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Gathering focuses on preserving Berks County's history

By Kimberly Davidow, Reporter
Published On: Oct 08 2012 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 09 2012 05:50:52 PM CDT

Is Berks County losing its cultural identity? That question is being posed by county historical advocacy groups and state officials.

READING, Pa. -

Is Berks County losing its cultural identity? That question is being posed by county historical advocacy groups and state officials.

Berks County has a rich history dating back to 1752.

"We've got over 250 years of legacy that we preserve here," said Sime Bertolet, executive director of the Historical Society of Berks County

In recent years, Bertolet said it has become a challenge to decide what parts of the past should be preserved for the future.

"The historical society does not have authority to determine what happens to a historical property. All that we can provide is the information that might give some background as to the importance of that location," said Bertolet.

About two months ago, Bertolet said he received a call from Pa. Sen. Judy Schwank, expressing her concerns that not enough was being done to preserve the county's history. Most recently in August, a 196-year-old rustic farmhouse in Maxatawny Township, containing possible burial plots, was knocked down to make way for a future convenience store.

"At the very least, some of the artifacts inside the building could have been removed, so that they could be used in other buildings," said Schwank.

About 10 years ago, the county planning commission took an inventory of historically relevant buildings, which now needs to be updated, Schwank said.

"Let's be proactive about it. Let's determine what is valuable, what we care about and save those things that we can," said Schwank.

On Tuesday, the state senator met with local and state preservation leaders to discuss her concerns.

Historic preservation is very important in Berks County, said Schwank, because history enhances the quality of life and shows people why this region is so important.

"We know we can't save everything," said Schwank.

However, what can be saved, Schwank believes, should be take care of for future generations to enjoy.