March 26, 2013

Identity Crisis...


That's what happens when you put a Japanese pagoda smack dab in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch country.  The identity crisis would be complete if only that Pagoda had a snack shack that sold fastnachts and apple dumplings.  Luckily, this pagoda's psyche is moderately stable with a coffee shop...and a Buddha in it's window.



"The Pagoda"
Reading, PA




"How Much is that Buddha in the Window?"
Reading, PA



Welcome to Berks County, PA.  My stomping grounds for 25+ years.  Those who've played Monopoly know Berks County's biggest claim to fame...the Reading Railroad.   But it's also home to Pennsylvania Dutch culture, the first outlet shopping tourist trap in the country, hard pretzels, Keith Haring, John Updike and John Philip Sousa (how's THAT for a trifecta), and...the Reading Pagoda.  Which sits high atop Mount Penn.  620 feet above Reading.  Pretty high when you are surrounded by rolling farm land.









Why?  Well, why not?  In the early 1900's, a genius built a pagoda as a luxury resort waaaaay up on a mountain (that's a 'mountain' by Pennsylvania definition...foreigners would call it a big hill).  It wasn't genius. The city of Reading eventually took ownership.  They thought it would be genius to make something Japanese a "symbol" of Reading...which isn't in Japan.  Not to mention Reading already has it's own Monopoly square symbol.  But we are talking about politicians here.  Who thought they were geniuses.  They obviously were suffering from their own identity crises.  Doesn't take a genius to figure that out.








It's omnipresent.  It watches over you from above, wherever you may be in the Reading area.  And every night it illuminates with red lights high atop Mount Penn.  It's is one of those things that no matter how long you live in the area, you still look up when outside in the evening and point it out to your kids..."Hey look, there's the Pagoda" in the night sky.  It's uniqueness is a comforting presence.  Kinda like a symbol?





But if you asked Things #1, #2, and #3 WHY the Pagoda really IS genius,  they would give you the REAL answer...




"Santa's Beacon"
Reading, PA


...because all Berks County kids know to point their eyes high atop Mount Penn every Christmas Eve.  At precisely 9 p.m. this Japanese Pagoda hovering above Pennsylvania Dutch Country adds yet another component to it's identity crisis.  It magically morphs into a beacon with flashing red lights.  The official signal that Santa has been spotted approaching Reading, and all Berks County kids need to hit the sack. Pronto.

So if you are ever on Jeopardy and say "I'll take 'Snapple Cap Facts' for $500 Alex", you'll know the question to this answer:   "Japan, Pennsylvania Dutch, and Santa have this in common".

"What is the Reading Pagoda, Alex."  

Believe me, you'll look like a genius.

--Kathy

38 comments:

  1. WOW! I never knew this! Great post & pics. You have just peaked the curious, adventurous Sagg side of me. I smell a day trip in the near future! Reading is not that far from me either! Okay, mother nature...warm us the hell up! I've got things to do & a Reading Pagoda to see!

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    1. Pick a warm day Sonya....it's cold up there on Mount Penn!

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    2. I will. I'll let you know when we go too. Don't know about the boy, but Sierra will get a kick out of this!

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  2. Wonderful post and great pictures.

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  3. Lol, well I'm all set for Alex now, thanks! I have to say that IS an identity crisis, but a pretty cool one!

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  4. I wondered when I saw your last post how the heck a pagoda ended up in Penn. Glad you shared the story but still, odd. Guess we should shut up though we have a mosque type building int he center of Helena which looks equally as odd and doesn't light up at Christmas to announce Santa's arrival either!

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  5. That is really unexpected! So neat, though.

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  6. I'm from just outside Reading, so the pagoda has a special spot in my heart. :) Nothing like coming over the hill on 222 from a long trip, seeing it, and knowing you're home!

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  7. Too funny.. I really is a gorgeous building. Nice shots my friend.

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  8. Well I am amused by your pagoda. If I'm ever in your part of the world I have been forewarned about what to expect as I approach Mount Penn.

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  9. I just think it's amazing you have something so exotic that's you must feel as if you're in another land far away...
    Beautiful and unique points of view, Kathy.

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  10. I guess it would take a genius to come up with this as a tourist attraction! I wonder if some other US town might have a sphinx or pyramid, by chance?

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  11. When I saw the thumbnail, I thought you must be traveling! I would never have guessed there was a pagoda in Pennsylvania! You have captured such fabulous architectural details!

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  12. The pictures are magnificent, but the story that goes with it, GENIUS!

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  13. beautiful pictures and you always make me laugh!!

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  14. These shots are amazing! The detail is just so beautiful and your perspective is really great!

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  15. Fun post, love all your tidbits of information and the photos are terrific!!

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  16. Pretty cool facts about that pagoda. Love the pics an the post today Kathy.

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  17. Ha! Awesome pictures!! I love them in color and black and white!!!

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  18. A really ODD and INTERESTING mix of things! Wow! You took some amazing photos though. Loved seeing them.

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  19. Your commentary had tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks ....
    but, the point it, your photographs of the pagoda are fabulous!

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  20. So funny! You got great shots, interesting angles. I love your story -- the Reading RR was one of my favorite Monopoly buys!

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  21. Great shots-as usual! And a great story...if I am ever in your corner of the world I know what to look out for!

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  22. I've been looking forward to your more in depth promised photos since your scavenger hunt. There's so much good stuff to mention about each of these shots but unfortunately due to time constraints I'll just say, that your 3rd ,6th ,7th captures took my breath. Renee.

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  23. That is hilarious... I have yet to go to Reading but we have friends who live there so maybe in the summer

    Mollyxxx

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  24. I adore buddhas. Quite a strange place for a pagoda although it's a gorgeous structure. Wonder if they could just load it on a flatbed truck and move it? LOL We have mountains here in Virginia... maybe they could move it here.

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  25. Thanks for the history lesson. As I mentioned before, I have been there. I was was probably about nine. It does look weird photographed with a American landscape in the background. My Aunt and Uncle lived "down the hill". It didn't seem long to drive up there but from where they lived the Pagoda looked very tiny. I just remember them living in some row houses that across from a shopping center with an ACME.

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  26. Fabulous series of images. Perhaps that touch of Japan was put there just for you and James Dean. Although I totally hear you on the weirdness and "briliance" of politicians, there are some great vistas here, and who doesn't need a Santa beacon? Perhaps this is where you love for all things Christmas decoration started. As for the shoes, that I don't know.

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  27. Mornin' Kathy, wonderful pics and story too. Have you ever published in your local newspaper? You should have your own column. It would be a big hit.

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  28. Just want to say - never knew any of that. Except the reading rr/monoply board part. Shows you what snobs us Radnor folks really are....

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  29. These are all great shots Kathy, and this is definitely not something that I would expect to see in Pennsylvania Dutch country! Love your black and whites

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  30. Cool shots!

    I've wanted to visit Pennsylvania, and now I want to even more.

    =)

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  31. Love the details of the pagoda, great shots! I will remember the answer too. :)

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