The Historic Lerch Tavern
For the past 215 years a large gray stone building has stood stoically along a significant thoroughfare in western Berks County. The Lerch Tavern was erected in 1797 to the south of what was then called the Tulpehochen Road. A turnpike, named the Berks and Dauphin Turnpike and finished in 1817, replaced the Tulpehochen Road. Over time this popular commercial route became an important Berks County road, then the main street of the village of Wernersville, and finally an important state highway, Route 422. Now the building’s address is 182 West Penn Avenue, on the corner of Penn and South Elm Street, Wernersville.
Over those many years the building endured physical changes and various uses. For a significant period it was the Lerch Tavern, then it became a general store and later a private home. In its not-so-glamorous years it morphed into a two-family home, and then it housed various businesses. Sometime in the late 19th century, the exterior was altered significantly when a third floor mansard roof was added to the main building and to the attached stone kitchen.
In 1976 a group of local residents saw the need to preserve area history and they also were keenly aware that the second oldest building in the Borough of Wernersville, the Lerch Tavern, would face eventual demolition. The Heidelberg Heritage Society was chartered and had the foresight to acquire this important old building.They understood that, with a lot of hard work and fund-raising, the restoration would provide the organization with an excellent location for Society meetings, historical programs, a museum, a research library, and even a landscaped yard with an herb garden. They met this challenge! It has now come to house, within its three floors, many treasures pertaining to the Heidelberg area of western Berks County. One of its unique missions is to be the repository of knowledge and artifacts from the important South Mountain resort era.
(Excerpt from The Lerch Tavern, 1797-1976. The Heidelberger, 2012 January).