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 orginally 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. www.readingpagoda.com
In 1978 the City of Reading created its first historic district, Callowhill. The Prince District and the Centre Park Historic District followed in 1982. The newest district, Penn’s Common, was established in 2005. Each of these areas maintains a distinctive character reflecting rich architectural and historical heritage of Reading. Collectively, the four districts represent over two centuries of building traditions and lifestyles in the city.
The Callowhill Historic District covers the nine-block corridor of Fifth Street from Buttonwood Street south to Laurel Street. Fifth Street was originally named Callowhill Street in honor of Hannah Callowhill Penn, mother of Thomas and Richard Penn who founded Reading. The Callowhill District features structures in a variety of architectural styles in an area of 253 acres on 331 sites.
The Prince Historic District includes over 800 sites along the Sixth Street corridor between Cherry and Canal Streets. The area is predominantly residential, but includes significant examples of ecclesiastical and commercial architecture. About three-quarters of the existing buildings were constructed between 1850 and 1890.
The Centre Park Historic District was Reading’s “First suburb” The Centre Park Historic District is in the north-central part of the city, surrounding a small park that gives its name to the district. It is a predominantly residential area consisting of 840 sites which feature a wide variety of architectural styles and a high level of craftsmanship. Most of the residential development occurred between 1895 and 1915 when trolley service made the neighborhood just outside downtown one of Reading’s first “suburbs.”
The Penn’s Common Historic and Conservation District is situated on the lower slopes of Mt. Penn centered around Penn’s Common (City Park). The 116 acre district encompasses City Park and the neighborhood surrounding it. The district is one of the most fascinating areas of the city, with a rich architectural and historical heritage. The district features a range of architectural styles including Federal, Victorian, Georgian, and Arts and Crafts. Residential developments occurred between 1840 and the early 20th Century.
Centre Park Historic District (www.centrepark.org) and Penn’s Common Historic District have active neighborhood organizations proud of their historic designation. The benefits of this designation include protecting property values against devaluation and stabilizing neighborhoods. For more information call the City of Reading Historic Preservation Officer at 610-655-6414.
Reading Public Library
100 S 5th Street, Reading, PA 19602
Founded in 1763 and one of the oldest libraries in the US, The Classical Revival Style Main Branch was built in 1913 with funds from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. There are over 200,000 items including books, periodicals, and recordings, as well as internet access. Open Monday to Wednesday 8:15 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Thursday and Friday 8:15 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. and Saturday 8:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
DID YOU KNOW?
The first Berks County Court House was in the middle of Penn Square.