Originally settled in 1793, the native Lenni Lenapi Indians named the heavily timbered area Sunken Spring, so called because of the periodic appearances and disappearances of the spring. The plentiful watering source became popular with local farmers who brought their animals by the shortest routes over the hilly topography. This explains the unplanned roads of early Sinking Spring. The cow paths became local streets and the main east/west route from Philadelphia to Harrisburg became known as the William Penn Highway, presently U.S. Route 422, Penn Avenue. There were two toll gates at either end of little ‘sunken spring’ village.
The Lenni Lenape tribe (meaning “original people”) in the immediate area were known as the Minsi or Wolf tribe. They were known to be quite warlike at times. The tribe later became known as the Delaware Indians, named by Lorde de la Ware. There is a stone monument in the 3800 block of Penn Avenue placed to identify “The Spring.” The community has a large number of underground streams that carve out limestone and form sinkholes, thus the settlers’ name, Sinking Spring.
Early 1800s industry included iron ore mining along Cacoosing Avenue, an Indian name meaning ‘Place of the Owls’. Other manufacturing included cigar making at Penn and Columbia Avenues, textile fabrication and soap making where Hoffman Industries now stands off Shillington Road. Later in 1857, Brown’s Feed Mill was opened at the railroad crossing on Columbia Avenue and South Hull Street and still operates today. One of the original four hotels, the Railroad House, still remains at the railroad crossing and is today a popular local restaurant and bar.
The Borough of Sinking Spring was incorporated on March 13, 1913. The task of organizing a borough was difficult and included laying out, grading and naming new streets and installing street lights and sidewalks. Property owners had to be persuaded to give up land so that the borough could be laid out to the best advantage for all concerned.
Early citizen concerns included safety and health; proclamations against fire crackers, removal of cattle pens near residences and a speed limit of 15 MPH were all established in 1919. The Liberty Fire Co. followed in 1921. A trolley line was established between Reading and the western Berks County farmlands but was abandoned in 1935 followed by the paving of Penn Avenue in 1939.
Businesses in the early 20th Century included Holtzman’s Hardware ca1920, Kurtz’s Drug Store ca1925, Miller Builder Supply ca1931, Sinclair Oil ca1932, the Graffius Vault Works ca1939, Stief’s Poultry ca1947, Kohl’s Roofing and Stoudts Restaurant ca1950, Sharman’s Music Store ca1959, Weaver’s Art Shop ca1960 and Hirshland’s Furniture Shop ca1960. In 1963 there were still farms on main streets of the borough; Hostetter Farm and James’ Place along Penn Avenue and Stief’s Grandview Acres along Columbia Avenue. The town’s most historically prominent person is Paul Specht, Big Band Leader in the 1920s & 30s who became famous world-wide for his band’s ‘syncopated rhythm’ musical style.
In the 21st Century, the borough has seen over 52% growth in population since 2000 now totaling over 1,400 households. Sinking Spring’s median household income is $65,526, higher than the Commonwealth at-large by $17,000 per year. German descendents represent 33% of the population and Irish descendents 12%.
Several oil and gas pipeline terminal and distribution companies are located in Sinking Spring and cross over into South Heidelberg Township. The Sunoco Logistics Montello Complex is the company’s Eastern Pipeline System headquarters, as well as a local trucking terminal and a major midstream terminal for refined products, mostly originating from the Philadelphia and Marcus Hook refineries. Sunoco’s pipelines out of Montello provide gasoline, diesel fuel, and heating oil to large markets in Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Rochester, as well as smaller markets near Harrisburg, Altoona, Williamsport, Tamaqua, Kingston, and Corning/Elmira, NY.
Also located in Sinking Spring is the Alcon Laboratories “Alcon Precision Device” facility, used for the production of disposable, single and multi-use medical devices. The devices are manufactured for eye surgeries around the world, including cataract and vit surgerie, including the scalpels and sutures used for such surgeries. Alcon is a division of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, Novartis and is the borough’s largest employer.