Berks County proudly holds many "firsts" that help showcase the area's historical significance. Keep reading to discover our area's achievements, and let us know what we missed! 


Sunrise at hawk mountain with pinks, blues, and fall foliage


Hawk Mountain Sanctuary: First Refuge for Birds of Prey


Founded in 1934 by conservationist Rosalie Edge, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is the world’s first and largest member-supported raptor conservation organization. The Sanctuary has over 60,000 visitors annually and is open to the public year-round as an eco-tourism destination. 

Read more about Hawk Mountain:

3 men in a field at rodale institute, inspecting the crops

Sarah Lucas 

Rodale Institute: First Farm Dedicated to Organic Agriculture


Rodale Institute has been at the forefront of organic agriculture for more than sixty years, leading the way when few others understood the value of new growing practices that deliver more nutrient-dense, healthier fruits and vegetables. They welcome visitors to discover how they change the world daily through their impressive work. 


Visit Rodale Institute: 

field trip group walking down the stairs in the cave


Crystal Cave: Pennsylvania’s First Show Cave


As Pennsylvania’s first show cave, Crystal Cave is natural history half a million years in the making. The cave was discovered in 1871 by local farmers blasting for limestone. Six months later, it was open for business. You’ll be enchanted by the cavern’s signature crystalline walls 125 feet underground.

Explore Pennsylvania’s First Show Cave: 


Fall view of the Pagoda



The Pagoda: First and Only Pagoda with a Fireplace and Chimney in the World 

Undoubtedly, the Pagoda is Berks County’s most notable and curious landmark. The imposing structure has overlooked the City of Reading since its completion in 1908. The landmark has served the community in a number of ways, signaling fires, sports scores, election results, and even Santa’s arrival in Reading.


Vanity Fair: First Multi-Store Factory Outlet Center


Although the Vanity Fair Outlets are no more, they still hold significance for our area. In 1970, the outlets were first opened in Reading, PA. By the 1980s and 1990s, outlet centers grew rapidly. However, the outlets were closed in 2020 in the midst of the global pandemic.   

W.H. Luden Candy Company: First Menthol Cough Drop


Born in Reading, PA, candymaker and innovator William Luden invented the first menthol cough drop in 1881. He was also responsible for the idea of lining the packages with wax paper to keep his products fresh. Luden gave samples of his cough drops to workers on the Reading Railroad, causing the word to spread quickly across the country.

Ringgold Light Artillery of Reading: The First Defenders

This group was among five volunteer groups of Pennsylvania soldiers who were the first in the United States to respond to President Lincoln's call for militia in the Civil War. Ringgold Light Artillery was the first of the five groups, consisting of 90 men.