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800 Block of Penn Street, South Side

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For a few decades in the 20th century, Main Street store owners were a viable engine of American economic growth, selling to local residents and people in surrounding rural areas. The hustle-and-bustle of downtown Reading was particularly evident during the 1940s and 1950s in the 800 block of Penn Street where shops and eateries dotted the Main Street.

  • 800-860.jpg
    South Side of 800 block of Penn Street looking southwest, circa 1950s. Prominent businesses in this photo include from left to right: Moore’s Restaurant at 860, earlier known as Carsonia Restaurant, as the business had originated in Carsonia Park. Two doors below Moore’s, at 856, was Trumbore’s Cigar Store; YOCUM appears in big letters above the 2nd story. For many years, this architecturally interesting structure was painted yellow. Next door was a Sherwin-Williams paint store that occupied the oldest building in the block. Penn Plaza Hotel, at 846, was the largest structure removed from Penn Street during the days of urban renewal in the 1960s. Zeswitz Music House was located at 806 Penn Street. It was previously located at 850 Penn Street after relocating from 835 Penn Street in 1941.
  • 846-860a.jpg
    Bicentennial,Parade, 1948. Zeswitz Music House relocated to 850 Penn Street in 1941. Notice the horse pulling a Reading Fire Company pumper.
  • 846-860c.jpg
    South Side of 800 block of Penn Street looking southwest, circa 1950s. Prominent businesses in this photo include from left to right: Moore’s Restaurant at 860, earlier known as Carsonia Restaurant, as the business had originated in Carsonia Park. Sherwin-Williams paint store occupied the oldest building in the block. Penn Plaza Hotel, at 846, earlier the Vendome Apartments, was razed in late September 1969.
  • 846-860b.jpg
    South Side of 800 block of Penn Street looking southwest, circa 1960s. A favorite evening destination for many was Moore's Restaurant, 860 Penn, run by Clayton M. Stephens, who had another restaurant at 100 Lancaster Ave., rebuilt as Queen City. Both locations made a specialty of strawberry pie. Moore's restaurant at 9th and Penn had earlier been Carsonia Restaurant, an enterprise that originated in the upper reaches of the midway (west side) at Carsonia Park.
  • 844-850.jpg
    Bicentennial,Parade, 1948. Zuckerman’s clothing, 844 Penn...Vendome Apartments, 846 Penn...Merritt’s Paint-up Store, 848 Penn...Zeswitz Music House, 850 Penn.
  • 836-850.jpg
    Seen above are: Acme, 850 Penn...Reading Shoe Market, 848 Penn...Vendome Apartments, 846 Penn...Keller’s Tea Room, 844 Penn...Wittman Jewelry, 842 Penn...Hintz's Book Store, 838-840 Penn (a Penn Street landmark)...Planters Peanuts, 836 Penn.
  • 836-842.jpg
    1960s view of 834-842 Penn Street showing Penn Plaza Hotel (far left), 846 Penn...Wittman Jewelry, 842 Penn...Hintz's Book Store, 838-840 Penn...Farmer's Kissinger's Market (far right), 828-834 Penn.
  • 818-840.jpg
    Bicentennial,Parade, 1948. Seen above are: Hintz's Book Store, 838-840 Penn...Boy's Shop clothing, 836 Penn…Farmer's Kissinger's Market, 828-834 Penn...Reddig & Co. clothes, 824 Penn...peanut store, 822 Penn...optometrist, 820 Penn...Marborough Garage and Apartments/Schlechter Jewelry, 820 Penn...Keystone Meat Market, 818 Penn.
  • 818-836b.jpg
    Bicentennial,Parade, 1948. Seen above are: Boy's Shop clothing, 836 Penn…Farmer's Kissinger's Market, 828-834 Penn...Reddig & Co. clothes, 824 Penn...peanut store, 822 Penn...optometrist, 820 Penn...Marborough Garage and Apartments/Schlechter Jewelry, 820 Penn...Keystone Meat Market, 818 Penn.
  • 818-836.jpg
    South Side of 800 block of Penn Street, circa 1950s. Planters Peanuts, 836 Penn...Farmer's Kissinger's Market, 828-834 Penn...Reddig & Co. clothes, 824 Penn...peanut store, 822 Penn...optometrist, 820 Penn...Marborough Garage and Apartments/Schlechter Jewelry, 820 Penn...Keystone Meat Market, 818 Penn.
  • 818-834.jpg
    Bicentennial,Parade, 1948. Seen above are: Farmer's Kissinger's Market, 828-834 Penn...Reddig & Co. clothes, 824 Penn...peanut store, 822 Penn...optometrist, 820 Penn...Marborough Garage and Apartments/Schlechter Jewelry, 820 Penn...Keystone Meat Market, 818 Penn...Deisher Jewelry store, 816 Penn.
  • 816-836.jpg
    1960s view of 816-836 Penn Street showing Penn Plaza Hotel (far left), 846 Penn...Wittman Jewelry, 842 Penn...Hintz's Book Store, 838-840 Penn...Farmer's Kissinger's Market (far right), 828-834 Penn.
  • 812-836.jpg
    Bicentennial,Parade, 1948. Seen above are: Farmer's Kissinger's Market, 828-834 Penn...Reddig & Co. clothes, 824 Penn...peanut store, 822 Penn...optometrist, 820 Penn...Marborough Garage and Apartments/Schlechter Jewelry, 820 Penn...Keystone Meat Market, 818 Penn...Deisher Jewelry store, 816 Penn.
  • 806-820.jpg
    Seen above are: Schlechter Jewelry store, 820 Penn...Keystone Meat Market, 818 Penn...Deisher Jewelry store, 816 Penn...United 5¢ to $5 Store, 814 Penn...Bloom Furniture, 812 Penn.
  • 800-824.jpg
    Bicentennial,Parade, 1948. Seen above are: Farmer's Kissinger's Market, 828-834 Penn...Reddig & Co. clothes, 824 Penn...peanut store, 822 Penn...optometrist, 820 Penn...Marborough Garage and Apartments/Schlechter Jewelry, 820 Penn...Keystone Meat Market, 818 Penn...Deisher Jewelry store, 816 Penn...United 5¢ to $5 Store, 814 Penn...Bloom Furniture, 812 Penn.
  • 800-824b.jpg
    Bicentennial,Parade, 1948. Seen above are: Farmer's Kissinger's Market, 828-834 Penn...Reddig & Co. clothes, 824 Penn...peanut store, 822 Penn...optometrist, 820 Penn...Marborough Garage and Apartments/Schlechter Jewelry, 820 Penn...Keystone Meat Market, 818 Penn...Deisher Jewelry store, 816 Penn...United 5¢ to $5 Store, 814 Penn...Bloom Furniture, 812 Penn.
  • 800-810.jpg
    Penn Street, South Side, circa, 1950s. A&P Super Market, 806-810 Penn...Berks Furniture Company, 802-804 Penn (formerly Home Dept. Store and Milton Hershey Candy Factory)...Bard Hardware, 800 Penn.
  • kissinger1.jpg
    Farmer’s Kissinger's Market, 828-834 Penn, 1968.
  • 4_05.jpg
    Bicentennial,Parade, 1948, 800 block of Penn Street. Parade traveling west to east on Penn.
  • merritts.jpg
  • united.jpg

All structures above were demolished by 1969 during the urban renewal era.

The war effort of the second world war that brought increased production and employment back to Reading's factories and mills after the Great Depression was undoubtedly a boon for downtown merchants. However, once the peacetime economy was in full swing in the years after 1945, Reading's workers were no longer spending their paychecks exclusively on Penn Street.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Main Street merchants-chains and independents alike facilitated the outward movement, hoping to profit from the suburbs in the same way they had once profited from downtown.

By the 1960s urban renewal was put forth as the cure-all of the moment, especially after the introduction of the Model Cities Program in 1966. Old buildings were razed and replaced with new commercial, retail, and residential buildings in an effort to lure people back to Main Street.

By that time, Main Street's increasingly dire predicament was once again a subject of intense debates at national and local levels as American cities and towns came to grips with the devastating dual legacies of suburbanization and urban renewal. Communities were forced to acknowledge that the golden era of Main Street had ended, and that it would never again be the nexus of social, civic, and commercial life that it was before World War II.

Former business listings, 800 block of Penn Street, South Side

800 Penn Street – Bard Hardware

802 – 804 Penn Street – Berks Furniture Company (Formerly Home Dept. Store and Milton Hershey Candy)

806 - 810 Penn Street – A&P Super Market

812 Penn Street – Bloom Furniture

814 Penn Street – United 5-cent to $5 Store

816 Penn Street – Deisher Jewelry store

818 Penn Street – Keystone Meat Market

820 Penn Street – Marborough Garage and Apartments/Schlechter Jewelry

820 ½ Penn Street - Optometrist

822 Penn Street – Deem peanut store

824 Penn Street – Reddig & Co. clothes

828-834 Penn Street – Farmer’s Kissinger’s Market

836 Penn Street – Planters Peanuts (Boy’s Shop clothing, 1950s)

838-840 Penn Street – Hintz’s Book Store

842 Penn Street – Wittman Jewelry

844 Penn Street – Keller’s Tea Room

846 Penn Street – Vendome Apartments (Penn Plaza)

848 Penn Street – Reading Shoe Market

850 Penn Street – Acme (Sherwin-Williams, Zeswitz Music House)

854 Penn Street – Hat cleaning shop

856 Penn Street – Gay Budget Millinery (Trumbore’s Cigar Store, circa 1950s)

858 Penn Street – John W. Gray’s men’s wear

860 Penn Street – Carsonia Lunch (Moore’s Restaurant, circa 1950s)

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