Completed in 1908 at a cost of $50,000, this pagoda was intended to be the hotel/restaurant centerpiece of a luxury resort. When plans for the rest of the resort were abandoned, the 7-story wooden building on 10 acres of land was donated to Reading in 1911. It is now part of the Mount Penn Reserve, 1,595 acres of municipally-owned land.
Within the top story hangs a tocsin, a massive bell cast in Obata, Mie Prefecture, Japan, in 1739, and formerly installed in a Buddhist temple in either Ogose or Hannō, Saitama Prefecture, just north of Tokyo. Listed on the bell’s sides in Old Japanese (kanji) characters are the names of its 48 donors and a prophecy about the end of time. The temple was closed in 1881, and later destroyed.
The Pagoda is owned by the City of Reading but is managed and preserved by the Foundation for the Reading Pagoda. It houses a small café and a gift shop, and functions as an icon for the City of Reading. The Pagoda is also the home of Pagoda Skyline, Inc., a non-profit volunteer organization formed in 1969 to help with the restoration and preservation of the Pagoda, the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower and Skyline Drive.