Berks Barrister Summer 2018 - 18

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150 Years
George F. Baer

Jefferson Snyder

Philip S. Zieber

Thomas Lager Snyder

George Balmer

and Counting

I

By Donna Reed

f the renowned George F. Baer, founder of what is now
known as Mogel, Speidel, Bobb, and Kershner, could
walk through the law firm's doors 150 years later, he might
simultaneously experience feelings both familiar and foreign.
Familiar because the firm is located at 520 Walnut St. in what
had been the Nolan Mansion, a lovely late 19th-century structure
built by and for an extended family Baer knew well. The Nolan
Family included construction company owners, lawyers and other
business leaders.
And foreign because, just as the firm's name has changed over
the generations, so has the way in which the lawyers and their
associates do business. Most visible is the technology that now
plays a central role in the practice of law.
For shareholder Fred Mogel, involvement in the firm is a
second-generation thing: his father, Carl Mogel, along with
Harry Speidel, Donald Bobb and Edwin Kershner, formed the
current iteration of the firm in 1985. The generational tradition
did not start with the Mogels; Edwin Kershner worked with his
father, George Kershner, just as Jaeger Snyder did with his father,
Jefferson Snyder.
By the time that Jefferson Snyder, once a student of Baer,
became his partner in 1873, the firm had established offices
at 518 Washington St., in a structure still known as The Baer
Building. In 1898, the firm of Baer, Snyder and Zieber was
established with third partner Philip S. Zieber. By that time, Baer
was in full entrepreneurial and philanthropic mode. In addition
to his considerable corporate law practice, he played key roles in
establishing the Reading Paper Mills, the Reading Hospital, the
Reading Trust Company, the Wyomissing Club and the Berkshire
Country Club.
While he served as president of the Paper Mills, Temple
Iron Company and Reading Iron Company, his most illustrious
position was that of president of the Reading Company, a position
attained in 1901 when his friend J.P. Morgan assumed its control.
Baer had previously served as the attorney for the Philadelphia

18 | Berks Barrister

and Reading Railway Company for nearly 30 years.
Despite his historic inclusion as part of the robber baron
contingent that so rankled President Theodore Roosevelt, Baer's
life also centered on giving back to the community. To that end,
he led the board of park commissioners, was a trustee of both
Charles Evans Cemetery and Franklin and Marshall College, and
continued his involvement with the library, hospital, and other
charitable institutions.
Over the years, the firm's identity would shift to Snyder,
Balmer and Kershner and then to Balmer, Kershner, Mogel and
Speidel. Through the decades, the shareholders would represent
the cream of local industries and companies - the Reading Trust
Company, Thun Investment Company, Provident Savings and
Loan, Nolde and Horst Hosiery, Reading Hardware Company
and Luden's, many of which are historically tied to their
"descendants" known as Wachovia Bank, Vanity Fair, and Arrow
International.
Today, the lawyers and support staff of Mogel, Speidel, Bobb
and Kershner work out of the Nolan Mansion to which the firm
relocated in the early 1980s. The mansion, renovated to meet the
firm's professional needs, still boasts many of its original features,
including a gorgeous stained-glass dome that still dominates the
central staircase.
Reading City Council Vice President John Slifko, himself
a retired attorney and contractor, applauds the firm's 150-year
commitment to the downtown area he represents.
"I am so pleased the firm continues to stay downtown and
serve such a wide variety of legal needs," he said. "As one who
very much embraces the present momentum for downtown
revitalization, I am especially pleased that they - while thoroughly
up-to-date technologically inside - have chosen to maintain the
historic Nolan Mansion as their home.
"As you walk past 520 Walnut St., their building can't help
but catch your eye as a true architectural gem, contributing to the
richness of downtown."


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Berks Barrister Summer 2018

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