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.
“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.“
Many businesses along the Lancaster Pike were taken by eminent domain by the state in the early 2000s, when PennDot was making the final connection of 222 from 422 south toward Lancaster.
Owners of businesses and homes that impeded the construction of the highway were offered compensation for their properties, though generally in situations like this the state’s offer is a complete lowball. If owners say no, the state condemns their properties and takes it anyway. There really isn’t a way to win when the government decides it wants your land. Many businesses along the route drug out this process as long as they possibly could.
A few businesses like Sno Kist were put out of businesses completely due to not getting the money they needed to relocate the business. Many people lost their family homes.
If the state condemns a property, Goida said, it compensates the owner based on a state appraisal and takes title to the property. Owners have the right to seek additional compensation by appealing the matter to a court-appointed Board of Viewers. Out of the 107 properties the state needs to acquire, about three quarters are residences, officials said, and the remaining are businesses. Part of the state’s acquisition process involves trying to help owners relocate, according to Goida.
Colonial Hills Bowl
Colonial Hills was opened in 1957 along route 222 just south of Shillington. It was owned for a majority of those years by Albert Blough, owner of Berks Lanes, Heister Lanes and Limerick Bowl. It hosted many bowling leagues, school games and tournaments over the years. It also had a fitness center that many people belonged to. The center was a hub of social activity for the community for over 40 years.
Because owners of those businesses were not receptive to the state’s offers, Goida said, PennDOT must begin court proceedings to acquire the properties as quickly as possible. “Since we weren’t able to agree on a price,” Goida said, “we were forced to file the condemnation papers”.
Colonial Hills shut down on July 31st, 2001 for the final time. It had successfully moved over to the newly expanded Berks Lanes on Rt. 724 in Sinking Spring. Its contents, including dozens of arcade video games, a walk-in cooler, a bar and many other items were auctioned off on August 21st, 2001 by the state. It was demolished soon after.
Route 222 News Outlet
Directly across from Sno Kist was the Route 222 News Outlet, which was an adult entertainment store. It was owned by Thomas Masciantonio who tried to get the store relocated to a different site he purchased in Brecknock Township. He was opposed by local residents and churches, whose lawyers claimed this site would be unable to be developed because it was a bog-turtle habitat. The bog turtle is an endangered species in Pennsylvania, and federal guidelines protect its habitats from being developed.
Masciantonio provided four different land redevelopment plans for the location but all were denied, appealed and denied again due to the nature of his business. Rt. 222 News Outlet was demolished and never relocated.
The parking lot of the Route 222 News Outlet was also the scene of a grisly murder that is still unsolved. On August 6th, 1999 Gary A. Miller was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds in his car on the lot. Investigators said he was shot while in the car and managed to turn it on and begin driving away before succumbing to his wounds. He lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a fence in front of the Sport Cycle Suzuki business next door.
A motive for the crime nor the murderer have been found.
Sport Cycle Suzuki
Northbound traffic flows by Sport-Cycle Suzuki, which has yet to move from its Cumru Township location to make way for the Route 222 extension project.
The Sport Cycle Suzuki was one of if not the last business to vacate the 222 construction area. Their new location was being built along Route 61 in Leesport, and had a few months to be finished by the August 20th 2001 eviction deadline. The business is still located along Rt 61 in Leesport today.
Sno-Kist was a beloved summer ice-cream place that was located along route 222, just south of Shillington. It was directly across the street from an Adult Video store called the RT. 222 News Outlet and was just north of Simotas Dairy Bar. The building had been an ice cream stand since the 1950s, always called Sno-Kist, but only operated under the most recent and final management since 1988, when it was purchased by Dimitrios Kiritsis.
Sno-Kist eventually became a casualty of the 222 highway expansion in the early 2000s, along with many other businesses that were located along Lancaster Pike. Sno-kist ultimately closed permanently after the offer from the state not being enough to relocate the business.
Above is the view today of where Sno-Kist once stood. The former site of Sno-kist is right on the South bound lanes of 222. Macadamed over but forever in the memories of those who enjoyed a sweet summer treat there. You can just see the green roof of the home in the first picture above peaking out from above the sound barrier.
In 1925, the new Shillington High School was constructed on East Lancaster Avenue on land that was part of the Berks County Alms House complex. An addition of twelve rooms was completed in 1930 and four more rooms were completed in 1936. The last senior class of the Shillington High School graduated in 1953, after which time the building served the newly organized Governor Mifflin School District. It served as Governor Mifflin High School until 1957 when it became Governor Mifflin Junior High School. In 1962, extensive renovations and a sizable addition were completed.
The remodeled building served the community for 30 more years before it was demolished during the summer of 1992, to make way for the new Governor Mifflin Middle School. This building proudly displayed the motto, Learn To Live … Live To Learn for 67 years. The very same letters were saved and are proudly displayed today on the Governor Mifflin Middle School on the same site and nearly the same place. –Source
Below is a video of the demolition of the building from 1992:
The Road to Nowhere. If you are older than 25 and a native of Berks County you have likely heard the phrase. It was used to refer to a stretch of road that literally went nowhere, until slowly over the course of a few decades was added onto and connected to other major roadways.
It was originally built in 1962 as a small drag strip piece of road, spanning maybe three quarters of a mile between the intersection of Van Reed Rd/Paper Mill Road and north over the Tulpehocken Creek to Blessing Lane. It appears there was a bridge on Paper Mill Road that crossed over the then newly constructed Road to Nowhere. (pictured above). This bridge no longer exists. If you look closely on Google Maps you can see old sections of Van Reed road in the wooded areas parallel to the current Van Reed Road. It appears from the comparison photos that the entire southern end of the original Road to nowhere is now the Paper Mill Road Off-ramp, Turkey Hill and surrounding wooded area.
In 1968 they expanded northward further toward Route 183 and on to Muhlenberg Township, making a connection to 222 north to Allentown.
Further work stalled until the 90s. It took until 1999 for the southern dead end of the Road to Nowhere pictured above to be connected eastward over to the Warren Street Bypass/422 interchange. It was around that time the neighboring land that became Broadcasting Square Shopping Center was sold and planned for redevelopment. Then it reached its final form in 2006 as 222 south between 422 and 724 was finished, making it possible to get all the way to Lancaster from Allentown on Route 222.