Overlooking the fifth largest city in Pennsylvania, Reading, is the 'Japanese' style structure known simply by the local people as 'The Pagoda'!
I have very fond memories of visiting this site as a child with my parents it was only about a 20 min drive from my house.
In the early 1900s it occurred to Reading quarry owner William Abbot Witman, Sr. that his stone excavations were permanently scarring the slopes of Mount Penn, which overlooked the city.
What did he decide to do about it? He found his inspiration on a postcard from the Philippines. In 1908 he completed the Pagoda, a 72-ft. tall Japanese-style brick and tile structure on Mount Penn's southwest slope. Witman dreamed that it would be Reading's most glamorous luxury hotel -- 886 feet above the city.
The five story pagoda was visible all across the city of Reading, and it quickly became a landmark. The top floor contained a temple bell imported from Japan. An ornate, corkscrew "finial" tipped the temple, and also served as a lightning rod for what was now the tallest target in Berks county.
Lack of a decent access road foiled Witman's hotel plan, and in 1910 he sold the Pagoda to local businessman Jonathon Mould. The following year Mould donated it to the city.
Over the ensuing years the Pagoda has been used as a snack bar, an art gallery, and an office. Before the era of radio it served as a news transmitter, when colored lights on each tier signaled who had won an election or a sporting event. (The code was published in the local newspaper.)
The Pagoda remains a landmark and sightseeing destination, albeit on an occasionally erratic operating schedule. Visitors who miss the "open" hours for the fourth floor gift shop and museum settle for the scenic view and a walk around the outside. A copper plaque near the entrance reminds visitors that "James Matz, Carpenter-Contractor & Builder and Sons Chas. E. & Jas. A. Matz" were "Designers of This Pagoda."
In more recent decades the Pagoda has been the home of Pagoda Skyline, Inc. a non-profit conservation organization responsible for many improvements to the Pagoda and Skyline Drive area.
The last time Reading updated its icon was in 1992, when it spent $3 million to restore elements of the pagoda and build a replica of its bronze ornamental spire. During phase I of the new project, workers will repair the roof, fences, and lion medallions; paint inside and outside; and shore up a retaining wall. In addition, LED lighting will replace the neon that has been illuminating the pagoda since 1960 After undergoing an extensive restoration including the reproduction of the soren from historic photographs,the Pagoda had become the headquarters of not only Pagoda Skyline, Inc. but the Berks County Arts Council as well. The refurbished Pagoda had featured historical displays and the works of local crafts people.
Kautter's firm had proposed in 2008 to do another restoration which would cost $11 million, which would install public botanical gardens around the pagoda and potentially draw a developer to build a reception site nearby.
The pagoda is only used as a gift shop and café today, but many locals want to see a new use for Reading's icon, says Donna Reed, former city councilwoman and a volunteer for the Pagoda Centennial Celebration. "We're really sort of reinventing the wheel with it," Reed says. "It's a very cool facility."
The Pagoda continues as to serve the people of Berks and beyond as an unequaled observatory commanding a panoramic thirty mile view.
Skyline Boulevard, Reading, PADirections:
Summit of Mt. Penn, E edge of Reading on Skyline Blvd.Hours:
F-Tu 12-4 (gift shop). (Call to verify)Phone:
I think that this is a great way to spend a day or even one hour one weekend.
Would you enjoy a visit to "The Pagoda" if you lived close to it?