Reading PA Historic Sites

Civil War

Berks County Civil War Trail

Pennsylvania has proven its status as the "Keystone State" through all major developments in American history, the Civil War being no exception. Our high school history books have well chronicled the battle at Gettysburg and the occupation of York, but the true heart of the Union was the pure innovative industrial might and commitment of citizens to the preservation of the United States. Greater Reading, being home to the Ringgold Light Artillery, Reading Railroad, two iron furnaces, and stops along the Underground Railroad, serves as an outstanding example of the innovation and dedication that were the driving forces behind the turning point of American history. Discover the deeper history of the Civil War as it relates to scenic Berks County on Greater Reading’s Civil War Trail. 

Greater Reading Civil War Trail Map

One Day Trip

Joanna Furnace
1250 Furnace Road Geigertown, PA 19523
GPS: N40° 11.7841', W075° 52.697'
Take a ride on the Greater Reading Civil War Trail. Coming from Lancaster, make your way to Rt. 10 to hit the first stop on the trail, the historic Joanna Furnace. As you enter the park, take note of the surrounding woods where runaway slaves could take refuge on their long journeys north to freedom. Be sure to tour the grounds and experience one of the charcoal iron furnaces that became the power behind the American Civil War by supplying pig iron for weapons used by the Union Army.

Hopewell Furnace
2 Mark Bird Lane Elverson, PA 19520
GPS: N40.20667’ W075.767660’
After whetting your appetite with the “iron plantation” history behind the Civil War, meander back roads to Hopewell Furnace in the heart of French Creek State Park. Don’t let the drive pass by too quickly, or you’ll miss the subtle beauty of Pennsylvania’s expanse of corn fields over rolling hills and lush wooded areas. When you reach the furnace, let the friendly and knowledgeable park rangers and costumed staff introduce you to the full history of the village before taking yourself on a self guided tour of the historic structures. Imagine the weight that was lifted off of the shoulders of runaway slaves when they learned the Hopewell Furnace would allow them to work and earn equal pension to that of a white man. Take advantage of the live demonstrations to fully experience how the furnace produced iron for weapons used by the Union Army. Finally, take in the beautiful scenery on a walk along the trails in the woods which provided security for runaway slaves.

f you’d like to continue on and see more of Reading’s Civil War history, rest for the night at one of our excellent accommodations and enjoy one of our historic dining facilities to round out the experience.

Other Ideas:

Central Pennsylvania African American Museum
119 N. Tenth Street Reading, PA 19601
GPS: N40° 20.2361', W075° 55.0657'
Now that you’ve experienced the Civil War history of Greater Reading’s scenic semi-rural area, it’s time to travel into the city for a closer look at Reading’s historical significance. First stop is the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum located at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest black-owned church in Berks County. The museum not only holds records and artifacts relating to American black slavery, but is also a first hand witness to the Civil War as the church was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Historical Society of Berks County
940 Centre Avenue Reading, PA 19601
GPS: N40° 21.0232', W075° 55.9522'
Sink your teeth into local history at our Historical Society. Explore the library, archives and exhibits for the stories of the four firsts in Berks: Ringgold Light Artillery, Ringgold Band, Ladies First Aid Society, and the first Civil War flag.
Ladies Volunteer Aid Society

Reading Railroad Heritage Museum
500 South Third Street Hamburg, PA
GPS: N40° 32.8543', W075° 58.8684'
Continue your travels north of Reading to Hamburg and visit the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum. Allow the enthusiastic staff to guide you through the history of the Reading Railroad as you imagine the nervous excitement of Union troops as they boarded the Philadelphia bound trains or the intense pressure on the workers in the yard to prepare the armor rail cars in time to protect our nation’s capital. Take the yard tour to get a closer look at the iron giants themselves. This outdoor exhibit features over 70 locomotives that once accelerated down the Reading lines between 1833 and 1976. You might want to check out the quaint town of Hamburg while you are here.

And More
Speckled Hen Cottage Pub & Alehouse
Berks County Genealogical Society
Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles

Civil War Cemeteries

  • Union Cemetery
  • Mohn’s Hill
  • Schwarzwald/Jacksonwald Cemetery
  • Spies Church
  • St. John Gernant’s Church Cemetery
  • Rock Baptist
  • Oley Church – Christ Church in Spangsville
  • Alm’s House
  • Aulenbach’s Cemetery
  • Alsace Cemetery
  • Trinity Cemetery
  • Charles Evan’s Cemetery
  • St. John’s Gibralter
  • Bern Church
  • Huff Church
  • Plow Church
  • Fairview Cemetery
  • Hope Cemetery
  • Cemetery at the AME Mount Frisby Church, or the Six Penny Colored Church
  • Isaac Cole’s property
  • Old Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church – current site of the CPAAM
  • Bethesda Church in Hopewell Village
April 2014
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