History of the Hendel House

The Hendel House was built in 1877 as an investment property by Reading attorney, James Ermentrout.  In 1897, the property was purchased by financier, Charles W. Hendel, who was the owner of a hat factory located at south 3rd street in Reading.  Mr. Hendel hired Mulenberg Brothers Architects of Reading to redesign the modest Gothic Revival style cottage, transforming it into a spacious Queen Anne style mansion.  The structure was then significantly enlarged, and graced with elegant appointments throughout.

Tad Kelby Casner, a Reading antiquarian and watchmaker, has studied the house, and published about its historical origin and significance.  His research has led to an understanding that popular during the 1880s and 1890s, the Queen Anne style was inspired by the manor houses of Elizabethan England.  Elements of this style are found on the exterior of the Hendel House in the low, overhanging eaves, side turret,  projecting balcony, and corbelled brick chimneys.  Casner has educated that “the remodeling also shows influences of the Colonial Revival style.  The classical pediment and columns on the front are evidence of this design trend, which came into vogue at the turn of the 20th century.”  The floral patterned white and red mahogany woodwork, hand-carved by artisans that Mr. Hendel employed from Europe, was influenced by the aesthetic movement.  Other prominent features of the house include glorious stained glass windows, and a grand fireplace in the entrance foyer imported from Italy.

Interestingly, the house is rumored to be “haunted” by a male spirit, soldier “Mr. Whitman,” as well as the ghost of a little girl.  S.P.I.R.T. Paranormal television broadcast featured the property in 2013.

The Hendel family occupied the property until 1949 when the home was sold, and became the home of the Independent Lutheran Church of Divine Fellowship of Reading.  The property was then offered for auction in the year 2000, when it was purchased by Marjorie Hendel Perfect, the granddaughter of Charles W. Hendel, who then gifted it to the Berks History Center, and established a trust for its renovation.  Among many other refurbishings and improvements funded by the Trust is the period wallpaper located in the parlor which was reprinted by the original manufacturer in France from a sample found behind a radiator.

During the time period that it was owned by the Berks History Center (2000 through March, 2016), the property served as a community cultural center in the Centre Park historic district.