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Berks Places: Strausstown was once a borough with three hotels and was founded in 1840

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.

In the northern reaches of Berks County along Route 183 and just south of Interstate 78 is Strausstown, an unincorporated village and census-designated place in Upper Tulpehocken Township.

It was founded in 1840 when distiller John Strauss laid out his land in plots and began selling them. Deed records show Strauss had purchased a little over 20 acres from Jacob Kritzer in 1839 for $800.

Map of Strausstown PA
Strausstown is an unincorporated village in Upper Tulpehocken Township. (Adam Richter — Reading Eagle)

“The first house in the place was built on a lot from the Batteiger tract, purchased by Joseph Boltz, March 28, 1835; and the house built by Boltz that year has been occupied by him since,”  historian Morton L. Montgomery wrote in his 1886  “History of Berks County in Pennsylvania.” “The second house was also begun in 1835, but it was not completed until the following year. It was built by Jacob and Joseph Klahr, and now forms part of the Centre Hotel.”

Montgomery explained that the Batteigers were a branch of the Potteiger family who chose to spell the surname differently.

It is much the same in the Strauss family, which has spawned members spelling the surname Strause and Strouse.

“The first store in this locality was begun about 60 years ago, in what is now the eastern part of the village, by a man named Uhlman,” Montgomery wrote. “In 1836 Samuel Shollenberger opened a store in the building put up by the Klahrs, but it was shortly followed by Michael K. Boyer and Daniel Batteiger. Then came Daniel Boltz and others.”

According to local historian George M. Meiser IX and Montgomery, the first post office opened there Nov. 19, 1847. Meiser said it was spelled Straustown, with one “s,” and remained that way until 1867.

Montgomery says the first postmaster was Jacob Boltz, and mail came once a week from Allentown.

“The day the original designation ceased, it reopened that same day as StrauSStown, with Solomon Strauss as postmaster,” Meiser wrote in an email. “The office remains operating as ZIP Code 19559.”

Strausstown Post Office 2021
The Strausstown Post Office, 72 Main St., on Nov. 2, 2021. The town has had a post office since Nov. 19, 1847, and the current spelling was adopted in 1867. It serves Zip Code 19559. (Susan E. Miers Smith — Reading Eagle)

According to the United States Postal Service, Patricia K. Moyer was the last official postmaster, appointed July 3, 1999. Aimee Scherer was appointed officer in charge on Jan. 24 2013, and is postmaster of Shartlesville. Strausstown was converted to a remotely managed post office under the direction of the postmaster of the Shartlesville post office on Jan. 26, 2013.

Strausstown was an independent municipality for a time. In 1920 it broke away from Upper Tulpehocken Township to become a borough. In 2016, borough and township residents voted to merge Strausstown with the township.

Post Precision Castings, 21 Walnut St., Strausstown on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. The company makes metal castings for the oil, gas and nuclear industries and other commercial purposes. (Susan E. Miers Smith — Reading Eagle)

A major industrial site in the village is Post Precision Castings, 21 Walnut St. It employs 140 people and is a custom manufacturer of metal castings for the oil, gas and nuclear industries and other commercial endeavors.

Montgomery wrote that in the past, tanning was Strausstown’s chief industry.

“The most important industry Strausstown ever had was the extensive tannery of Michael Miller,” Montgomery said. “It was established as early as 1825 by John Himmelberger. … Miller rebuilt the tannery and added improvements from time to time, until it was an extensive establishment. He used modern methods and made all grades of leather successfully. He continued for about 30 years, until 1876.”

Another industry that thrived in Strausstown was cigar making. There were three manufacturers in the town in 1885.

Of course no village in Berks seems to have flourished without at least one hotel that ended up being a major gathering spot for good meals and drinks.

The building at 85 Main St./Old Route 22 first operated as hotel in 1865 when it was known as Centre House according to Meiser and Centre Hotel according to Montgomery. It was later known as Miller’s Hotel and last operated as a guesthouse when it was known as Doll’s Hotel.

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Strausstown cartoon
Leroy Gensler — Reading Eagle

Reading Eagle artist Leroy Gensler created this cartoon to accompany a series of articles titled “Rambles in Berks” by Robert Bamford that was published in 1939 and 1940. Well-known members of the Strausstown community at the time and landmarks are depicted. The cartoon also appears in Volume 16 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. (Leroy Gensler — Reading Eagle)

In 1886, Montgomery wrote that there were three hotels, four stores and several mechanic shops in Strausstown.

“There are good pavements and the few hundred inhabitants are prosperous,” Montgomery said.

Almost directly across the street from Doll’s Hotel was the Strausstown General Store, at 86-90 Main St. According to Volume 16 of “The Passing Scene” by Meiser and his wife, Gloria Jean, on 19th-century maps the site is designated as S. Strause’s store and post office. The building was destroyed by fire July 19, 2006.

What used to be the store is now an open lot next to C & C Pizza and Restaurant at 92 Main St.

1953 photograph of Strausstown National Bank
The former Strausstown National Bank was built in 1919 and is shown in 1953. According to Volume 16 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser, where the photo appears, the homes on the right and left of the bank were removed to provide drive-up window access. (Courtesy of George M. Meiser IX)

In the center of town, Strausstown National Bank was erected at 75 Main St. in 1919. Homes immediately to the right and left were demolished to create a drive-thru window as customer demands changed.

It ceased operating as a bank when the M&T Branch closed in April 2015. Today, the bank building is the headquarters of the real estate division of Reading & Northern Railroad Co.

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Strausstown by the numbers

Population: 409

Age: 15.4% under age 5; 33.2% under age 18; 66.8% age 18 and older; and 8.9% age 65 and older

Total area: .3 of a square mile

Median household income: $48,958

Employment rate: 66.1%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates (2020 information is set to be available by Nov. 30, 2021 according to the U.S. Census)


Source: Berkshire mont

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