. Does anyone remember this structure, or what it was used for?
These photos were sent in by Ron Shurr, he worked in the Camera department at Pomeroy’s in the early 60s and had a passion for photography. Thanks for sharing these, Ron.
A few memories from Ron:
I worked in the camera department, my first job out of high school. Photography was a hobby and was a staff photographer and yearbook photographer at Exeter HS class of 1960. Later became store manager and buyer in the photographic industry for Hollywood Photo Reading and Classic Photo Allentown, both then owned by Classic Photo. I managed Reading branch, bought for both stores and was in charge of all their retail advertising. We were the leading supply of photo equipment for the Reading Eagle and Western Electric and Bell Labs, major players in Reading. I would meet most of the Eagle photographic staff at Jimmie Kramers for nickel beer night on Wednesdays. Lots of stories and memories from Reading. The location of Hollywood Photo then was 529 Penn Street, which was the building with cellar rooms and it was told to me that Baby Face Morgan, the gangster was shot, while playing cards, in one of those rooms below the store. We used the downstairs as storage and stockroom, and there were two rooms still there, but without doors.
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.
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.
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