May 22, 2022

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Berks Places: West Hamburg Hotel, now home of The Westy, was a major landmark of the Tilden town | Local News

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Berks Places is a recurring feature that will focus on small villages and census designated places throughout the county. History, nostalgia and local voices will shed some light on the quaint nooks and crannies of our area. Additional historical photographs accompany the online version of the articles.

West Hamburg is a section of Tilden Township that lies west of the Schuylkill River in northern Berks County. Prior to Tilden’s organization in 1887, it was part of Upper Bern Township. It includes the area where the Cabela’s store and surrounding commercial area has been built.

One of the most prominent landmarks of this census-designated place was built in 1870 by Solomon Seaman and John Williams, the National House Hotel. Today, the hulking structure at 279 W. State St. is home to the The Westy Bar & Grill. The property has been owned by Robert A. and Pamela J. Franklin since 2001 according to county deed records. Members of the Ebling family had the longest run of ownership, from 1917 to 1962 according to deeds.

“The post office at West Hamburg was in the old hotel and was named Berks on Dec. 22, 1879, with Alfred S. Seaman as first postmaster,” Berks County historian George M. Meiser IX wrote in an email. “It closed Oct. 1, 1925, at which time its name became West Hamburg. So, it was West Hamburg from Oct. 1, 1925, until shuttered July 14, 1967.  The first West Hamburg postmaster was William B. Kline.”

Meiser said the post office name of Berks caused a lot of confusion for postal customers and resulted in misdirected mail.

Postal zones, a precursor to zone improvement plans or ZIP codes, were not implemented until May 1943. The ZIP code was officially launched July 1, 1963. Robert A. Moon, who died in 2001, is widely regarded as an inventor of the ZIP code.

The West Hamburg Post Office, which existed from Oct. 1, 1925, to July 14, 1967, was located in this general store at 278 W. State St. in Tilden Township. The image appears in Volume 21 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. The store portion of the building is now home to Smokin’ Brays BBQ.

The West Hamburg Post Office was located across the street from the National Hotel and shared the building at 278 W. State St. with a general store and an attached residence at 274 W. State St. The Bubbenmoyer family owned the property from 1927 to 1950. Today it is owned by Bray Properties LLC, with a grantee representative address listed as being owned by Alexander D. Yoder on the deed. The former store is now home to Smokin’ Brays BBQ.

State Street, also known as Old 22 and the Hex Highway, is the main thoroughfare in the old section of West Hamburg. It includes a mix of residential, commercial and industrial areas.

Tilden Elementary Center, at 524 W. State St., was completed in 2008. It replaced four schools: Hamburg Elementary, Strausstown Elementary, Tilden Elementary, and Upper Berne Elementary.

West Hamburg BW PR RR Station 1882

A photograph taken circa 1882 by W.J. Lochman shows the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Station in West Hamburg on the west side of the Schuylkill River near the West Hamburg Hotel. It appears in volume 9 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser courtesy of Emmie Steeley. The book states the structure was built in 1877 and that the depot was razed in the spring of 1992.

The West Hamburg railroad station and depot of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, which was across the street from the National House/West Hamburg Hotel was a major feature of the area until it was removed in the 1990s.

The station was constructed in 1877. 

“When the Historical Society (of Berks County) ran a rail ramble in 1983, we arranged for the chicken dinners to be delivered to this old depot, which was on its last legs,” Meiser said.

According to research by former historical Society associate director Joshua K. Blay, when the Reading Company Railroad went bankrupt, the railroad in West Hamburg became part of the Conrail system in 1976 and was then purchased by the Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad. The historical society is now Berks History Center.

West Hamburg BW 1950s Reading Tracks

West Hamburg in the 1950s looking southward in Tilden Township. According to research by the former Historical Society of Berks County associate director Joshua K. Blay, when the Reading Company Railroad went bankrupt, the railroad in West Hamburg became part of the Conrail system in 1976 and was then purchased by the Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad. The photograph appears in Volume 19 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser.

Blay’s research, featured in Volume 9 of “The Passing Scene” by Meiser and his wife, Gloria Jean, also said the depot was removed by Conestoga Foundry Supply as it expanded its operations. Today the business at 7 Hill Drive is known as Kore Mart Limited.

The P&R railroad depot measured 31 feet by 86 feet and was razed in the spring of 1992 according to Meiser.

He said the Pennsylvania Railroad also had a station and depot, but across the river in Hamburg proper.

Brick-making was an early industry in West Hamburg Meiser said.

“Work is progressing very rapidly on the new Hamburg Brick Works, West Hamburg, Pa.,” reported the Sept. 15, 1893, edition of The Brickmaker. The industry publication also mentions that the Hamburg Brick Co. Ltd. of Fourth and Spruce streets, Reading, was installing equipment to make vitrified street paving brick.

So as the 20th century began, Hamburg bricks could be made in West Hamburg or Reading and addressing a letter to Berks, Pa., may have had it ending up in the town’s post office.

West Hamburg 2021 The Westy Bar Grill

The Westy Bar & Grill, 279 W. State St. in West Hamburg, Tilden Township, on April 23, 2021. The building has been known as the West Hamburg Hotel, Ebling’s Hotel and The National House. It is currently owned by Robert A. and Pamela J. Franklin.

West Hamburg by the numbers

Population: 2,108

Age: 1.5{2c7239c9a7a702744f50a2550e3a606796d212ac94bcade170c7080cb738bbda} under age 5; 83.1{2c7239c9a7a702744f50a2550e3a606796d212ac94bcade170c7080cb738bbda} age 18 and older; and 22.7{2c7239c9a7a702744f50a2550e3a606796d212ac94bcade170c7080cb738bbda} age 65 and older

Total area: 3.3 square miles

Median household income: $52,454

Employment rate: 63.8{2c7239c9a7a702744f50a2550e3a606796d212ac94bcade170c7080cb738bbda}

Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

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