A press release announcing a meeting of the Pagoda Writers group has inspired today's history lesson about the popular landmark, the Reading Pagoda.
A non Berks-area native, I was pretty curious about the Pagoda the first time I saw its incongruous presence at the edge of Reading one night, lit up in red (as in the photo at left) and visible from Route 422.
A little Web research revealed that the seven-story building, built on Mt. Penn in 1908 by a quarry owner named William A. Witman Sr. for a cost of $50,000, was intended to be a luxury hotel. According to RoadsideAmerica.com, "Witman decided to balance his yin with his yang by putting a stop to the quarrying and conjuring something sublime for the mountain."
He was inspired, according to the Readingpa.gov, after seeing a picture of Nagoya Castle in Japan. "The construction of the seven story building lasted one year and was initially built to cover a stone pit which had defaced the western slope of the mountain as a result of the Witman quarry. Situated 886 feet above the City of Reading, the Pagoda is one of only three in the United States," according to Readingpa.gov.
Sold to a businessman not long after it was built, the Pagoda and its surrounding 10 acres were, in turn, sold to the city of Reading for a token fee of $1.
Recently restored, the Pagoda and Mt. Penn are part of a public recreation area. At right is how the Pagoda probably looks today, after our recent snowstorm.
Incidentally, M. Night Shyamalan's film "The Last Airbender" was filmed, in part, at the Pagoda in the spring of 2009.
And so my digression leads us to an event to be put on by The Pagoda Writers group.
The group will begin their workshop series on Saturday, Feb. 5, at 1 p.m. at the Pagoda.
Dr. CJ Rhoads, local author and editor and CEO of Douglassville-based ETM Associates, a management consulting firm, will speak on "The Secret to Writing That Gets Published."
Rhoads, who is also an associate professor in the College of Business at Kutztown University, will share her experiences in how she went from "being ignored to getting recognized as a 'real' writer," author of several books and more than 100 articles. In 2009, Rhoads (pictured at left) was honored as one of Pennsylvania's Best 50 Women in Business.
The Pagoda Writers group meets the first Saturday of every month from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Pagoda on Mt. Penn overlooking Reading (weather and road conditions permitting). The meetings are free of charge and open to all.
The Pagoda Writers group initially began with several students in a writing class at the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in Reading. This group contributed to the publication of "The Pagoda Centennial Tales," a collection of photographs, personal stories, memories, and opinions from local residents and visitors alike.