The History of Sinking Spring

The native Lenni Lenape Indians, who first inhabited Sinking Spring, named the heavily timbered area Sunken Spring because of the periodic appearances and disappearances of the spring. Settlers, attracted to the plentiful watering source, arrived in 1793.

Local farmers, attracted to the water source for their cattle, brought their animals by the shortest routes over the hilly landscape. Their unplanned cow paths eventually became local streets. The main east/west route from Philadelphia to Harrisburg later became known as the William Penn Highway, presently U.S. Route 422 or Penn Avenue. There were two toll gates at either end of the little ‘sunken spring’ village.

There is a stone monument in the 3800 block of Penn Avenue, placed to identify “The Spring.” The spring is in an area that resembles a ditch, and a small run was built to direct water under Penn Avenue. The flow eventually ends up in the Cacoosing Creek.

Early 1800s industry included iron ore mining along Cacoosing Avenue. Other manufacturing included cigar making at Penn and Columbia Avenues, textile fabrication, and soap making, where Hoffman Industries now stands off Shillington Road. Later in 1857, Brown’s Feed Mill was opened at the railroad crossing on Columbia Avenue and South Hull Street and still operates today. One of the original four hotels, the Railroad House, remains at the railroad crossing and is a popular local restaurant and bar today.

The Borough of Sinking Spring was incorporated on March 13, 1913. Organizing a borough was challenging and included laying out, grading, naming new streets, and installing streetlights and sidewalks. Property owners had to be persuaded to give up land so that the borough could be laid out to the best advantage of all concerned.

Early citizen concerns included safety and health, proclamations against firecrackers, removal of cattle pens near residences, and a speed limit of 15 MPH was established in 1919. The Liberty Fire Co. followed in 1921. A trolley line was established between Reading and the western Berks County farmlands but was abandoned in 1935, followed by the paving of Penn Avenue in 1939.

Businesses in the early 20th Century included Holtzman’s Hardware 1920, Kurtz’s Drug Store 1925, Miller Builder Supply 1931, Sinclair Oil 1932, the Graffius Vault Works 1939, Stief’s Poultry 1947, Kohl’s Roofing and Stoudts Restaurant 1950, Sharman’s Music Store 1959, Weaver’s Art Shop 1960, and Hirshland’s Furniture Shop 1960. In 1963 there were still farms on the main streets of the borough; Hostetter Farm and James’ Place along Penn Avenue and Stief’s Grandview Acres along Columbia Avenue. The town’s most historically prominent person was Paul Specht, Big Band Leader in the 1920s & 30s, who became famous worldwide for his band’s ‘syncopated rhythm’ musical style.

In the 21st Century, the borough has seen over 52% growth in population since 2000, totaling over 1,400 households. Sinking Spring’s median household income is $65,526, higher than the Commonwealth at large by $17,000 per year.

Several oil and gas pipeline terminals and distribution companies are located in Sinking Spring and cross over into South Heidelberg Township. The Sunoco Logistics Montello Complex is the company’s Eastern Pipeline System headquarters, a local trucking terminal, and a major midstream terminal for refined products, mainly originating from the Philadelphia and Marcus Hook refineries. Sunoco’s pipelines out of Montello provide gasoline, diesel fuel, and heating oil to large markets in Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Rochester and smaller markets near Harrisburg, Altoona, Williamsport, Tamaqua, Kingston, and Corning/Elmira, NY.

Also located in Sinking Spring is the Alcon Laboratories “Alcon Precision Device” facility, used to produce disposable, single, and multi-use medical devices. The devices are manufactured for eye surgeries worldwide, including cataract and vit surgery, including the scalpels and sutures used. Alcon is a division of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, Novartis, and is the borough’s largest employer.