Reading Pagoda

Time for something from home

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while, but an aborted trip to Lake Khuvsgul followed by the flu really knocked me out for a while.  Anyway on to the travel.

            Sure, traveling away from home, even internationally, is extremely fun and enlightening, but you don’t need to travel half way around the world to experience the world.  Sometimes you can find that same fun and enlightenment close to home and it can be as simple as trying a new ethnic restaurant or an interesting local attraction you never went to before.  In the case of Reading, Pennsylvania there are a number of interesting, local attractions including the Reading Pagoda.  This is something that I have seen from a distance many times, but never up close.  This little problem was finally rectified over the summer.


Warning: Cultural, Religious, and Architectural Information

Pagoda is an English translation for several different types of religious structures found throughout the better part of Eastern and Southeastern Asia.

The Pagoda at the Senoji Temple, Asakusa Tokyo, Japan

Japanese Pagoda


The pagoda is a multi-tiered tower with sloping roofs, and is normally used in some sort of religious capacity.  The first pagodas were built between the 5th and 6th century BCE, as part of the Buddhist tradition.  However, their origin goes back a bit further to the stupa.


Sri Lankan Stupa


Stupas are earthen mounds from the first millennium BCE, and were originally used to enshrine mystics from the Sramana religion which predates Buddhism.  As Buddhism grew in popularity existing stupas were used as meditation sites, and new stupas were built to enshrine Buddhas.  This enshrining of mystics and/or religious relics was continued as the stupa turned into the pagoda.  This shift from stupa to pagoda occurred when Nepalese architects traveled to China to construct stupas.  It was here that the stupa was combined with the traditional style of Chinese pavilions and towers.  This new style of Buddhist religious structure then spread throughout the rest of Asia.

pagoda diagram

padoga diagram


Pagoda at the Chinese Temple in Phueket City Thailand
Chinese pagoda

Chinese pagoda

Cultural, Religious, and Architectural information over

And now what you’ve all been waiting for….. Drum roll please……….


The Reading Pagoda

Reading Pagoda

Reading Pagoda


History time

The Reading Pagoda was constructed in 1908 at a cost of 50,000 dollars at the time, and it was intended to be part of a larger luxury resort at the top of Mount Penn.  A bank foreclosure, and the inability of the potential owners of the resort to obtain a liquor license for the proposed establishment.  The pagoda and the surrounding 10 acres were sold off to Jonathon and Julia Mould, who later sold it to the city of Reading for the bargain price of 1 dollar.  Since then it has been a key landmark of the city of Reading.  In 1972, 64 years after the pagoda’s construction it was added to the National Registry of Historic Places.  In addition to being a landmark it has served as a communication system for firemen, directing them with mores code.  A red light served as the dots, while a white light served as a dash.  This was discontinued with the wide spread adoption of the radio.  These days the lights are used to signal the children of Reading and the surrounding area to Santa Claus’s arrival.


But is it really a Pagoda

Or at least that is what the people of Reading call it.  On closer inspection you will find that the Reading Pagoda is not actually a pagoda.


1- Multi tiered structure- Check

2- Sloping roofs- Check

3- Enshrined Buddha and or relics- Fail

4- Heart Pillar (A big wooden log hanging in the middle)- Fail

5- A lack of rooms or other internal divisions- Fail


Sorry, but 2 out of 5 doesn’t cut it in my classroom, so the Reading Pagoda is not a pagoda.  It is, however, still inspired by Asian architecture, specifically Japanese castle architecture.   The Reading Pagoda is actually based on the design used for the Nagoya Castle, which I’ve actually seen in person.

Nagoya Castle

Nagoya Castle


Now just because the Reading Pagoda isn’t a real pagoda doesn’t mean it isn’t a cool place to visit.  If you want to see a nice Panoramic view of the city of Reading, then I don’t know a better place.


Final verdict

I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit the Reading Pagoda, but if you are already in town and want a nice place to eat a picnic lunch, (food options are limited at the Pagoda) then I can’t think of a better place.

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