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Queen Anne Historic District



Photo: Queen Anne Historic District.

The Queen Anne Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document as submitted to the National Park Service. Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.

Description

The Queen Anne Historic District is an intact concentration of late 19th through early 20th century urban buildings in the northwestern corner of Reading, Pennsylvania, generally located between the northern portion of Centre Ave., the western section of the COW railroad tracks, the Schuylkill River, and Riverside neighborhood. The architecture of this district generally spans forty-five years (1880-1925) and represents the adaptation of the Late Victorian and early 20th century architectural vocabularies to local forms and style The district's buildings are principally composed of semi-detached houses and row houses, with a small number of single houses; the district's non-residential buildings are generally limited to large stone churches and small- scale commercial establishments along the district's main thoroughfares. The types of materials found throughout the district range from original fabric to contemporary replacements. The overwhelming majority of the buildings are masonry construction, with the prominent material being brick followed closely by granite and then limestone. A few contributing buildings in the district are frame with clapboards as exterior cladding. A large portion of the district's buildings have been covered with non-original replacement materials such as perma-stone, vinyl, or aluminum siding. Brick is the most common foundation material, and is often left exposed or covered with stucco or siding. Roofing material includes original slate, asbestos tile, and asphalt shingle. Wood is featured predominantly in the exterior ornamentation of these buildings, particularly on the front porches and cornice detailing. As a result of the district's visual and stylistic cohesiveness and its ability to convey its significance, the Queen Anne Historic District retains integrity.

The Queen Anne Historic District is located to the north of the CONRAIL railroad tracks and to the west of Centre Ave (S.R. 61) and the locally-listed Centre Park Historic District. The eastern two-thirds of the neighborhood is laid out in a due north grid pattern; at Schuylkill Ave., the western one-third of the area is laid out in a grid on a 70' axis. The boundaries generally include portions of the east-west thoroughfares of Hudson, Green, Greenwich, Oley, Douglass, Windsor, Spring, and Robeson Streets and the northern sections of the north-south thoroughfares of Centre Ave., Third, Thorn, Second, Pear, Front, McKnight, Weiser, Ritter, Lincoln, Schuylkill, Miltimore, Gordon, Tulpehocken, and Clinton Streets. The boundaries are clearly defined geographically and contextually in that the district is surrounded by high-style and other architecturally-distinct homes to the north and east, railroad tracks to the south, and industrial and modern construction to the west.

Within the roughly 160 acre district, there are a total of 2583 resources, which include single and multiple family residences, churches, and small-scale commercial buildings. Within this grouping, there are 2405 contributing buildings (93%) and 178 non-contributing buildings (7%). There are no sites, structures, or objects within this district. Two properties are individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places: the Charles Foos Elementary School (1 building) at Douglass and Weiser streets and the Meinig Glove Factory (2 buildings, now partially demolished) along McKnight Street. The garages, sheds, and other outbuildings associated with the buildings in this neighborhood are considered minor, small-scale features and are not included in the resource count. Most, if not all, of these outbuildings have been substantially and significantly altered over time, and most date to after the period of significance. The majority are mid-20th century garages that mark the arrival of the automobile to this sector of Reading's society. General characteristics of these outbuildings are one-story frame or brick structures that are two to three bays wide and in poor repair.

The criteria for defining a building's contributing/non-contributing status are based on the building's age the extent of physical or material change. Most of the homes within the district have had varying degrees of cosmetic alterations but retain enough of their original form, location, setting, massing, and fenestration patterns to communicate the original feeling, association, and design of the historic neighborhood. Limited alterations and additions were made to the majority of the contributing resources, mainly to the residential properties, and to much lesser degree to the commercial, religious, and industrial properties. Material changes include the covering or replacement of original siding, roof, or porch fabric, and the replacement of doors and windows. These changes are seen in varying degrees, ranging from complete coverage and replacement, to the coverage or replacement of only one or two features. For example, many of the Queen Anne homes retain their original stone or brick walls but the projecting wood or pressed metal bay has been covered with vinyl or aluminum siding; porch columns and balustrades have been replaced with wrought iron and the original wood front door and decorative glass transom replaced with a new aluminum model. Physical changes include the construction or demolition of rear additions, and the enclosing of porches. These types of changes are seen less frequently throughout the neighborhood. Physical changes are often made to the secondary or rear facades, obscuring the changes from the street and therefore having limited impact to the visual character of the district's streetscapes.

The dwellings represented in this neighborhood are typical of many small cities in the northeastern United States. The neighborhood retains a strong visual sense of community and is stylistically distinct from its immediate surroundings. The churches and non-residential properties which are peppered throughout the district blend visually with surrounding residential blocks to create the quintessential urban neighborhood. Most of the city blocks within the district are bisected by narrow alleys.

Schuylkill Avenue is the main commercial corridor near the western boundary of the district, defined by its wide width and alternating blocks of commercial and residential properties. Throughout the area along the major east-west thoroughfares, original neighborhood stores still occupy the first floor of corner residences. Most still retain their original materials, detailing, and distinctive diagonal orientation; others have been converted into housing. Much of the area retains its brick sidewalks and granite or slate curbing. A number of properties have secondary sheds/garages in the backyards that face the alleys.

Churches are scattered throughout the district, and tend to anchor key intersections throughout the district, such as St. Mary's Episcopal (1904) and the Wesley United Methodist Church (1922), both at the intersection of North Front and Windsor Streets. Despite a wide range of construction dates within the period of significance (Emmanuel Baptist was the first in 1885 and Wesley U.M. was the last in 1922), the churches share the same academic Gothic Revival style popular for most urban churches at the turn of the twentieth century.

Because of the varied distribution of building styles and types, each of the streets within the district have a slightly different appearance that contributes to the unique character of the area. One of the most visually interesting aspects of this district is the prominent use of the "composite" rows: row houses which incorporate two to four manifestations of an architectural composition in one row of buildings. The composite row houses create visually-unique skylines through the use of differing gable roofs, and in some cases, large towers or turrets. One of the most striking examples of the composite row in the district is the 300 block of West Greenwich Street. Despite the presence of a number of different types of architectural styles within the district, the buildings share a commonality of size, form, massing, and scale, particularly with regard to the consistent blocks of composite and uniform rowhouses which dominate the district's housing stock.

Along the main thoroughfares within the district, particularly north of Greenwich Street and east of Schuylkill Ave., the homes are a mix of the Queen Anne, Italianate, and Reading German styles. Generally, they are two- and three-story large masonry buildings with symmetrical facades with deep wood porches and ornamentation along the cornice line. They include single, double homes and row houses that are set back from the street with a small front yard and often with a backyard facing an alley. Mature trees contribute to the views along these main streets and create the effect of the tree-lined avenue.

Toward the southern and western boundaries, particularly along and south of Greenwich Street and along and west of Schuylkill Ave., and in areas along the small side streets like Pear and Hudson, the homes begin to take on a different character. While the predominant architectural styles seen in the heart of the district continue, they are narrower masonry row houses that are densely packed along the street with no porches or front yards, which are of a smaller scale and massing: Although the character of these buildings is slightly different then the core area of the district, they fall within the period of significance and represent a continuum of a popular architectural vocabulary interpreted for different socio-economic groups within the Reading community.

There are three general architectural styles represented in the neighborhood: Late Victorian, Late 19th and Early 20th Century American Movements and Other, for a localized Reading German architectural style seen predominantly in this urban area of Pennsylvania. As the descriptions below clarify, these buildings represent various vernacular stylistic influences from both regionally and nationally popular architectural movements. The buildings which represent these architectural styles reflect the tastes and financial means of Reading's professional and working-class communities. This intermixing of styles, forms, and settings was not only dictated by the groups of people for whom the homes were built, but also by the unknown builders and contractors who built them, groups or blocks at a time. Other specific styles, like the Second Empire, Classical Revival, or Gothic Revival are seen throughout the district, but in much smaller numbers.[1] With the exception of the Queen Anne and Reading German styles, these assignations are only broad categorizations, based often on only one or two characteristics of the buildings. In some cases, stylistic influences are mixed, and in others, none are obvious; however, the form, massing, and fenestration patterns of the resource suggest its stylistic influence. In most cases, these vernacular homes are not necessarily high style examples that neatly fit into established categories.

Queen Anne: The most popular style in this district, and its namesake, is the Queen Anne, with 50% of the buildings constructed in this style. Here, the Queen Anne house is typically three-stories high with a stone or brick facade dominated by a wood or pressed metal center bay at the second floor that terminates into a polygonal tower. A mansard roof, originally covered with slate, provides the building's third floor and features a projecting dormer or bay, often with a different roof shape. Wood porches extend the length of the facade and cover a first floor entrance and window, which are often complimented with a stained, art, or beveled glass window. Exterior detailing, primarily limited to the main facade, ranges from simply detailed porches and denticulated cornices to heavy bracketed cornices and gables. Even the modest houses with this ornamentation exhibit a high level of craftsmanship. This district features conservative interpretations of both the "Spindlework" and "Free Classic" Queen Anne houses.[2] The appearance of Colonial Revival detailing on Queen Anne forms signal a transition into that popular architectural style of the turn of the century.

The majority of the district's Queen Anne homes are built as rowhouses, often in composite rows, with the remainder built as double-family homes. As a group, they tend to be larger and more highly detailed than other homes throughout the district. Although some of the buildings have had the original materials covered by contemporary materials, they still retain individual integrity through their form and function. Examples of some Queen Anne buildings within the district include: 500 blocks of N. Front St., 800 blocks of N. 2nd St., 100 blocks of W. Windsor St., Hollenbach St., and the 900 blocks of Pear St.

Reading German: Following the Queen Anne, the most popular architectural style is the so-called Reading German or Reading German Stick style (41% of district), which was locally used from the 1880s to the 1910s. The source for the name of this regional architectural style was not uncovered during the course of research for this nomination. Based on local and state planning documents and interviews with local preservationists, the name was first used in the late 1970s and-has come to be associated with all local buildings displaying the same type of style. Other than being unique to the city of Reading, the style does not exhibit any particularly Germanic elements. It can be best qualified as a local variation of the Stick style executed in masonry, a significant distinction that separates these Stick buildings from their national peers. Typically built as a double- family or row house, the Reading German house is brick, two-and-a-half stories tall, and features a gable or mansard roof with flush or slightly projecting dormer. As a group, they tend to be smaller in size and scale than the Queen Anne homes with less ornate and more restrained exterior ornamentation. One of the defining characteristics of the style is the dormer's relationship with the main facade: it is built as a vertical extension of the main facade, almost like a tower, and breaks the cornice line in the center of the wall. Ninety percent of the examples in the Queen Anne Historic District have shallow wood porches with ornate Stick style-like inspired spindlework; only those blocks along Hudson street have the facades built flush with the street and no porch. In addition to the porches, Stick style-inspired wood detailing is seen in the dormer windows and sometimes in the cornices. Brick cornice corbelling, stained and beveled glass windows, and decorative lintels also contribute to the unique craftsmanship of this style. In some rare instances, such as 100 block of Douglas Street, the dormer sits above a heavy corbeled cornice and is not part of the main facade.

Examples of this type are found at: 600 block of N.2nd St., 100 blocks of E. Oley St., 700 blocks of N. Weiser, and the 600 blocks of Gordon St. One of the most striking buildings constructed in the Reading German style is the 1892 firehouse at the corner of Green Street and Schuylkill Ave.

Other variations of the "Late Victorian" style in addition to those mentioned above are also scattered throughout the district in small numbers. These include a traditional Stick style residence at 640-642 N. 3rd St., several Second Empire double-family buildings , and a Romanesque Revival home at 134-136 Windsor Street.

Italianate: Several groupings of vernacular Italianate-styled homes are scattered throughout the district. These were often some of the first homes constructed in the area, around 1884, as the suburbs moved west of Centre Ave. and north along Schuylkill Ave. These homes were built as brick row houses that are two bays wide, two- and-a-half to three stories tall capped by mansard roofs and gable dormers. Distinguishing characteristics include the wide bracketed wood roof cornices, plain segmental-arched windows with one-over-one sashes, and often, decorative wood porches with bracketed cornices. The Majestic Theater at 108 Oley Street, one of the few remaining entertainment-related buildings in the district, is an excellent example of the local use of the Italianate style.

Examples of various adaptations of the Italianate through the Queen Anne Historic District include: 100 blocks of W. Oley St., and the group at 736-750 Schuylkill Ave.

Gothic Revival: Peppered throughout the district are select examples of the vernacular urban interpretation of the Gothic Revival style for both residential and religious properties. Influences of the Gothic Revival in the double houses are most clearly seen in the steeply-pitched cross gables, bargeboard detailing, and wood porches. All eight of the neighborhood churches within the district are built in the Gothic Revival style. They are of stone construction with the pointed arches and other vehicles of vertical emphasis, quoining, and steep gabled roofs traditionally found in Gothic Revival religious buildings.

Examples of the Gothic Revival are seen at: 101-127 W. Douglass St., 630-632 N. Front St., and the two churches at the corner of Windsor and Front streets.

Although the overwhelming majority of the district's buildings fall into one of the above categories, there are select representations of other late 19' and early 20th century styles scattered throughout the approximately 160 square acres. Like their counterparts above, the styles highlighted below are vernacular interpretations of nationally-popular styles and are often distinguished by only one or two details on a simple building form.

Throughout the district there are select examples of the Classical Revival and Beaux Arts styles. Examples of Classical Revival buildings include the Charles FOOS School at the corner of Douglass and Weiser streets, three homes in the northeastern corner of the district at 121, 137-139, and 211 Windsor Street, and a Dutch Colonial Revival double-family house at 101-103 Douglass Street. In this district, the Beaux Arts style is used in one instance for a large ca. 1925 industrial/garage building at the corner of Thorn and Oley streets.

Finally, there are buildings scattered throughout the neighborhood that cannot be accurately assigned to one of the above styles. In these cases, there is no particular form or characteristic to distinguish these vernacular dwellings as belonging to an established style type. These buildings are two-and-a-half to three-story brick double-family and row houses with shallow gable roofs and small dormers. They typically lack any exterior ornamentation and do not have the decorative wood porches characteristic of the homes in the neighborhood. Examples of these types of vernacular dwellings include 616-622 Thorn St.

The Queen Anne Historic District developed over forty-five years beginning in 1880 and continued into the 1920s as both a professional and working class community. The streetscapes of this historic district have not changed drastically since they were first laid out in the nineteenth century. Since the end of the district's period of significance in 1925, changes within the district have included the demolition of several turn-of-the-century school buildings, a few homes, and the original section of the individually-listed Meinig Glove Factory along McKnight street. Any in-fill construction has been limited to once-vacant lots and to the lots of demolished properties.

The twenty-three modern non-residential non-contributing buildings that are scattered throughout the district, were built after the period of significance. Many of the modern non-contributing buildings are located near the outer boundaries of the district and are small in scale, and often set on large parcels. One hundred and fifty seven buildings built during the period of significance are considered non-contributing due to loss of integrity as a result of additions and/or alterations that have obscured or removed the building's ability to convey its significance.

This neighborhood is remarkable because of the quality and quantity of the architecture from this period and because there are few intrusions and non-contributing buildings. The few non-contributing resources in the district and the limited changes to the contributing resources do not affect the Queen Anne Historic District's ability to convey its architectural and historical significance and its period of significance. The buildings, particularly the residential properties which are most affected, retain enough of their original form, style, and other characteristics to clearly communicate their original style and function.

Statement of Significance

The Queen Anne Historic District is locally significant under Criterion C as a surviving example of a largely intact late nineteenth and early twentieth century working and middle class neighborhood. Situated in the northwest quadrant of the city and clearly delimited by its relationship to the high style homes along Centre Ave. and the P & R RR tracks to the south, the Queen Anne Historic District reflects the city's vernacular building practices from the neighborhood's inception in 1880 to 1925. The beginning date for the period of significance is clearly defined through primary historic resources such as the 1881 and 1884 maps of the city.[3] The end date is also clearly established by primary historic documents and an analysis of the architecture in the district and surrounding blocks. By 1925, the district reached its current appearance because physical constraints limited any new construction within the district and new neighborhoods were forced into the undeveloped land immediately north of the Queen Anne Historic District. As the first neighborhood to develop in the northwestern, section of the city, the Queen Anne Historic District developed in response to the economic and industrial growth of Reading in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. Although there are several types of Victorian-era styles represented in this neighborhood, the three main architectural styles — the Queen Anne, Reading German, and Italianate — illustrate the vernacular, local interpretation of styles popular in the mid- Atlantic states in the mid nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The historic district physically reflects its period of significance of 1880 to 1925 through its architecture and intact streetscapes. The district has integrity as it retains the essential qualities and character-defining features that communicate the type of neighborhood in which a large section of Reading's urban population lived.

The city of Reading was founded along the banks of the Schuylkill River in the mid-18th century as the county seat for Berks County and as trade stop between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Lancaster, and western Pennsylvania.

In 1748, Thomas and Richard Penn, sons of William Penn, had William Parsons design and plot the town on a grid system adhering to the points of the compass. This design served the immediate town and the areas to the south and east. Despite the presence of the Centre Turnpike (now Centre Ave/Route 61), development further north and west was prohibited by the deep ravine which extended eastward through the area. This northwest area was divided into "outlots", or undeveloped squares of land bought by real estate speculators who held onto the land anticipating eventual growth and development of the city northward toward the Schuylkill River. It would be over 135 years until this area of the city saw the physical development into the Queen Anne Historic District.

Reading quickly developed as a thriving market town, and throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries continued to grow as a key political and manufacturing center of Pennsylvania. When Reading received its city status in 1847, its population had grown to 13,000 people and residential growth patterns followed the lead of industrial expansion to the south of the original town boundaries. With the construction of the canal in 1825 and the Philadelphia and Reading railroad in 1837, Reading continued to grow as industrial and manufacturing center. Reading's commercial and residential areas grew in response to its emerging industrial and transportation prominence. The Perm and Fifth street corridors continued to develop as the commercial core of the city, and most people lived and worked close to their jobs in either the commercial or industrial arenas. Two of the biggest industries at this time included steel and iron and brickmaking with the machine-made brick locally introduced in the 1840s.[4]

Throughout the next several decades, Reading continued to prosper and by 1870 had close to 34,000 people.[5] The Penn and Fifth street area remained the commercial anchor of the city with the banking and other mercantile interests located there; industry was strategically placed along the river and railroad routes, and people tended to live in the neighborhoods in which they worked. The deep ravine which once physically and geographically hampered development to the northwest was infilled, largely by the 1853 Lebanon Valley rail line that went west toward the river from the P & R lines, and allowed for new opportunities for industrial and residential expansion into the area of the what is now the Queen Anne Historic District.

By the late 1860s, the city fathers realized that Reading's disorganized street system would eventually hamper development and hired J. Lightfoot to complete a topographical survey of the city to permanently fix the lines and grades of the city streets. The entire city, with the exception of the area west of Kissinger Street (Schuylkill Ave.), was laid out in the compass-point grid system. All the north-south streets to the east of Front Street were officially named; those to the west were not officially named until the late 1870s. The adoption and impact of these new streets is best illustrated by the 1876 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Berks County by F.A. Davis which shows the original diagonal outlots divided by the new compass-point grid street plan. These road orientations survive and are responsible for the physical layout of the Queen Anne Historic District seen today.

During this period, great strides were made in the Reading housing market with the emergence of the savings and loan and building association throughout the city in the mid-1860s. These associations, numbering near two dozen by 1874 and upwards of three dozen by the turn of the century, provided homes and reasonable financing which allowed for Reading's working class to own their own home. They were responsible for much of the residential building in the city through the 1890s. According to the planning commission's 1978 history of Reading, "due to their (the association's) financial programs, more people owned their homes in Reading than anywhere else and the City gained the distinction of being one of the best places in the United States for a working-class family to live.[6]

By 1881, heavy industry began to locate along the Lebanon Valley RR tracks and the Keystone Furnace/Reading Iron Co. was located at the western boundary of the district. Although most of the building's are extant, they are no longer used for industrial purposes. The first twin and rowhouses in the neighborhood were first built near the intersection of Third and Greenwich streets and in sections along Schuylkill Ave. Most of this small number of homes were owned by J. R. Bechtel, a local land developer. The smaller plots of land that were created with the new street grid system were now owned by the builders/contractors and building and loan associations which would soon build the stylish new "townhouses" for Reading's growing middle class.

Several events shaped the personality of this emerging neighborhood. First, the trolley line along Centre Ave to Charles Evans cemetery in the late 1880s provided public transportation within walking distance for the early homeowners in the eastern half of the neighborhood. With the complete trolley circuit through the neighborhood by the early 1900s, all residents in the area of the Queen Anne Historic District had access to public transportation. By 1909, the city itself had 43 miles of electrified service lines and over 100 miles of inter-urban lines.[5]

Second, the liberal financing of the building and loan associations made home-ownership practical for the working and middle-class professionals looking to leave the older sections of the city. Third, the undeveloped land in the immediate area and to the north allowed for more physical expansion then the earlier areas of the city, allowing for blocks and sections of real estate to be developed quickly. Finally, the availability of machine-made brick and other building materials at the turn of the century -materials brought in by the railroad and locally manufactured -made homes both stylish and affordable. The accessibility of pattern books to the building trades began to homogenize the appearances of the early suburb with repeated patterns and stylistic devices (i.e. porch detailing) repeated within the same block or row.

The house forms and styles found throughout the district tends to reflect the professional and financial class of their inhabitants. A fair cross-representation of Reading's middle and lower classes were included within the boundaries of the Queen Anne Historic District. Along the southern and western boundaries — typically south of Greenwich and west of Schuylkill — and along some of the narrower side streets like Pear and Thorn, the smaller scale and less ornamented rowhomes typically belonged to blue-collar workers: for example, general laborers, tailor's assistants, millers, railroad breakmen, and peddlers from the nearby steel mill, and other types of workers employed by the heavy industry that bounded the neighborhood to the south.[8]

Within the core of the neighborhood, and along the boundary of the Centre Park Historic District, the homes were larger scale double- or single-family houses which had more stylistic detailing, and were set on larger lots. Members of the professional, middle class typically lived in these houses: for example, school teachers, bankers, salesman, grocer, and "businessmen".[9] As shown in the 1900 census data, generally throughout the district, most people were born to parents born in Pennsylvania, owned (mortgaged) their homes, and could read. The predominant ethnic groups noted in the census included Irish and German. In the areas to the south and west, there tended to be a larger number of home renters than in other areas of the district.

To support the growing neighborhood, services such as stores, schools, churches, and entertainment outlets were needed. Along with the trolley lines, these services helped to make the community self-sufficient and quasi-independent from the center of the city. Residents left their neighborhoods only to work and shop, mainly either downtown or at one of the few local factories, like the Meinig Glove factory (now demolished) or the iron foundries near the railroad tracks. Greenwich Street and Schuylkill Ave. developed as the main commercial and transportation thoroughfares in the neighborhood, and the neighborhood grocery developed on many corners throughout the area. Stores like Merget's Grocery at 900 Schuylkill Ave. and Hassler's Drygoods at 500-502 Schuylkill served the community's everyday needs.[10]

There were several neighborhood schools throughout the area, all of which have been demolished or rehabilitated for other uses. Situated throughout the district, there was a school within walking distance for the local children. Two primary grade buildings stood on the southeast corner of Schuylkill Ave. and Greenwich Street, two stood on the east side of North Second Street between Greenwich and Oley streets, and one large elementary school stood on the north side of Douglass Street between Weiser and Ritter streets. The Schuylkill Ave. and N. Second Street buildings have been demolished, and the Douglass Street school was replaced by the Charles Foos elementary school in 1912, which was rehabilitated into apartments in the mid-1980s[11]

Neighborhood churches of all faiths established themselves throughout the district. The construction of these churches occurred as follows: Emmanuel Baptist in 1885, Hope Lutheran in 1887, St. Mark's in 1892, Holy Rosary and St. Mary's Episcopal in 1904, Bethany United in 1907, Bethel AME Church ca. 1920, and the Wesley United Methodist Church that replaced the former Methodist Episcopal church on the same site in 1922.

Finally, and to a lesser degree, entertainment was part of the neighborhood equation. Like the local commercial and retail ventures, the entertainment venues were typically located alone the main thoroughfares. At the turn of the century and during the bulk of the period of significance, neighborhood movie houses appear to have been the entertainment of choice for the people of the Queen Anne Historic District. While live theaters and movie houses had been popular in Reading since the late nineteenth century, it was not until 1911 that the first neighborhood theater in the city opened.[12] The "Olivet" was originally located along Schuylkill Ave. near Oley Street, and was later known as the "Schuylkill Avenue Picture House" and included an open-air theater.[13] Soon to follow was the 1914 Italianate-front "Majestic" theater at 108 Oley Street, which now stands vacant. Also in 1914, the "San Toy" theater opened at the junction of Front and Green streets at the southern edge of the district.[14] The theater was demolished some time between 1926 and 1933 and replaced with a brick Deco- inspired warehouse.[15]

By 1925, the physical development of the district was completed. Most of the homes constructed outside of the district were either built after 1925 or are stylistically different than the Queen Anne and Reading German homes which define this district. These later homes, primarily to the north and some to the west of the district boundaries, exhibit twentieth century stylistic influences such as the Arts and Crafts bungalow and Foursquare with hipped roofs, square columns, straight lines, and stark exterior ornamentation.

As the City limits continued to expand through annexation and suburban growth, the personality of the Queen Anne Historic District remained unchanged. As the automobile become more important to urban society, the physical appearance of the district changed with the emergence of better paved streets, alleys, and parking lots, and through the construction of garages and sheds along the rear property lines that likely replaced carriage houses, sheds, and other early outbuildings. Throughout the balance of the twentieth century, this neighborhood evolved as a microcosm of the larger urban Reading environment. As suburban living became the goal for lower-middle to upper-class professionals, most of the original homeowners left the area and moved several miles westward toward the newly developing suburbs of Wyomissing or West Reading.

Despite the area's changing demographics in the mid- to late-twentieth century, only minor physical changes were made throughout the district. Many homes were "updated" with new exterior materials such as perma-stone or vinyl siding, and porches replaced with wrought iron or, in some cases, removed altogether. Of the buildings constructed after the period of significance, most lie alone the outer district boundaries. While now abandoned, most of the industrial buildings to the south and west of the district are still extant; the smaller industrial buildings within the neighborhood have been recently demolished.

The make-up of the Queen Anne Historic District has continued to change, reflecting trends seen throughout Reading and other small cities in Pennsylvania. By mid-century, the area transitioned to a mostly working class community as most of the middle-class professionals left for areas adjacent to the city limits. By the mid to late 1960s, particularly in the southern and western areas of the district, African-American and Hispanic families moved into the district. By the end of the 1908s, few, if any, of the original families remained from the turn of the century.

The architecture of Reading's Queen Anne Historic District reflects emerging trends of the late nineteenth century, and illustrates the many popular and diverse local and regional architectural trends of the period. Representations of the nationally-popular styles include the Queen Anne and Italianate, and indigenous styles like the Reading German Stick style. In this working and middle-class neighborhood, most buildings are vernacular interpretations of the high style architecture seen in large cities along the East coast.

The Queene Anne Historic District represents a diverse and eclectic range of Victorian-era buildings that are indicative of the district's period of development. Stylistically, buildings from all of the major style groups of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century are represented, as well as the local Reading German Stick style. There is a range of modest vernacular homes to refined and highly-detailed high-style homes. Architecturally, traditional urban residential building types, including rowhouses, twin or double-family homes, and single-family homes are represented in various concentrations throughout the district.

Throughout the course of the research for this nomination, several local sources and records where examined in an effort to identify the architects, builders and contractors who played a role in the development of this area of the city. These records included the search for early building permits, a review of available period real estate literature, as well as a survey of newspaper accounts and other period material collected at the Berks County Historical Society and the Reading Public Library's local history section. Despite these efforts, specific architects, contractors, or builders could not be identified for any of the buildings within the district. It is likely, given the vernacular nature of the architecture and its arrangement in blocks and blocks of rowhouses, that one builder/developer constructed blocks at a time that were sold to homeowners through the aid of the many building associations throughout the city.

The Queen Anne Historic District is one of two late 19th century neighborhoods within the city limits. Most city neighborhoods developed before or after the period of significance, and as a result, their architecture and appearance is markedly different than the Queen Anne Historic District. The earlier neighborhoods are located south and east of the Queen Anne district and were traditionally working class neighborhoods positioned close to industry and transportation centers. In these neighborhoods, the Federal, Italianate, and Reading German styles are prevalent in the densely packed blocks of double-family homes and rowhouses. The later neighborhoods — dating from the 1920s through the mid-twentieth century — are located to the north, northwest, and northeast of the Queen Anne district and developed as a second wave of suburbs as middle-class professionals bought automobiles and moved toward the more open countryside. These homes tend to be larger single or double-family buildings set farther back on larger lots and designed using the then-popular Arts and Crafts vocabulary or Foursquare style.

The area most similar to this district is the locally-listed Centre Park Historic District immediately to the east. This area was developed before and during the time the Queen Anne Historic District was being settled and the balance of the district generally features similar types of architecture and construction. The main difference between the two neighborhoods is the high-style nature of the Centre Park housing, the large number of mansions and free-standing single family homes, and the district's orientation along the "romantic" Centre Ave. and Fifth Street corridors. These three features result in a very different feeling and association in this area, and suggests a slightly different social and economic class of people.

The Queen Anne Historic District is a remarkably intact assemblage of a turn-of-the-century residential and non-residential buildings from the late nineteenth century. The neighborhood is representative and reflective of the growth of the city, the character of its modest neighborhoods, and the architectural diversity of the period.

  1. The following descriptions of contributing and non-contributing buildings to identify into which classification a certain building falls. These classifications are generally based on industry-accepted style guides such as Virginia and Lee McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses, (New York: Knopf, 1991).
  2. McAlester. 264.
  3. F.B. Roe, Map of the City of Reading, Philadelphia, PA: FB Roe, 1881 and 1911). Breou-forsey & Co., Properly and Insurance Atlas of the City of Reading, Pennsylvania.
  4. Reading Planning Commission. "Historic Preservation, Reading, Pennsylvania – A Proposal by the Reading Planning Commission," September 1980. Files of the Reading Historic Preservation Office, i, 28-29.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid., 33.
  7. H.A. DeForest, Reading Old and New (Reading, PA: Reading Herald, 1909).
  8. United States Bureau of the Census, Twelfth Federal United States Census (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1900), Enumeration Districts 98 and 99. United States Bureau of the Census, Thirteenth Federal United States Census (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 19101, Enumeration Districts 98 and 99.
  9. Ibid.
  10. H.A. DeForest, Reading Old and New (Reading, PA: Reading Herald, 1909).
  11. Sanborn Map Company. Insurance Maps of the City of Reading, Pennsylvania, (New York: Sanborn Map Company, 1887 through 1933).
  12. Ricki Hurwitz, "Foos, Charles S. Elementary School," Reading, Pennsylvania. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, July 1983, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Washington, D.C.
  13. George M. and Gloria Jean Meiser, The Passing Scene, (Volume 1, Reading, PA: Berks County Historical Society), 69-73.
  14. Paul Glase, "The Motion Picture Theatre in Reading: Silent Drama Days–1905-1926," Historical Review of Berks County, January 1948,40.
  15. Glase, 40-41. In 1928, the theater at this location closed and the buildings used for a market house and tabernacle. In the intervening years, the building has been demolished.
  16. Glase, 41
  17. According to the Sanborn maps for 1926 and 1933, the stuccoed San Toy theater closed some time after the end of the period of significance ad replaced with a brick chemical warehouse for nearby manufacturers.

Major Bibliographical References:

  • Adams, Charles. Reading, PA: Mirror to the Past. Reading, PA: Charles Adams, 1973.
  • Albright, Raymond W. Two Centuries of Reading, PA: 1748-1948. Reading, PA: Historical Society of Berks County, 1948.
  • R.L. Polk & Co. Reading City Directory. Maiden, MA: R.L. Polk & Co., 1880 through 1925.
  • Breou-Forsey & Co. Property and Insurance Atlas of the City of Reading, Pennsylvania.
  • Bureau of Planning and Development, City of Reading. "Centre Park Historic District," Reading, Pennsylvania. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, not dated, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Washington, D.C. District not listed; photocopy of nomination available at the City of Reading Historic Preservation Office.
  • Davis, F.A. Illustrated Historical Atlas of Berks County. Reading, PA: Reading Publishing House, 1876.
  • Dechant, W.H. Reading and Environs, Berks County, PA. 1911. Copy available at City of Reading Historic Preservation Office.
  • DeForest, H.A. Reading Old and New. Reading, PA: Reading Herald, 1909.
  • Fox, Cyrus T. History of Reading and Berks County. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1925.
  • Geil, John F. Map of the City of Beading. 1857. Copy available at City of Reading Historic Preservation Office.
  • Glase, Paul E. "Annals of the Reading Theater, 1791-1948" in The Historical Review of Berks County, January 1948, pages 40-41.
  • H.R. Page & Co. Reading Illustrated. 1891.
  • Hurwitz, Ricki. "Foos, Charles S. Elementary School," Reading, Pennsylvania. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, July 1983, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Washington, D.C.
  • McAlester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991.
  • Meiser, George M. and Gloria Jean. The Passing Scene, Volumes 1-12. Reading, PA: Berks Comity Historical Society, various dates.
  • Miccicke, Anthony. "Reading Fire Department, 1886-1915: The George Washington Miller Years", 1999. Unpublished manuscript at the Berks Comity Historical Society.
  • Montgomery, Morton. Historical and Biographical Annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania. Volume 1. Chicago, EL: J.H. Beers, 1909.
  • Reading Planning Commission. "Historic Preservation, Reading, Pennsylvania- A Proposal by the Reading Planning Commission," September 1980. Files of the City of Reading Historic Preservation Office; Berks County Public Library, Reading Branch.
  • Roe, F.B. Map of the City of Reading. Philadelphia, PA: F.B. Roe, 1881 and 1911.
  • Sanborn Map Company. Insurance Maps of the City of Reading, Pennsylvania. New York: Sanborn Map Company, 1887.through 1933.
  • Schooler, Alice Kent. 'Veining Glove Factory; E. Richard Meining Co.," Reading, Pennsylvania. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1985, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Washington, D.C.
  • United States Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Federal United States Census. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1900.
  • United States Bureau of the Census. Thirteenth Federal United States Census. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1910.
  • Vertical Files, Berks County Historical Society.

Queen Anne Historic District Map

Street Names
4th Street North • 5th Street North • Centre Avenue • Douglass Street • Madison Avenue • Robeson Street • Rose Street • Spring Street • Windsor Street

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