Sunday, December 6, 2020

THE PAGODA

 One thing about not working currently, it has given me time to go off exploring and being in nature more. There have been things I have wanted to go off and see. On my recent trip going home to Harrisburg for Thanksgiving, I made a pit stop in Reading to finally go see the Pagoda. 

 It's been a roadside attraction in PA for years, but never seemed to find time to see it. And it was admittedly,  not easy to find either, especially on the very sharp and curvy roads of Mount Penn leading to it. But once there is was pretty neat to see it.

In the early 1900's a Reading businessman William Witman Sr. thought his quarry excavations were permanently scarring the slope of Mount Penn, which overlooked the city of Reading. Witman decided to balance his yin with his yang,  by conjuring something sublime for the mountain, and turning his property from an eye sore into a money making tourist spot. He found his inspiration on a postcard from the Philippines.

He hired a team to build a Japanese-brick and tile Pagoda on Mount Penn's southwest slope. It's eight stores high, and was completed in 1908 and was to have a whole resort eventually, but plans got scraped. The floors were made of stone from Witman's quarry. It's two large rooms were furnished with Japanese rugs, dishes and vases. He still pushed for a luxury hotel but the city had other ideas. It worried that drunken patrons would die on the twisty mountain roads leading to the Pagoda. It also worried that Witman, who had a bad reputation, might also plan to turn the upper floors of the Pagoda into a brothel. So, the building never did open, went into foreclosure, and was sold to the city of Reading in 1911 for a whopping $1!!!!!

It quickly became a landmark. Thousands hiked the trails to the Pagoda and then climbed the 87 steps to it's observatory. The top floor contains a temple bell cast in 1739 and imported from Japan. The bell was housed formally in a Buddhist temple in Ogose, Salitama Prefecture. Listed on the bell's sides in Japanese characters are the names of it's 48 donors and a prophecy about the end of time. An ornate corkscrew "final" tipped the temple, and served as a lightening rod for what was at one time, the tallest target in the country. The day I went, the inside was not open. The hours seem to be erratic for when it's open, but you can walk and see the outside and walk the levels.

Over the years, the Pagoda face being torched during WWII by anti-Japanese zealots, and many still wanted it torn done after. Since then it was used as a cafe and coffee bar, an art gallery, and for some years, an office. It now has a gift shop and cafe.  Even before the era of radio it served as a news transmitter. But since 1949, it was finally added to the National Register of Historic Places. So unless the mountain side goes, which it is literally on the edge..... long live the Pagoda!!

40 comments:

  1. It's beautiful! It would be great to have lunch there and look through the gift shop.

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  2. it's been a long time since I visited the pagoda!

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  3. This would be so cool to visit! I like the idea of the guy trying to make up for the eyesore of the quarry with something beautiful, but the idea that he was going to turn it into a brothel is just...wtf were folks smoking? That's a long uphill drive for some Tang (The drink of the U.S. astronauts)

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    1. Tang? Now why didn't I think to take a thermos of tang with me. Next time!

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  4. If the virus ever goes away, maybe I should consider a trip to PA!!!!! That is so cool. Between where you live in New Hope, Philadelphia, and the cute town from last week, I am loving it all!

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  5. I have been there many times. There's a long scenic drive along the top of the mountain, and it is beautiful.

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    1. I'd like to go back and do that drive...I can imagine it is pretty.

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  6. Great for Pictures on a autumn day, and look at that view! I have never been either and I've lived in PA all my life.

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    1. It's often things in our very own backyards we don't think to see.

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  7. "turn the upper floors of the Pagoda into a brothel"?

    Is it any wonder you were attracted to it? That is very cool though, jokes aside.

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  8. What great views!

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  9. Mistress, let's face it - the real reason you went there was to see if it would, in fact, make a good location of a "House of Houseboys". The World of Suzie Wong comes to mind... Jx

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    1. The World of Suzie Wong?!?! What's wrong with me being a pretty and mischievous prostitute?

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    2. Ummm - you give it away? Jx

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    3. Right. My friends all say, had you charge all these years instead of giving it away, you'd be a millionaire by now.

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  10. Now there’s something you don’t see everyday. Something so out of place you’d look twice if you suddenly came upon it. The views are astounding.

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  11. Fascinating story...would be a road stop for me if I was in the neighborhood (says the guy who still hasn’t made it to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water yet)!!!!
    The architect in me wonders if his builder’s crafted it in Japanese style...with mortise and tenon joints, etc.?

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    1. That I couldn't tell you Luke, but the Lad and I went to Falling Water several years ago, and it was spectacular. I need to go back there again soon.

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  12. What an interesting place, thanks for sharing.
    Stay Safe and Coffee is on

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  13. Oh, that is awesome and certainly has a intresting history. You certainly don't see anything like that around here.

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  14. Interesting fun and unique. Did you do a Madame Butterfly routine of the visitors??? I know you have Geisha get up. I wouldn't mind seeing this sometime.

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  15. I would like to see a Pagoda cake - all the layers - it would be fab.
    Thank you for sharing this history.
    Sx

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    1. We will have to see if our cake expert Mr DeVive could make one!!! Maybe if he can make a big enough one, I could pop out of the top of it with a drag routine and a basket of Rocher Ferrero for you, for your birthday some year!!!! Yes....I can see it now.....

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  16. What a great story right down to the concerns about a brothel. I'd never heard of the place or seen photos. It fascinates me that I grew up in NYC and most of Pennsylvania is a mystery to me.

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    1. You could flash those buns from the top Mitch!!!!! Same here. With exception to NYC, I have seen very little of New York. Though, I have started exploring parts of the Adirondacks which are downright picturesque.

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  17. Another reason to come spend time in your corner of the world.

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  18. That's fantastic!
    I had never heard of it until now. There you go. Once the pandemic is under control, ROAD TRIP!!
    And a brothel at the top, huh?

    XOXO

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  19. Thank you for that history of the Reading Pagoda. I have been there several times and yes, the Mt. Penn roads are a little too twisty for my taste. Another tid bit about Mt. Penn. Early in the 20th century two young brothers climbed Mt. Penn and marveled at the city of Reading at their feet. The sight inspired one of the boys to create Roadside America.

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    1. Now that is a fun fact!!!!! My grandmother took me several times to Roadside America on bus trips as she never drove. After, she would take to the Dutch Haus gift shop next door and get me a trinket of some kind.

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  20. Wow...how very interesting and beautiful. I had no idea that it existed.

    I wonder why a postcard from the Philippines inspired it. My parents are from the Philippines. And our childhood home was decorated with a lot of Asian flare. Now of course, they are retired and live in Florida--and that home has a more beach like decor. Having visited the Philippines, I wonder where the postcard was taken? There is a temple, I recall somewhere where monks live, perhaps that's it? I will have to google later.

    I would love to see this pagoda some day. Such interesting history.

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    1. Now that is an intresting tidbit I learned about you!!! In my research I alas, couldn't find any info on where the picture on the post card location was or the name of the building that may have inspired him...but the temple where the bell is from was from a temple from the city listed above, which is apparently outside of Tokyo to the north .

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  21. Lovely building, isn't it? This is what the US is all about: The melding of world cultures.

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  22. Oh my goodness. What happy memories! My daughter-in-law and son live in that area, and we have been there. The last time, my youngest daughter was home with her husband who is not from the United States. What a wonderful time we had. We have never been there when the place is open. I've always wanted to see the inside. The next time you're in the area, head out to Stokesay Castle. That's a lovely view as well

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    1. Thanks for the tip! I will certainly have to go see that. I am hoping to take some day trips when I can.

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  23. Oh that's Magnificent, I J'Adore Asian and Moorish Architecture most of all! The City literally stole it from the Builder didn't they? I'm glad it has survived all the controversies over the Years and is now protected under Historic Registry, it's certainly deserving of it, Unique and Historically Iconic. Our Oldest Daughter lives in Pennsylvania yet I'd never heard of this Pagoda... Thanks for the History Lesson Mads. Glad you got to make a Pilgrimage finally.

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    1. I had no idea you had a daughter that lived in PA!!!! You'd probably enjoy a visit here Dawn.

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  24. That is fascinating. Did you know I've built a couple of pagoda style homes in The Sims 4 during the past month? The only problem is I'm limited to four floors above ground and two below. I would love to see the interior of this one in person.

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Go ahead darling, tell me something fabulous!