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

Train Derailment – Wyomissing – 1977

Photos Courtesy of Jere Stamm

On Sunday morning, December 4th, 1977, 26 cars of a Conrail freight train derailed right near the intersection of Clayton and Penn Avenue in Wyomissing. The train was bound for Bethlehem from Harrisburg, and was carrying coal.

Ironically, another train derailment happened on the same stretch of track just two months ago in April of 2019. This one was carrying trash and took a few weeks to fully clean up.

Join the discussion on our forum about these derailments by clicking here

Woolworth’s – Penn Street / Berkshire Mall

Image & caption from “Berks Countians; The Wonderful Way We Live”
When this photo of the interior of Woolworth’s 5¢ and 10¢ store – 530-534 Penn, around 1911 – this was a “5-and-dime” emporium in the true sense. Everything in the place was priced at a nickel or dime. A sign visible near the rear of the aisle clearly states that “Nothing in this store over 10 cts.” Photo by John. B. Woods.

Woolworth’s 6th and Penn Reading store was opened on September 20th, 1884, under the name, “Woolworth & Knox”. It was just three doors across 6th street from the successful Pomeroy’s department store.

Woolworth’s moved to the Berkshire Mall when it opened in 1970, as did many of the successful Penn Street department stores. Woolworth’s was again next to Pomeroy’s (first Lit Brothers, but only 1970-1975) near the center of the mall. It could be accessed from the outside of the mall, and was also a restaurant called “Harvest House”.

Woolworth’s occupied store space #27, outlined in yellow.

Woolworths chain started declining in the 80s due to over-expansion, and it is believed the Mall location closed for good in the mid-late 90s. The inner-mall part was subdivided into a few more store spaces. The back half that was accessible from the outside was divided off.

Above is the outside entrance to what was the Woolworth’s at the Berkshire Mall as it is today, next to the defunct BonTon. As long as I can remember this space has been unoccupied. If you remember it being anything since Woolworth’s closing, please post in the comments.

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.

Reading Public Museum – 1950s

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

Mrs. James Woodward enjoys an informal afternoon reading to a group of children on the spacious front lawn of the Reading Public Museum and Art Gallery. The Museum and Gallery house an important collection of art masterpieces, as well as an impressive scientific and historic collection. A particularly appealing feature is the garden surrounding the handsome building that borders the Wyomissing Creek. Here young children delight in feeding the ducks and swans that inhabit the area,.