In July 1869, a call was made for interested citizens to gather “for the purpose of collecting and perpetuating the historical reminisces of Berks County.” Following the first meeting in August, the Historical Society of Berks County was incorporated on December 13, 1869. Known as the Hendel House, it is located directly across from Centre Park at 746 Centre Avenue.Founded in 1869, the Historical Society of Berks County (HSBC) operates the Berks History Center as a museum and library located in Reading, Pennsylvania.The Society's mission, as described on its website, is "to focus attention on the unique local history, the vast material culture, and the diverse cultural heritage of Berks County by preserving, archiving, and promoting this material to instill in our citizens of all ages and ethnic groups an awareness of this growing treasure trove of information.Access to the library is free for members of the Historical Society of Berks County.There is a charge of per day for library access for non-members. The Historical Society first started collecting objects in June, 1898.Children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Its first building, purchased in June 1904 from the Reading Gas Company, was located at 519 Court Street. Less than ten years later, the burgeoning Historical Society needed a larger building, and J. The cornerstone for the present building was laid in the summer of 1928, and construction was completed the following year. Muhlenberg of Muhlenberg Brothers, to be a fireproof structure to house the collection and archives, it is made of concrete and brick.Included in the library collection are various books on local genealogy and history, Fraktur, broadsides, photographs, almanacs, sheet music, ledgers from local businesses, newspapers dating back to 1796, blueprints, surveys, maps, city directories from 1856, census records, numerous archival collections, Schuylkill Navigation Company and Union Canal plans, tax records from 1753, among other documents. Meetings were held in the Exchange Building located on North 6th Street in Reading, PA. The present facility was dedicated on October 1, 1929. Needing more office, display, and storage space, the Historical Society embarked on a fund raising campaign in the 1980s.
There are numerous genealogical resources (many on Pennsylvania Dutch history) available to Library users, including church and cemetery records dating back to the 1730s. The new building addition was opened in 1988, providing the library with its own dedicated storage and research space.Extensive computer database are keyword searchable, and available on the website to start conducting genealogical and historical research. Again faced with storage concerns, the Historical Society took possession of its first off-site property in 2000.The Society educates students from public and private schools in the area and is visited by researchers from all over the country. The Society has a large transportation collection, including bicycles, a very rare horse drawn streetcar, a Conestoga Wagon, a Duryea automobile, and other wagons, some of which are on display at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles located in Boyertown, PA.The museum has an historical object collection exceeding 20,000 items. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum hosts up to three temporary exhibits a year. The Henry Janssen Library, located at 160 Spring Street, Reading, PA, is the center for genealogical and historical research at the Historical Society of Berks County.
This allows the HSBC to be a major cultural magnet, drawing people to our community." The Historical Society houses materials relating to the early history of Berks County in its Museum and in the Henry Janssen Library.
Over 10,000 members and patrons visit during the year. Reeser, Christopher Shearer, Victor Shearer, and Frederick Spang.