City Park - Remembered Through Postcards

2013-11-10
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In the American City, published in New York, former City of Reading Superintendent and Engineer Emil L. Nuebling contributed an article in 1912 entitled "Utilization of the Grounds Surrounding the Plants of the Reading Water Works System" that received high praise. The American City, which was a high-class publication, devoted to progressive municipal improvements, featured Mr. Nuebling's article.

Nuebling wrote:

"One of the distinctive features of the water works system of Reading, Pa., is the beautification of the grounds connected with the different plants of the system and their use for recreation. The grass on the lawns and terraces is all kept well trimmed throughout the year, and the walks and drives are maintained in excellent condition. The low service distributing reservoirs, called the Penn Street Reservoirs, located within six blocks of the business center of the city, have recently been covered with groined arches of concrete. The area above the covers is being utilized as a rink for roller skating and playground purposes in summer and for ice skating in winter."

Skating Rinks
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The grounds surrounding the reservoirs were laid out in walks, lawns and terraces. Numerous shrubbery beds were scattered about the grounds at appropriate places. A feature of the landscape gardening was the floral decorations consisting of 16 beds of various designs. Among the beds was a floral sun-dial and an American flag.

The sun-dial flowers were what are known as Joseph's Coat. The sun-dial was removed when the reservoir was covered in 1910.

The floral flag was constructed with appropriately colored hyacinths in spring. In summer the hyacinths were replaced with scarlet sage for the reds; with amaranth for the blues and with what was commonly known as Dusty Miller for the whites. The Reading Bureau of Water building is the centerpiece of the image below. The building still stands, and serves as the headquarters of the Berks County Conservancy.

Reading Bureau of Water building. Floral flag on left.
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Sun-dial
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The floral flag in City Park along N. 11th street was planted each spring until the site was hidden during World War II by a billboard inscribed with the names of the Reading Soldiers of that period.

World War II Honor Roll
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In 1891 two large fountains were placed at Hill road and Perkiomen Avenue and 11th and Walnut Streets.

11th and Walnut Streets Fountain
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Hill road and Perkiomen Avenue Fountain
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Below: A Deer Fountain once provided filtered ice water to park visitors as its waters, passed though packs of ice between the reservoir and the fountain.

Deer Fountain
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The image below depicts the lawn tennis courts that stood next to the city greenhouse and the remnants of the Augustus Vollmer vineyards and orchids that once graced the hillside to the right. In 1873, the vineyard was reported as having yielded about three tons. The roadway that loops around on the left is now Constitution Blvd. It owes its curvaceous course to the fact that it was once a rack track for the first city fairground. The circular coursing ring was 600 feet in circumference. The first Fair was held on the commons (City Park) in October, 1854.

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In 1887 the last Fair took place at the Commons. Immediately after the 1887 Fair, the Agricultural Society opened negotiations for a piece of land, twenty-five and a third acres in an area, owned by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and situated just outside the limits of the City at the end of North Eleventh Street.

The images below show a fine view of the grounds that surrounded the greenhouse and the original St. Joseph's Hospital. The portion of the greenhouse to the right still stands in City Park, but the front structure fell victim to the decay of time and was demolished.



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Below: The bandstand (built in 1897) stood where the audience now sits facing the present bandshell. A memorial services was held at the bandstand for William McKinley when the President was assassinated in 1901. Local bands used to give concerts there. All over the green lawn were signs that read: "Keep off the Grass." But when the Ringgold, Philharmonic or Cadet Bands were giving one of the summer evening recitals, the rule was overlooked and happy couples spread blankets on the lawn and lounged there until darkness came and the concert ended.

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Below: Around the turn of the last century many people would visit City Park because they believed that the spring that spouted forth "iron water" at an outlet adjoining the Lily Pond had healing properties. The water was drunk daily by many persons, including semi-invalids who came to the park for that purpose only. Ailing persons would linger in the park, sometimes for hours. They could be seen sitting on benches in sheltered places in conversational exchanges of symptoms and pains. Their day would end with one final visit to the "iron spring."

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