Antique diner in Pennside may end up back in Exeter Township
By David Mekeel
The antique Reading Diner could soon be heading back to Exeter Township.
According to paperwork filed in the township office, the process to move the 1938 dining car to the Antietam Valley Recreation and Community Center is under way.
The dining car was removed from Fegely's Family Restaurant on Perkiomen Avenue when the restaurant was torn down in 2005.
The Archbury Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Wyomissing, moved the dining car to a site in the 800 block of Carsonia Avenue in Pennside, Lower Alsace Township.
Plans to restore it and open it as a museum have not been realized.
Cheryl A. Franckowiak, Exeter Township zoning officer, said the township has been working with Archbury Foundation Director James R. Swope for nearly a year to relocate the dining car to the recreation center at 905 Byram St. on the Exeter-Mount Penn border.
A storm water management plan is close to being finished. When it's done, the foundation can submit a building permit application, Franckowiak said.
Swope could not be reached for comment.
Exeter Township Manager Troy S. Bingaman said he would welcome the dining car back to Exeter, adding that township supervisors also seemed to support the idea when Swope spoke to them at a meeting Nov. 22.
Along with the storm water plan, the Archbury Foundation would need to ensure the project meets township ordinances before a building application is granted.
Time may be running short.
According to the minutes of the Nov. 22 township meeting, Swope told supervisors that the foundation has a $49,000 Berks County Community Block Grant due to expire Jan. 1. It was extended once and he doubted it would be extended again, he said.
Swope said the dining car would be placed at the end of the recreation center building, facing Carsonia Lake, according to meeting minutes.
Thomas and Linda Orth, who own the Lower Alsace site where the diner rests, have said they are upset it has fallen into disrepair.
They claim the Archbury Foundation has not lived up to a promise to pay the property taxes on the site.
•Contact reporter David Mekeel at 610-371-5014 or email@example.com.
The "Abandoned Luncheonette" in Pennside?
You may remember the band Hall & Oates and their 1973 album the Abandoned Luncheonette. A recent Reading Eagle news article would lead you to believe that the "Abandoned Lunchonette" now resides in Pennside.
From the Reading Eagle 11/3/2008 :
Restoration still not on the menu at rescued Reading Diner
By David Mekeel
When a giant crane pulled a 1930s diner from the former Fegely's Restaurant and a crew carefully moved it to a new home in Pennside, it seemed like a piece of local history had been saved.
Three years later, things aren't so clear.
The plan was to restore the old Reading Diner to its former glory. A Wyomissing-based organization called the Archbury Foundation said it would remove the diner from Fegely's in Exeter Township and move it to the Pennside neighborhood in Lower Alsace Township.
The plan was to transform it into a museum and meeting place that would serve traditional diner fare.
So far, the grand refurbishing has yet to happen.
Sitting on a concrete foundation along Carsonia Avenue, the structure, designed to look like a railroad car, shows its age with rusting metal, chipping paint and splitting wood.
Inside the diner's dirty windows are a cracked and scuffed tile floor, scratched and broken wooden booths and tables and stools that are missing their tops.
"Basically, they've left the diner to rot," said Linda K. Orth, who along with her husband, Thomas, owns the land where the diner sits. "They've basically left it to die."
Thomas Orth is chairman of the Lower Alsace supervisors.
Repeated efforts to reach James R. Swope, president of the Archbury Foundation, by telephone were unsuccessful. E-mail sent through the group's Web site was not answered.
Linda Orth said she is dismayed with the lack of progress on the restoration. The diner was moved in October 2005 during the demolition of Fegely's, which had operated along Perkiomen Avenue for decades. The diner had been encased in the restaurant since 1950.
"It was a big hoopla, but it kind of fizzled and faded," Orth said. "It's turning into a rust bucket. It's just a darn shame because it's such a unique piece of history."
Lower Alsace officials said they have no information about what's going on with the diner.
Township Manager Elaine E. Bildstein said the township hasn't received any permit applications for work on the diner or to move it.
"We're in the dark," she said. "We have no idea what's going on with it."
Bildstein shared Orth's disappointment with the lack of progress.
"We thought it was going to be fixed up," she said. "But it's just sitting there rusting."
Linda Orth said the Archbury Foundation also has not lived up to an agreement to pay taxes on the diner property. In three years the group has made only one tax payment and currently owes the couple about $1,500, she said.
End of the 11/3/08 Reading Eagle newspaper article.
The recent newspaper article, headed for the bottom of the bird cage to be sure, adorns the "rotting" diner window.
This photo courtesy of the Historical Review of Berks County, the journal of the Historical Society of Berks County, Fall 2004. The photo credit is George Meiser IX.