During a recent visit to Reading, Pennsylvania our family visited the iconic pagoda. Situated on Mt. Penn, the 110-year-old pagoda looks down upon the city and is, “Berk County’s most famous cultural and historical icon and landmark.”
As you drive up Dureya Drive, it is a surprising sight to see the majestic pagoda appear. The walk from the parking area to the pagoda is a photo-worthy view of Reading, even on a cloudy day. It sits 620 feet above the city of Reading and is anchored to the mountainside.
The pagoda was commissioned in 1906 by William A. Witman, Sr. and was intended to be a luxury resort. Completed in 1908, the resort never opened due to the denial of a liquor license and a bank foreclosure. Witman eventually deeded the pagoda to local business owner Jonathan Mould and his wife. They in turn “sold” the pagoda for $1 to the City of Reading in 1911, who has since owned and cared for it.
The pagoda is seven stories high. You enter on the second floor, through the Pagoda-Skyline Gift Shop and Happy Cat Cafe. The cafe sells a variety of snacks and drinks, with plenty of seating to sit and enjoy them. Although there is no admission, donations are requested to visit the top floor of the pagoda.
There are several staircases, totaling 87 steps in total, to climb to reach the top observation level. Decorating the walls of each level are framed postcards and photos of the pagoda through the years. The sixth level of the pagoda houses a small exhibit that details the history of the pagoda and includes a small number of artifacts.
The observation floor is a small space. There are two coin-operated binoculars that give a close-up view of the city of Reading. Hanging from the ceiling is an antique Japanese bell. This bell was cast in Japan in 1739 and shipped to the pagoda in 1907.
During your visit, be sure to walk down the outside steps and walk around the base of the pagoda. There are several benches where you can sit and enjoy the view.
A visit to the Reading Pagoda will probably take about an hour. This is a unique attraction that should be added to your to-see list when visiting or traveling though Berks County.
98 Duryea Drive
Current Hours: (please check with the pagoda or the website for up-to-date information)
Thursday – 2 PM to 6 PM
Friday – Sunday 12 PM to 6 PM
Admission: Free – $1.00 donation requested (50 cents for children 6-12 years) to visit the top floor observation area
Parking: Free parking
*Wear comfortable shoes. If it’s a nice day there are hiking trails adjacent to the pagoda.
*Food is available for purchase at the Happy Cat Cafe. Snacks are reasonably priced with bottles of water for $1 and hotdogs for $2 each. Only cash or checks are accepted at the cafe.
*There are bathrooms at the base of the pagoda.
*For geocache fans, there are two geocaches nearby (although we could only find one).