No Longer a Mystery


Last week we went on a trip.  We had no idea where we were going.  We had a really enjoyable day.

The day started early.



I am retired.  I don’t get up at this hour.  It is still dark outside.  However, to get myself ready and organize foo dishes for the beasties I had to get moving.  We had to be in Harrisburg by 7:30 so that meant leaving the house at



We pulled into the parking lot at c3.  The bus was already there as were some people.  We still had no idea where we were going.  The only ones who knew that were our two planners and the bus driver and they weren’t telling.

7:30 On the dot the driver closed the door and we were off.  As soon as we left the lot speculation began.  We were headed toward I-83.  Would we go north of south?  North would take us toward Harrisburg and beyond.  South would take us to the turnpike.  South it was.

Now, would we head west toward Pittsburgh or east toward Philadelphia?  East.  We got as far as Reading and then got off on 222.  Hmm.  We were going toward Ephrata.  Could we be going to the Cloisters?  I have passed it many times but never stopped.  We passed the exit and kept going.

I knew that Reading was coming up next.  Could we be going there?  Yes.  Kathy and looked at each other and laughed.  We go to Reading several times a year.  My brother lives there.  Where could we possibly be going.  We made a turn and started climbing a hill, a steep hill, one you would not want to travel in bad weather.

Suddenly a thought popped into my head.  There was only one place I could think of that was located high above the city.  Were we going there?  If what I was thinking was our destination I was excited.  This is a place that can be seen from almost any location in Reading.  Kathy and I have talked about going there but never went.  Maybe today.  Yes!  I was right.  We were at the Pagoda.



It was still hazy as the mist had not yet burned off.  The view was still something.



A volunteer spoke to us and filled us in on the history.  The Pagoda is built on top of a quarry.  The owner, William Whitman, of the quarry decided to build a hotel on top of the stone so that there would be a more interesting sight for the people of Reading to see than just stone jutting out of the mountain.  The architect he hired had just come back from Japan so he suggested the Pagoda shape.  The owner agreed and the Pagoda was built.  However because he couldn’t get a liquor licence the hotel never opened.  The bank foreclosed and sold the building to the city of Reading for $1.00.  It is now a tourist site funded through a foundation.

Interesting Pagoda facts …

  • It is 7 stories high, 28 feet wide, 50 feet long – standing 620 feet above the City of Reading and 866 feet above sea level
  • Walls are 5 feet thick at the base tapering to 2 feet thick at the top of the second floor, from there to the top, they are frame-covered with terra-cotta shingles – there are 60 tons of tiles on the Pagoda
  • Anchored to the mountainside the 16 tons of bolts
  • Inside walls are concrete plaster, all the trim and stairways are solid oak
  • There are a total of 87 steps to the top
  • Only Pagoda in the world with a fireplace and chimney
  • Before the days of radio broadcasting, lights flashed as signals to the people of Reading.  Morse Code was used to direct fireman, promote fundraising campaigns and give the public results of sporting events.  The Code was based on the lights – a white light was a dash, while a red light was a dot
  • The bell on the 7th floor was cast in Japan in 1739.  It was purchased by Witman in 1906 and shipped via the Suez Canal to New York Harbor, and arrived in Reading on May 5, 1907 by rail
  • c7
  • The fish sculptures on the roof are to protect the Pagoda from fire
  • Every year at 9pm on Christmas Eve the Pagoda lights flash to let the children know that Santa is on his way

One final fact that I found interesting was that during the war the city wanted to tear it down due to its Japanese influence.  However, people convinced them that it was Korean influence not Japanese so it was left to stand.

From the Pagoda we went to our second stop.  More about that next week.



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6 responses to “No Longer a Mystery

  1. Wow!
    60 tons of tile on the roof. Not ever going to be blown away in any weather! 60 tons!
    What fun!
    Loved the mystery!

    • Interesting story of how they replace tiles. They can’t attach scaffolding to the tiles for obvious reasons so they open all the windows and anchor the scaffolding to the inside.

  2. It is nice to have surprises some times and this was a nice one:) Thank you for sharing about the Pagoda.

  3. I read a book once where this Pagoda was featured. It is cool to actually see it!

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