As we explore Penn’s Common, one of the most notable features of the neighborhood is the large number of monuments in City Park. It is worth taking some time to walk through the park and look at each one, perhaps when you are already there for one of the summer bandshell concerts. These monuments and memorials show a community that is classically American: celebrating firefighters, mourning the victims of war, and honoring local heroes of industry and government.
Not surprisingly, my favorite statue is that of Frederick Lauer, first president of the United States Brewer’s Association. Lauer lived 1810-1883 and is remembered as a skilled, hardworking brewer who helped shape the local culture through constant volunteering, philanthropy, and political activity. He had a large part in promoting Reading from a borough to a city in 1847, and he worked with several local organizations to help the needy and to serve his community. In fact, many will recognize his name from Lauer’s Park, a part of his property which he donated to the city as a public park.
Like much of the 19th century Berks County population, Lauer was a German immigrant who continued to speak his family’s native language alongside the English he learned in his new country. Upon moving to Reading, he had a part in founding St. John’s German Lutheran Church so his fellow immigrants could continue to worship in the language they knew best, and he periodically wrote articles for a local newspaper that was published in both German and English.
Lauer became first president of the US Brewers’ Association for his tireless fight against the rising cries of Prohibition. To read more about that battle and his life in general, check out this excellent article by the Historical Society of Berks County.