Old St. Mary Church demolished

Item photo by Shea Singley
Old St. Mary Church being demolished.
Item photo by Shea Singley Old St. Mary Church being demolished.

Old St. Mary Church, located on 5th and State Streets in Hamburg, was demolished last week. The church was built in June 1853 and holds many memories for residents in the area.

The Building Recyclers, located in Kutztown, are in charge of the demolition. Paul Burkholder, of The Building Recyclers, said that he heard the space will be used as a parking lot. Residents have asked about the possibility of bricks being available for them to take.

“Sure. Go ahead and help yourself,” responded Burkholder. The crew on site added that it would be best to avoid taking the bricks while they are actively working for safety reasons.

According to the Hamburg Area Historical Society, the church began when Rev. Peter Carbone joined Bishop, now Saint, John Neumann in the laying of the cornerstone of the red brick and stone church in 1853. The parish was known as Rosary B.V.M at that time. There was no priest assigned to the church and for the first several years priests from St. Peter in Reading served St. Mary as a mission church.


Records show that difficulties of an unknown nature forced the closing of the church in 1886. The church was rededicated on August 29, 1915 with the Right Reverend Monsignor Scott A. Fasig as Pastor.

Part of the reasons for opening the church once again was tied to the opening of the State Sanitarium for Tuberculosis between 1912 and 1914. With the opening of the building, there was a need to serve the Catholic population at the institution.

Architect Fred Muhlenberg was contacted by the Right Reverend Monsignor George Bornemann, Pastor of St. Paul in Reading, to place the original structure of the church in good condition. It was reported that Monsignor Bornemann paid for all of the expenses of the restoration.

Property was purchased at 508 Island Street, Hamburg, in 1923 to serve as the residence for priests assigned to the parish. Prior to the purchase, hotels and tenant houses were used.

In the 1940 edition of the Catholic Directory of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia the boundaries included Schuylkill County line to Berks County in Bethel Township to Albany Township along Greenwhich Township to Windsor Township to Maidencreek along Perry Township to the Schuylkill River to Center Township to Penn Township until the Tulpehocken Creek then along Tulpehocken Township to the Lebanon County line. This is one of the largest territorial parishes in the Allentown Diocese.

Reverend Aloysius Schmid was named Administrator of St. Mary in the early fifties and the parish embarked on a series of projects that transformed its identity.

In 1955 land was purchased with plans to build a parish hall with a second floor to be used as an elementary school. A sacristy and new exit on the east side of the church were constructed that same year.

Property opposite the church was purchased to serve as a convent for religious who would, some day, staff the school. Bishop Joseph M Shea D.D., Bishop of Allentown, officiated at the dedication of the hall on August 4, 1963.

Later that year, the parish was given a 3 acre lot (where Weis is today) by George H. Miller in honor of his grandfather, John H. Miller. The church hoped to use the area for parking and possibly as a site for a new church.

The parish consolidated its holding by selling the rectory, the proposed convent and the land on State Street and purchased property on East State Street, by St. John’s Cemetery, in 1969. It was to be the site for a new church.

With growth and the emphasis on programs to meet changing needs, the land was not enough to support the parish. A parish office was opened on South Third Street in Hamburg in 1997 and on November 27, 1999, ground was broken for a new church on a 10 acre site on Walnut Road in Tilden Township.

Edward P. Cullen, Bishop of Allentown, presided at the dedication of the new St. Mary Church on December 8, 2000.

Share your thoughts on the demolition of the old St. Mary Church with editor Shea Singley at ssingley@berksmontnews.com.