Monday, June 18, 2018

Louis Kuechler, the Hermit of the Mountain

Jacob Louis Kuechler was a man of the mountains. Indeed, he made his home and his livelihood in the rocks, trees and hollows on Mount Penn. 
Living alone, Kuechler had a well-earned reputation as a hermit. But he was far from a recluse.
His homey cabin was a stop on the Mount Penn Gravity Railroad. Visitors were treated to homemade wine, bread, cheese and Kuechler’s specialty hasenpfeffer – a German rabbit stew. 
Kuechler rarely left his mountain retreat. When he died in 1904 Kuechler had not left the summit of Mount Penn for 20 years. When the Mount Penn railroad opened in 1889, Kuechler’s roost was the fourth stop on the winding mountain tour. As the popularity of the railroad increased, so did Kuechler’s roost. From the wooden shack just off the trolley line, Kuechler sold wine, cheese and his woodsy fare. He became a celebrity of the mountain with his scraggly beard, long pipe, black beret and wry glances. A native of Germany, Kuechler came to Reading in the 1870s and operated a saloon at 523 Penn St. 
In 1882, Kuechler purchased several acres on the eastern slope of Mount Penn to make wine and live in isolation. After Kuechler died at age 74, his property was purchased by Carl A. Schaich, who opened a much larger and grander establishment on the mountain.  The business lasted until 1919 when sparks from a Fourth of July firecracker set the building on fire.  
A few of reminders of Kuechler are still present on the mountain, including a wine cellar off List Road (last picture). It’s in a lonely spot in the woods, well-hidden from view, an apt monument to the Hermit of Mount Penn.”

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