Travel PA 2018 Part 1: Reading’s Pagoda

They might as well refer to Mount Penn as “Trash Mountain”. That’s where the city of Reading’s beloved seven-story pagoda is located. Built in 1908 as part of a planned mountaintop resort that never came to fruition, it was later donated to the city by its builder and has since become an emblem. Everywhere you look, including the lobby of our hotel, you will find images of this blazing red example of Japanese architecture. Where the “trash” comes in is quite literal: everywhere you walk outside of the pagoda was loaded with garbage. Everything from beer bottles to plastic bags and McDonald’s wrappers. You name it. It was actually quite sad to see the land this supposed landmark occupies so poorly maintained. The trails were almost not walkable. But let me get to a few positives, and there are only a few.

From the outside, it is beautiful. We were there during the day, so we missed out on its illumination at night. The views from the mountain are nice. Furthermore, the views from the top floor of the actual pagoda are breathtaking…if you enjoy looking down at the city of Reading. I imagine the view would be spectacular at night, but alas, the pagoda closes at 6 PM. Is it a museum or a historic site? A little bit of both. There are a couple of tiny displays inside, but not much by way of educating people. While it appeared to be owned and maintained by the city, there was little reason for optimism in its care. Paint peeled off the walls. Signs were dated. The urinals and stalls from the bathrooms were so disgustingly smelly that you could catch whiff of the aroma before you even knew were the bathrooms were at all.

There was an air conditioning unit on each of the seven floors. Some worked. Some didn’t. Of course, the one on the top floor, which is enclosed in glass not allowing for a breeze, was blowing warm air. It was hot and steamy like a greenhouse. Everyone here knows that I work at a museum. Therefore I understand the trials and tribulation of maintaining such an enormous property. The paint peeling off the walls doesn’t bother me. Neither do the faulty AC units. However, there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for the literal mounds of garbage piling outside and the smell of urine that manages to waft across the area. That, my friends, is an embarrassment.

The pagoda also advertised a cafe which was a little more than a snack stand. If you are going to offer chips, soda, and candy, don’t call it a cafe. There were only two employees present, a male and a female. Neither looked like they had any pride in what they were doing. Maybe the city has abandoned the pagoda and are letting it fall to ruin. As someone involved in museum management for nearly 10 years, that is the feeling I get. I wish them luck…and much-needed funding. The $1 suggested donation to walk upstairs isn’t cutting it.

Click here for more in this series as the days go by.

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