Pagoda Upgrades, City of Reading

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Standing on the mountaintop at 620 feet above the city of Reading, PA is a Berks County historical claim to fame - the Pagoda.

  • 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. It was originally intended to be a luxury resort atop 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 21, 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.
  • The Pagoda is 7 stories high, 28 feet wide, and 50 feet long - standing
  • 620 feet above the City of Reading. There are a total of 87 steps to the top.
  • The 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. 
  • 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 and shipped via the Suez Canal to New York Harbor, and arrived by rail in Reading on May 5, 1907.
  • 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.
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Spotts, Stevens and McCoy (SSM) provided a Topographical and Building survey using conventional and HDS (High Definition Scanning) technology. The job included surveying the areas around the building in order to design and construct a Japanese garden and improve the parking area below the large stone walls that surround the Pagoda.

SSM also performed geotechnical investigations in the areas of the existing and future retaining walls at the lower entrance.  Designs for the new walls, parking lot expansion and landscaping in the terrace garden were also provided. This included the design of a driveway with parking and handicap accessibility along Duryea Drive and creation of the new garden on the existing terrace. To complete this phase, structural repairs and stabilization designs for the building, walls and landscape would be provided, as well as minor plumbing modifications.

Following these designs, SSM prepared plans to upgrade and expand the Pagoda’s outdated and inefficient HVAC systems, as well as replaced the unique exterior lighting with energy-efficient LED lighting.

 

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