Revisiting Reading’s Architectural Past – Croll and Keck

I thought it would be fun to create a series of posts showcasing some of the incredible projects in Reading that are a part of the history of Muhlenberg Greene Architects.  It wasn’t until I started searching our photo archives that I was reintroduced to some of the buildings I remember so vividly, and others I wish I could remember.  Among our records are photographs of renderings and sketches that were drawn by our founder, Frederick A. Muhlenberg, or Henry E. Muhlenberg (his partner in Muhlenberg Yerkes Muhlenberg).  It is not known if these were commissioned by the client at the time the project was designed or if they were completed at a later date; we suspect a combination of both.  Whatever the reason, I am certainly glad they exist because we have some gems to share.

There are many examples we could present, but in this series we will focus on some of the well-known Reading landmarks that are part of the legacy of our firm.

First up is one of my absolute favorite buildings Mr. Muhlenberg designed.  As a little girl in the mid-1960s I remember “window shopping” along Penn Street with my grandmother, and Croll and Keck’s store was one of the must-see stops on our walk.

Rendering Croll and Keck

Croll & Keck, a store specializing in men’s and boy’s apparel, was located on the south side of the 600 block of Penn Street, situated next door to Pomeroy’s Department Store.  The Croll & Keck store was designed by Mr. Muhlenberg in 1927.    As you can see in these photographs, its claim to fame was the beautiful lobby ceiling, which was what I was drawn to as a child.  I’m told the colors of the ceiling tiles were blue, but my memory can’t recall this exactly.  What I do remember as a child is how different this store was from all the others in town.

Croll and Keck Entrance Photo - Lobby Ceiling Detail

Unfortunately this building, along with (too) many others, was demolished around 1971 in order to make way for the proposed Reading Downtown Mall which never materialized.

Exterior Photo Croll and Keck Store

If anyone has any stories they would like to share about their visit to Croll & Keck, or if anyone has any knowledge of the history of the store, please feel free to leave us a comment.  We would love to hear from you!

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  1. Joey Shurilla says:

    Such a magnificent piece of work! What once gave Reading its’ stature and dignity!
    It is such a shame to only be kept in photographs. With the “state” of things in present day Reading, I could only imagine the vandalism that would occur. Such a graceful building would really stick out ints very unique surroundings!

  2. Gary Watt says:

    I shopped there numerous times in the early 1960’s. Beautiful men’s store.

  3. Richard chmoyer says:

    I remember walking under that great ceiling, although did most of my college days clothing shopping at John Mazzo during the 1960’s. Croll and Keck was a classy store

  4. Gersil N. Kay, IESNA, AIA/HRC says:

    As founder/chairman of Building Conservation International (BCI), the technical, non-profit educational organization that received the first President of the United States’ Historic Preservation Award for innovative research and practical training in dealing with pre-1940 structures, I was delighted to learn of your activities.

    The present unacceptable economy could be improved if practitioners were trained to enter the huge untapped market for maintaining and energy-upgrading the millions of existing properties erected prior to 1940, and still usable.

  5. Frederick Germann says:

    As a youngster in the late 1950’s and early 60’s I remember the elevator operator and the lattice metal elevator door he would open and close and then the main doors. That wasn’t all he did; he had to position the elevator so that the floor of the elevator was level with the floor you were exiting onto. Sometimes he get in one try, other times he had to make more than one attempt at it. Up on the floor that the Cub and Boy Scout items were sold, the tile floor would accentuate your foot steps. It was a very unique sound that was not encountered anyplace else.

  6. Larry Kohl says:

    Remember Croll and Keck well, although when we came downtown in the 60’s to do some before school shopping, it was usually Joseph’s, which if I remember correctly was in the same block and on the same side as C&K. Beautiful entry way, made you feel like you were in a cave, similar to the ones we would explore through off Water street between Laureldale and Temple.

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