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.
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.
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)