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

Gadgets at the Berkshire Mall

From 1982-1984 there was a cutting edge restaurant called “Gadget’s” upstairs at the Berkshire Mall. It featured animatronic singing robots as entertainment. For kids, Looney Tunes was the featured presentation. It was also targeted to adults, featuring a LaBARatory bar and evening shows as well. Below is the only footage online of the restaurant, though at a location in New York.

The idea was fairly short lived. After brief expansion to roughly 6 locations in the US, the idea proved too costly to make a profit, and ultimately closed down. According to a comment on this website, the location at the Berkshire Mall was rumored to have a particularly shady end:

Does anyone remember the shady Gadgets disappearing story? They were behind on rent (owed 10s of thousands) and just packed up and took off in the middle of the night, leaving behind lots of the fixtures in the restaurant.

Menu pictures courtesy of Matt Heffelfinger

Do you remember Gadgets? Do you have any images or stories to share? Can you validate the rumor of how it left? What happened to all of the animatronic pieces left behind?

Boston House Restaurant – 950 Penn Street

Boston Restaurant 1967
Photo courtesy Al Batastini

The Boston Restaurant opened in 1927. It was owned by Gust L. Hatza and his father, Louis. It was the former Marathon Restaurant, 807 Penn St. The restaurant was later moved to 950 Penn St. and renamed The Boston House in 1951. It suffered a fire in 1967 but stayed in business. It still remains in operation at the 950 Penn Street location, but changed owners in 2015.

Boston Restaurant 1967
Photo courtesy Al Batastini

Inside, today

Stoudt’s Restaurant – Sinking Spring

Stoudt’s pictured in 1954

Stoudt’s Restaurant was located at 602 Penn Avenue in Sinking Spring (now the 4000 block and a parking lot). It was opened in 1951 and owned by Edward and Ada Stoudt. Edward’s son, also named Edward, worked for his father starting in 1960, and eventually split off and opened Stoudt’s Black Angus; which is still a successful business on North Reading Road in Adamstown.

Stoudt’s was known for it’s PA Dutch Country cooking. It closed in 1973 after 22 years, and the building was demolished to create a parking lot for St. John’s Reformed Church across the street.

Select your live lobster ad Stoudts Restaurant