The pagoda was commissioned in 1906 at a cost of $50,000 by William A. Witman, Sr. to cover his stone quarry. The pagoda was completed in 1908, and was originally intended to be a luxury resort atop of Mt. Penn, but due to the bank foreclosure and the denial of a liquor license, Witman never opened the Pagoda. By 1910, the Pagoda and surrounding 10 acres were deeded to local business owner, Jonathon Mould, and his wife, Julia (Bell). On April 12, 1911, they "sold" the Pagoda to the City of Reading for the sum of $1. Since then, the Pagoda has been owned, loved, and cared for by the citizens and City of Reading.
Here are some 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.
- The walls are 5-feet thick at the base tapering to 2-feet thick at 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.
- The Pagoda is anchored to the mountainside by 16 tons of bolts.
- The inside walls are concrete plasters, and all the trim and stairways are solid oak.
- There are a total of 87 steps to the top.
- It is the 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 firemen, 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.
- 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 Santa is on his way.
To learn more about the Pagoda, and the history surrounding it, click here.