Barto grew as the need for rail service for the region’s steel industry increased



Berks Places is a recurring feature that will focus on small towns and designated enumeration locations across the county. History, nostalgia and local voices will illuminate the picturesque nooks and crannies of our region. Additional historical photographs accompany the online version of the articles.

The village of Barto in Washington Township was developed in 1869 by Thomas Christman, guardian of Abraham H. Barto, according to Morton L. Montgomery’s “History of Berks County in Pennsylvania,” published in 1886. When it was first laid out, the town was known as Mount Pleasant in because of its proximity to Mount Pleasant Furnace once stood Montgomery wrote.

Its formation was a direct result of the installation of the Colebrookdale Railroad, a section of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad that ran from Pottstown to Boyertown. The 12.8 mile line opened in 1869 with eight stations along the route.

Adam Richter – Reading Eagle

Barto is an unincorporated village in Washington Township in southern Berks County. (Adam Richter – Reading Eagle)

“Barto’s post office was established as Barto’s on March 16, 1882,” Berks County historian George M. Meiser IX wrote in an email last week. “He was renamed Bartos on December 1, 1894 and on August 20, 1902 he was renamed Barto again. During the time of the three changes, Benjamin F. Sell was postmaster.

As inconstant as the story seems to be with the spelling, Montgomery also noted that Abram H. Barto was the son of Isaac Bartow, “as the name was first spelled”, and his second wife, Magdalena Huber.

Bartow and his first wife, Elizabeth Feger, had moved in 1813 from Oley to 150 acres in what was then Hereford Township and is now Washington Township, according to Montgomery. Abram, also known as Abraham in some deeds and references, inherited the property when he was only 10 years old after his father’s death on June 27, 1865.

According to the county deeds, Abraham’s guardian, Thomas Christman, sold two parcels totaling 4 acres of Barto’s land to the Colebrookdale Railroad for $ 1,286.30 on August 1, 1870. A station / depot was built on the site and was originally called Mount Pleasant because of its proximity to the old Mount Pleasant Furnace, Montgomery wrote.

“The name was changed to Barto in 1875 by the railway company, to distinguish it from other places of the same name,” says Montgomery’s book. “In 1881, it contained a store, a hotel, 13 apartments and 66 inhabitants. A large charcoal and lumber business is operated by William D. Schall. A large and valuable deposit of magnetic iron ore has been mined in the immediate vicinity. “

Mines continue to make their presence known today.

“You may remember the Eagle published several articles about a year ago regarding the opening of a huge chasm in Barto, ”Meiser said. “A few years ago a teenager fell into one of the old blastholes, which got a lot of attention. This whole area around Barto is mined.

Despite the propensity of old mines to grab the headlines, they cannot be visited.

  • Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle

    The former Barto Hotel, now operating as the Whiskey Girl Saloon at 140 Barto Road in Washington Township, July 28, 2021 (Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle)

  • Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle

    The facade of the former Barto Hotel on July 28, 2021. It now operates as the Whiskey Girl Saloon and is located at 140 Barto Road in Washington Township. (Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle)

  • Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle

    A look northwest on Barto Road towards the intersection with the old Highway 100 in Washington Township, July 28, 2021 (Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle)

  • Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle

    The National Center for Padre Pio is located at 111 Barto Road in Washington Township. It airs July 28, 2021. (Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle)

  • Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle

    Former Barto Station, left, is now a residence at the corner of Birch Mill Lane and Barto Road in Washington Township on July 28, 2021. Kathleen M. Brown has owned the building since 2017 (Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle)

“Barto’s most interesting site is Barto’s old train depot at the end of the Colebrookdale railway line,” Meiser said. “When I first visited the depot maybe 40 years ago, it was in wonderful and restored condition. After the death of this owner the following people did nothing to the structure, and the last time I visited it was in terrible shape which is a crime!

The old station is now a residence at 143 Barto Road, and the exterior appears to have been updated.

The original Barto Hotel is still located at 140 Barto Road and currently operates as the Whiskey Girl Saloon. The building has been owned by Atlantis Business Ventures Inc. since August 10, 2017.

  • In 1908, John B. Baus, inset, was the owner of the Barto Hotel. He operated the hotel from 1902 to 1928 based on volume 1 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. Photographs appear in the book courtesy of Nellie Baus Stepp, daughter of John Baus. (Courtesy of George M. Meiser IX / Nellie Baus Stepp)

  • The Barto Hotel in 1977. The photograph was taken by local historian George M. Meiser IX and included in volume 1 of “The Passing Scene”, which he and his wife, Gloria Jean, wrote. (George M. Meiser IX)

  • An old postcard shows the Barto General Store, which sometimes housed the post office. It was erected in 1878 by Abram Barto and operated by Benjamin F. Sell, who was also the village’s first postmaster according to volume 1 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. (Courtesy of George M. Meiser IX)

  • Captain William A. Schall, left, ran a charcoal, feed and lumber business at the pictured site in Barto, Washington Township for more than two decades. In 1908 Barto’s post office was operating in the frame building to the right based on volume 1 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. At right, inset, is Elva G. Reed who served as Barto’s postmaster from 1920 to 1962. Larry L. Kemmerer provided the photo for the Meisers book. (Courtesy of George M. Meiser IX / Larry L. Kemmerer)

  • The former Barto general store in 1977 after its conversion into a residence. Local historian George M. Meiser IX took the photo and it appears in Volume 1 of his “The Passing Scene” book series, which was co-authored with his wife, Gloria Jean. (George M. Meiser IX)

  • Construction of Bartio Station was completed in 1871 and is shown in 1908 in a photograph provided by Larry L. Kemmerer for inclusion in Volume 1 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. The station was built on the grounds of Abram H. Barto, inset. (Courtesy of George M. Meiser IX / Larry L. Kemmerer)

  • The Barto One-Class School is said to have been built in the 1880s to replace an older building elsewhere according to Volume 1 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. After its closure in 1952, the building was transformed into a residence. Larry L. Kemmerer provided the photograph for inclusion in Meisers’ book. (Courtesy of George M. Meiser IX / Larry L. Kemmerer)

  • Local historian George M. Meiser IX created this map of Barto, Washington Township in 1982 and included it in Volume 1 of “The Passing Scene” by him and his wife, Gloria Jean Meiser. It depicts the property in the range from 1875 to 1878. (George M. Meiser IX)

  • A sketch by Abram H. Barto that appears in Morton L. Montgomery’s “History of Berks County in Pennsylvania” published in 1886. (Courtesy Morton L. Montgomery)

Barto is also home to a world-famous spiritual destination that honors Catholic Saint Padre Pio, born Francesco Forgione in Pietrelcina, Italy on May 25, 1887.

Vera and Harry Calandra of Norristown founded the National Center for Padre Pio in 1971 to honor the man who would become a saint. The Calandras’ daughter, Vera Marie, was born in 1966 with a life-threatening birth defect. After an audience with Padre Pio in Italy in 1968, the little girl begins to heal.

Padre Pio is recognized as the first priest to bear the stigmata, the wounds that Jesus Christ suffered on the cross, according to the Saint Pio Foundation. The wounds manifested themselves on Pio’s body from September 20, 1918. Pope John Paul II declared Padre Pio as Saint Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002.

Three of the six Calandras children still work at the shelter at 111 Barto Road in Washington Township.


Previous REITs pump up to 7,605 cr in September so far
Next Stock futures are calm as economic data comes in