Fleetwood is a small home-town community of approximately 4000 residents, located in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Incorporated as a borough in 1873, the town of Fleetwood was originally called Crowstown, or Coxtown, when it was laid out in 1868.
In 1859, Officials of the Reading Railroad took an inspection tour of the East Penn Branch, during which names were given to many stations along the route. The name Fleetwood was suggested by one of the company directors after a resort town in England bearing that name. Although the town was not incorporated until 1873, the name stuck.
The first hotel, called the Blue Hotel, was built in 1798 at the corner of what is now Main and Franklin Streets. The name was later changed to The Fleetwood House until it was later razed for the building of the Hotel Fleetwood which still stands at the site as the headquarters for Concern, Inc.
A major industry was established in Fleetwood in 1909 with the establishment of the Fleetwood Metal Body Co. which made automobile bodies for many of the major automobile manufacturers of the time. Due to its quality workmanship, the Body Company became well known domestically and internationally. After being acquired by General Motors Corp. in 1931, the company was closed in Fleetwood and the business moved to Detroit. The name Fleetwood was carried on the top-of-the-line Cadillac for many years.
Fleetwood today is a quiet, suburban community of about 5,000 and maintains its agricultural roots with the presence of the F.M. Brown’s Sons flour mill which provides a large market for local grain production. A major employer in the area is Sunsweet Bottling Works which is located in the borough.
With a good school system, a large, beautiful community park and swimming pool, and a well-run government, Fleetwood is considered a fine place to live.
How Fleetwood Got Its Name
There are many stories and theories about how Fleetwood got its name including being named after two railroad surveyors, Mr. Fleet and Mr. Wood. But the most plausible explanation is the one which follows:
An article in the Reading Eagle dated May 10, 1959 reported on the opening of the “East Penn Branch” of the Reading Railroad system which occurred 100 years earlier. According to this report, historical records of the Reading Railroad show that an inspection tour of the East Penn branch was made by railroad officials in 1859 during which names were given to many stations along the route. Here is this account:
The first stop where a station was to be located was near a popular house called “Solomon’s Temple” which derived its name from a portrait of King Solomon painted on the sign in front of the hotel. The station was named Temple and Temple it has been ever since.
They next came to a village called Blandtown but changed the name to Blandon in case it later grew beyond the size of a village.
The area where Fleetwood is today was called “Coxtown” or “Crowstown” at the time of the trip. Mr. John McManus of Reading, a company Director, suggested the name “Fleetwood” after a resort town in England bearing that name. (Although the town was not incorporated until 1873, the name stuck.)
McManus, being of Irish descent, also named the town of Shamrock farther along the line.
At a point “at the crossing of a much-traveled crossroad between Oley and Kutztown,” the name Lyons was given to a station in honor of M.E. Lyons, then chief engineer of the railroad.
Topton, formerly Hass’ Summit, was so named because it was the highest point on the East Penn line.
Mertztown, an old village, was named for the first settler, a man named Mertz.
Alburtis was named in honor of Edward K. Alburtis of New York, one of the directors of the railroad.
Millerstown was given as a name to a station along the line but, about 1875, it was changed to Macungie.
The name of Emmaus remained unchanged.
And so we see another influence of the railroad upon the nature and history of our area.