On this day, Jan 15th, 1994: Two 4+ Magnitude Earthquakes shake Berks

Two earthquakes – the first measuring 4.0 on the Richter Scale and the second recorded at 4.6 – shook the Berks County area Saturday night. The quakes are believed to be the largest ever recorded in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, according to officials.

The Associated Press reported that shocks from the second quake were supposedly felt as far north as New York City and as far east as Philadelphia and as far south as Baltimore.

Officials said the first quake hit about 7:43 p.m., and the second struck at 8:49 p.m. The epicenter of both is believed by officials to be in the Wyomissing Hills area. Waverly Person, a geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Center at the U.S. Geological Survey in Boulder, Colo., confirmed that instruments recorded the 4.6 figure.

His colleague, John Minsch, said the same instruments got the 4.0 reading on the first quake. Minsch said Saturday night that Berks residents could expect several aftershocks.

The first quake caused a water main break at the Victoria Crossing development in Spring Township. The second triggered a reported water main break in the Kenhorst area.

UGI Utilities Inc. officials reported responding to a minor natural gas leak in the 1300 block of Garfield Avenue in Wyomissing.

Streets department crews in Reading said they found a crack in the 1700 block of Fairview street and one in the 600 block of Clinton Street.

Several residents in the western sector of the county reported cracks in ceilings, furniture moving, dishes falling from china closets, and pictures dropping off walls.

In the downtown area, tall buildings shook, including the Berks County Courthouse, where dispatchers for the Berks County Communications Center on the 18 th floor were flooded with calls on the 9-1-1 emergency system from people clamoring for information.

City and Wyomissing police departments also reported that their phones were jammed. Several area telephone exchanges were slowed by thousands of callers trying to reach loved ones or friends.

The second quake hit with more intensity than the first, according to Dr. Charles K. Scharnberger, a Millersville University geologist, who reported that it knocked the pen off his seismographic equipment at the Lancaster County campus some 35 miles from Reading.

“We really didn’t get a good record of it,” Scharnberger said. “We had about the first 30 seconds of it and then the pen hit the edge of the drum and went off the paper.

“I’d say it was at _least 4.5 to possibly 5.0.”

Scharnberger said his seismographic instruments measured the magnitude of the first quake at 4.5 on the Richter Scale.

He explained it is difficult to determine the intensity of the earthquakes until a day later because those living near the suspected epicenter have to be interviewed about what they felt and the extent of the damage.

A May 10 earthquake, measuring 2.5 on the Richter Scale, shook the Wyomissing Hills-Spring Township area and was followed by several temblors.

-January 16th, 1994 Reading Eagle

A 100 Year Review of Berks – Happy New Year 2020!

Happy New Year Berks County! Not only is it a new year but also the beginning of a new decade. As we leave behind the 2010s, let’s look back on the beginning of the last 10 decades, and some of the events that we experienced together as a community during them. The past is important and sometimes comforting, but it is also important to look forward. There is so much more nostalgia yet to be made!

1920

Notable Events from this Decade

1930

Notable Events from this Decade

1940

Notable Events from this Decade

1950

Notable Events from this Decade

1960

Notable Events from this Decade

1970

Notable Events from this Decade

1980

Notable Events from this Decade

1990

Notable Events from this Decade

2000

Notable Events from this Decade

2010

Notable Events from this Decade

The Hitching Post – 3337 Penn Ave – West Lawn

The Hitching Post was a very popular restaurant located in the Springmont section of West Lawn. Built in the 1930s, it was originally a Howard Johnson’s. It then became an establishment called the Imperial Club. Finally, it became the Hitching Post in the 1960s. Countless anniversaries, birthdays, organizational meetings and other celebrations were held here over the course of 4 decades.

The Hitching Post in 1975

When it opened as the Hitching Post it was owned by Charles Schwambach, who also owned the Queen of the Valley Diner, located east up Penn Avenue by the old Iron Bridge.

1958 Aerial of Howard Johnson’s
2017 Google Map Aerial

The Hitching Post in West Lawn closed its doors in mid-1997.

Redevelopment

In February 1999 Wawa finalized development plans for a Wawa Convenience store to be built on the site of the Hitching Post, and in July they purchased it.

Reading Eagle July 27th 1999

Wawa opened it’s West Lawn location shortly after New Year 2000. Not everyone was happy with Wawa’s rampant takeover of Berks.

January 2000 Reading Eagle

As much as I love Wawa, maybe Kyle has a point. We sacrifice history for convenience all the time. Many of these places that take us back to a different time are gone, but my goal with Berks Nostalgia is to make sure they are never forgotten.

A Revival

The Hitching Post returned in 2011, under a new generation of the Zeppos family, who owned it in West Lawn from 1979-1991. It is located in Bern Township along Route 183. It is still in business today and has great reviews.

January 2011 Reading Eagle

On this day – Nov 24th, 1993 – Cumru Township Gas Explosion

A water pumping station along Old Lancaster Pike in Cumru Township owned by Citizens Utilities Water Co. was destroyed in an explosion Tuesday night, leveling the structure to concrete slabs. The force of the explosion, heard up to five miles away, blew the doors off the building through the containment fence.

Click to enlarge

Fearing that the blast had triggered a chlorine leak, police evacuated some 200 residents from about 40 homes after the 10:15 explosion. Police told residents to leave the area for a brief time. No Injuries were reported. Residents were allowed to return a short time later after officials determined there was no chlorine in the station.

Cumru Township Fire Marshal Timothy M. Dougherty said the explosion may have been sparked by a malfunction in either a gas generator or furnace operating inside the 30-by-30-foot concrete pumping station near Trusty’s Lawn & Garden Equipment along route 222.

Penn Square History – Downtown Reading

If you hear someone refer to Penn Square, they are speaking of the 400 and 500 blocks of Penn Street with the center being 5th Street. It marks the center of downtown Reading, which used to be adorned with shops on both sides of the street. Below it’s pictured in the 1930s, when trollies ruled and the entire street was just open macadam. The center of Penn Square was a traffic circle, and traffic gave way to the trollies that ran North/South on 5th Street and East/West on Penn Street.

By the 50s-early 70s, 5th and Penn continued with the circle but made the area a little more pedestrian friendly. Traffic was directed by lights and police officers.

The Penn Square Project

By the early 70s, big plans were in the works for the Penn Square area. The city demolished almost the entire 600 and 700 blocks of Penn Street to build a massive indoor shopping mall that never came to fruition. They did however go through with the part of the plan that involved turning the entire 500 block of Penn Street into an outdoor pedestrian area. It was completed in May of 1975 at a cost of $1.6 million.

Source

Automotive traffic was cut off completely from this block and had to be re-routed around, which caused the inevitable traffic problems. This was a last-ditch effort to help businesses along Penn Street garner more foot traffic and increase profits as a result. The effort was too little too late, however, as established malls like the Berkshire had already started hammering nails into the coffin of downtown being a popular shopping destination. Perhaps it was inevitable.

Dec 31st, 1978 Reading Eagle

Downtown – The downtown continued to provide the top business stories of the year as businessmen within the city as well as surrounding communities made strides to restore the center city as a commercial and financial area. Two such projects are the Penn Square Center shown at right, and the remodeling of the northwest corner of Sixth and Penn streets by the Thomas Brothers – Eagle Photo Daniel J. Devine.

In the 80s, many buildings were developed in the 600 and 700 blocks of Penn Street to fill up the empty space left by the failed mall plans and also to attempt to bring businesses downtown. Penn Square Center was one of those buildings.

By 1990 the city decided that the square needed to be opened back up to traffic and again redeveloped the area, ripping out the pedestrian area. This was completed in 1993 and has remained this way since.