Fox Lake: remnants of a Berks County Summer Community

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Before Blue Marsh there was Fox Lake

Before Blue Marsh Lake was even a thought, Fox Lake was a small man-made lake along the Spring Creek right before it merged with the Tulpehocken Creek in North Heidelberg Township. It was a popular summer destination in Berks County beginning in 1928 through the mid-century. Initially developer Fox Lake, Inc. only advertised bungalows, which were popular amongst Reading residents as a means of escaping the city in the summer months. These bungalows surprisingly included some modern amenities for the time such as running water and a bath.

Fox Lake
August 3rd, 1928 Reading Times ad

Within a few years modern year-round homes were also built around the area. All of them were razed in the 1970s when the Army Corp of Engineers built Blue Marsh Lake. Some remnants of stone stairways and foundations have been left behind.

According to this August 18th, 1934 Reading Times article, some of the occupants of the area at the time included Dr. and Mrs. Hiester H. Muhlenberg, Mr. and Mrs. J. Heber Parker, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Harmon, Mr. and Mrs. J.P. Sartz and Mr. and Mrs Elmer Mengel. The article also says the Muhlenberg’s owned the cottage on the top of the hill, which matches the ruins in the area of stairs #2 (referencing the images above).

Fox Lake
1958 Penn Pilot Aerial labels indicate locations of photos above

The hand pump drinking fountain appears to be in the area of the remnants of the charming old stone farm house occupied by the Sartz’ indicated in the 1934 article linked above. The pump is a Monitor model pump manufactured in Wisconsin by Baker Manufacturing company. According to facebook commenter Glenn Riegel; the pump was installed by the ACoE when they were attempting to set up a camp ground in this area around the time Blue Marsh was being flooded. Funding for the camping infrastructure never quite panned out so the project and the pump have been abandoned since.

While all of the conveniences provided at Fox Lake were reserved for property owners, occasionally the area opened to the public to promote the community and entice more buyers. The 1929 Reading Times ad below promotes this type of event for “Decoration Day”, which is more recently referred to as Memorial Day.

Fox Lake
May 29th, 1929 Reading Times

At only two years after beginning the community of Fox Lake, it seems like things were going well. As the 1930 Reading Times ad below shows, many additions were being made to the area including tennis courts, miniature golf, and beach improvements.

Fox Lake
July 3rd 1930 Reading Times ad

All of the homeowners in this area had their properties taken by eminent domain and sold to the ACoE in the 1970s. The majority of the area that the bungalows covered is now under water. Below is the aerial of how the area looked in 1958 in comparison to how it looks now since the creation of the larger Blue Marsh Lake project. The main road around the area is now the Skinner’s Loop trail.

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Bob Hinkle
Bob Hinkle
15 days ago

Thanks for posting this. I hadn’t thought about the place in years, but reading about it triggered memories of going a few times with my parents to visit their friends who had a place at Fox Lake, probably in the mid to late 1940s.

Paul Miller
Paul Miller
13 days ago

This is a nice article covering Fox Lake and the aerial views comparison along with the great advertisements. In our book, “Blue Marsh and the Pleasant Valley – One Last Look’, we included a history and many photos relating to the lake and the old farmhouse that originally was on the property along with a complete lot layout plan. There is a short section of steps that led down to the front door of the farmhouse. When we did our book in 2018, Jack Sartz was about 96 or 97 and I was in contact with his daughter. I remember the area in passing by there along the Tulpehocken Creek. One former resident of Fox Lake had his ashes spread at his former homesite when he passed away. So much history was lost with the Blue Marsh Dam.

Berks Nostalgia