The 1857 Parish House
by Ron Boyer, Historian
The house today sits quietly, abandoned no the south side of the church, near the Annex which has been recently renovated for offices and music room. However, what will be the future of the house that has served an active part of our mission for 163 years? The last fulltime occupants, the Hartman family (sextons), left in 1992. Since that time it has been frequently used as a pastor, music director, and secretary's office, Elders meeting room, Live Nativity assembly point historical records and file storage space.
I believe many people in our congregation have never been inside the house. But over the years many dozens have climbed the steep stairs and found rest in the sturdy well-built red brick house. The house has also been visited on the Berks County Heritage tour.
The use of the house has varied thru the years and was modified according to the needs of the congregation at the time. The principle use of the first floor large rooms for many years was as a schoolroom, which had a separate front door. The early settlers in the Bern area considered the education of our youth both in German, English and mathematics to be very important. The first mention of a schoolmaster which I have uncovered was in the German poem of about 1780, by Cyrus B. Blatt of which was noted in a prior news article.
Looking over the altar in the back corner of the pulpit, near the enclosed closet wall, the schoolmaster sat with his songbook in hand.
A visiting minister, Rev. Zacharias, in 1894 discovered in the parochial school house an old Bern Record book listing Baptisms from 1738-1835. At least half of the book was already lost, torn out by the children.
Gov. Joseph Hiester attended Bern Church in his youth and received his early education in the Bern Parochial School, which would have been earlier than our present building. Also of record, is the 1851 Hiester School located about a mile from the present church location.
The current white aluminum building presently is weathered and worn, the porches need to be replaced and the metal roof needs painting. I noted in records that on
April 2, 1921 it was agreed to have three rooms papered and painted and also to do all necessary carpenter work at the house. H.S. Field and H.K. Hiester were appointed to engage a carpenter as soon as possible.
Historical evidence indicates that this is the oldest building on the property. As a Historian, preservation is extremely important to me. However, what the future of this building will be is yet to be decided. Everyone's opinion and input will be appreciated.
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