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Madeira Farm and Airfield, Kutztown Rd., Reading, PA

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Few shoppers at the former Madeira Shopping Plaza, the commercial strip that extends from the former K-mart to the Redner's Warehouse Market, opposite today's Fairgrounds Mall, would guess that the land once was home to a farm and airfield.

The Madeira family had owned the farm property for well over a century. One of the last farms in Hyde Park, the Madeira farm extended from Kutztown Road to what is now Fifth Street Highway. The home for the farm fronted at 3000 Kutztown Road.

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  • madeirafarm02.jpg
    Madeira farm house and barn, looking northward, 3000 block of Kutztown Road, West Side.
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  • madeirafarm01.jpg
    Madeira farm barn and house, looking southward, 3000 block of Kutztown Road, West Side.

Most of the farm was modified for airfield use in 1919 by Charles H. Madeira. The site of Madeira Field was located northeast of the current intersection of Route 222 & George Street. Over time, the landing site grew in popularity, with pilots building hangars and improving the two grass runways. It became known as Madeira Field. With the arrival in Reading of Eddie Nibur, an excellent aviator of considerable experience, Madeira Field ceased being just a barnstormer's haven and became a commercial port for chartered flights and student instruction.

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The 1945 AAF Airfield Directory described Madeira Flying Field as a 42 acre L-shaped property having an all-way sod landing area measuring 2,000 feet east/west. The field was said to have 6 wood & metal hangars, the largest measuring 76' x 40'.

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After World War II, more pilots began renting space at the larger Reading Regional Airport, causing a slow decline at Madeira Field. It continued in a small capacity until 1963.

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  • flyingclub.jpg
    A 1935 photo of an Aeronca "Flying Bathtub" at Madeira Field with members of the Goodwill Air Service & Flying School.

In 1967, Madeira Field was sold, and the land became a strip mall. When it closed, it was the oldest airport in Berks County.

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  • pantry pride Madeira Shopping Center.jpg
    The changing faces of business: once Pantry Pride, then Acme, then an office supply store on the site of the former Madeira farm and airfield on the east side of the Fifth Street Highway, former Madeira Plaza.
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  • madeiraplaza.jpg
    Looking north, the Fifth Street Hiighway looked quite a bit different in the 1970s than it does today.

On January 27, 1969, a wrecking crew began the demolition and removal of the Madeira farm house and out buildings, the last structures remaining on what was, from 1919 to 1963, the eastern extremity of Madeira Field.

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  • madeirafarm05.jpg
    Madeira farm house, 3000 block of Kutztown Road, looking south to B. L. Miller’s store located at 2942 Kutztown Rd.

Much like the former Reading Fairgrounds, a center of auto racing across the Fifth Street Highway, Madeira Field is nothing but a memory.

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