Reading is a city in southeastern Pennsylvania, USA, and seat of Berks County. Reading is the principal city of the Greater Reading Area and had a population of 88,082 as of the 2010 census, making it the fifth most populated city in the state, after Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown and Erie, and the sixth most-populous municipality. According to the 2010 census, Reading has the highest share of citizens living in poverty in the nation.
Overlooking the city on Mount Penn is Reading's symbol, a Japanese-style pagoda visible from almost everywhere in town and referred to locally as "The Pagoda". Built in 1908 as a hotel and restaurant, it remains a popular tourist attraction.
Another fixture to Reading's skyline is the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower; one mile from the Pagoda on Skyline Drive. Built in 1939 for fire department and forestry observation, the tower is 120 feet tall, and 950 feet elevation above the intersection of fifth and Penn Streets. From the top of the tower is a 60 mile panoramic view.
Duryea Drive, which ascends Mount Penn in a series of switchbacks, was a testing place for early automobiles and was named for Charles Duryea. The Blue Mountain Region Sports Car Club of America hosts the Duryea Hill Climb, the longest in the Pennsylvania Hillclimb Association series, which follows the same route the automaker used to test his cars.
The city lent its name to the now-defunct Reading Railroad, which brought anthracite coal from the Pennsylvania Coal Region to cities along the Schuylkill River. The railroad is one of the four railroad properties in the classic United States version of the Monopoly board game. Reading was one of the first localities where outlet shopping became a tourist industry. It has been known as "The Pretzel City" because of numerous local pretzel bakeries. Currently, Bachman, Dieffenbach, and Unique Pretzel bakeries call the Reading area home.
Reading is also known for the Reading Fightin Phils, minor league affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies who play at FirstEnergy Stadium. Notable alumni are Larry Bowa, Ryne Sandberg, Mike Schmidt, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins.
The city has been the residence of numerous professional athletes. Among these native to Reading are Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Carl Furillo, Baltimore Colts running back Lenny Moore, and Philadelphia 76ers forward Donyell Marshall.
Until the mid 1990s, Reading was the home of Joe's Restaurant, a little known eatery owned by Joe Czarnecki. His passion for fine wine and mushroom delicacies prompted Czarnecki to create a definitive cook book, "Joe's Book of Mushroom Cookery." His cook book transformed the Joe's Restaurant into a world renown institution of fine dining. It was in 1996, after Joe's passing, the family moved the restaurant to the Palmer House in Dayton, Oregon.
The open-wheel racing portion of Penske Racing had been based in Reading, Pennsylvania since 1973 with the cars, during the F1 and CART era, being constructed in Poole, Dorset, England as well as being the base for the F1 team. On October 31, 2005, Penske Racing announced after the 2006 IRL season, they would consolidate IRL and NASCAR operations at the team's Mooresville, North Carolina facility; with the flooding in Pennsylvania in 2006, the team's operations were moved to Mooresville earlier than expected. Penske Truck Leasing is still based in Reading
The book and movie Rabbit, Run and the other three novels of the Rabbit series by John Updike were set in fictionalized versions of Reading and nearby Shillington, called Brewer and Olinger respectively. Updike was born in Reading and lived in nearby Shillington until he was thirteen.
Six institutions of higher education serve the Reading area. The city's cultural institutions include the Reading Symphony Orchestra and its education project the Reading Symphony Youth Orchestra, the GoggleWorks Art Gallery, the Reading Public Museum and the Historical Society of Berks County.
Reading is the birthplace of graphic artist Jim Steranko, poet Wallace Stevens, Guitar Virtuoso Richie Kotzen and George Baer Hiester. Marching Band Composer and writer John Philip Sousa, the March King, died in Reading's Abraham Lincoln Hotel in 1932. Keith Haring, NFL quarterbacks Chad Henne, Kerry Collins, wide receiver Steve Kreider and country singer Taylor Swift are not from the City of Reading, but surrounding towns in Berks County.
Filmmakers Gary Adelstein, Costa Mantis, and Jerry Orr's created Reading 1974: Portrait of a City, relying heavily on montage, is a cultural time capsule.
In 1743, Richard and Thomas Penn (sons of William Penn the founder of Pennsylvania, and grandsons of Sir William Penn for whom Pennsylvania is named) planned the town of Reading with Conrad Weiser. Taking its name from the town of Reading in England in honor of their home, it was established in 1748. Upon the creation of Berks County in 1752 the town became the county seat.
Susanna Cox was tried and convicted for infanticide in Reading in 1809. Her case attracted tremendous sympathy; 20,000 viewers came to view her hanging, swamping the 3,000 inhabitants. As a result of her trial, laws were changed, and she was the last woman executed in the state of Pennsylvania.
During the French and Indian War, Reading was a military base for a chain of forts along the Blue Mountain. Meanwhile the region was being settled by emigrants from southern and western Germany. The Pennsylvanian German dialect was spoken in Reading well into the 1950s and later.
By the time of the American Revolution, the area's iron industry had a total production which exceeded England's, an output that would help supply George Washington's troops with cannons, rifles, and ammunition in the Revolutionary War. During the early period of the conflict, Reading was a depot again for military supply. Hessian prisoners from the Battle of Trenton were also detained here.
The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad (P&R) was incorporated in 1833. During the Long Depression following the Panic of 1873, a statewide railroad strike in 1877 over delayed wages led to a violent protest and clash with the National Guard in which six Reading men were killed. After over a century of prosperity, the Reading Company was forced to file for bankruptcy protection in 1971. The bankruptcy was a result of dwindling coal shipping revenues and strict government regulations that denied railroads the ability to set competitive prices, required high taxes, and forced the railroads to continue to operate money-losing passenger service lines. On April 1, 1976, the Reading Company sold its current railroad interests to the newly formed Consolidated Railroad Corporation (Conrail).
In 1914, one the anchors of the Battleship Maine was delivered from the Washington Navy Yard to City Park, off of Perkiomen Avenue. The anchor was dedicated during a ceremony presided over by Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was then assistant secretary of the navy.
Reading was home to several movie and theater palaces in the early 20th Century. The Astor, Embassy, Loew's Colonial, and Rajah Shrine Theater were grand monuments of architecture and entertainment. Today, after depression, recession, and urban renewal, the Rajah is the only to remain. The Astor Theater was demolished in 1998 to make way for The Sovereign Center. Certain steps were taken to retain mementos of the Astor; Including its ornate Art Deco chandelier and gates. These are on display and in use inside the arena corridors, allowing insight into the ambiance of the former movie house. In 2000, the Rajah was purchased from the Shriners. After a much needed restoration, it was renamed the Sovereign Performing Arts Center.
Reading experienced continuous growth until the 1930s, when its population reached nearly 120,000. From the 1940s to the 1970s, however, the city saw a sharp downturn in prosperity, largely owing to the decline of the heavy industry and railroads, on which Reading had been built, and a national trend of urban decline.
One of the city's grandest landmarks, Stokesay Castle, was built by George Baer Hiester in 1932 as a gift for his bride, Anne. Unfortunately, Anne did not care for the replica 13th century English Manor House and rarely stayed there. Designed by architect Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, the property was sold in 1956, and converted to a restaurant in the 1970s. In recent years Stokesay and its pub have become renown for fine wine and dining; Partly due to chef Andrea Heinly, of Hell's Kitchen fame.
In 1972, Hurricane Agnes caused extensive flooding in the city, not the last time the lower precincts of Reading were inundated by the Schuylkill River as a similar, though not as devastating, flood occurred during June 2006.
The Reading Glove and Mitten Manufacturing Company founded in 1899, just outside Reading city limits, in West Reading and Wyomissing boroughs changed its name to Vanity Fair in 1911 and is now the major clothing manufacturer VF Corp. In the early 1970s, the original factories were developed to create the VF Outlet Village, the first outlet mall in the United States. The mall is so successful that it draws hundreds of thousands of tourists to Reading every year.
The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum is a membership-supported museum and restoration facility located at Carl A. Spaatz Field. The museum actively displays and restores historic and rare war aircraft and civilian airliners. Most notable to their collection is a Northrop P-61 Black Widow under active restoration since its recovery from Mount Cyclops, New Guinea in 1989. Beginning in 1990, the museum has hosted "World War II Weekend Air Show", scheduled to coincide with D-Day. On display are period wartime aircraft (many of which fly throughout the show) vehicles, and weapons.
The 2000 census showed that Reading's population decline had ceased. This was attributed to an influx of Hispanic residents from New York, as well as from the extension of suburban sprawl from Philadelphia's northwest suburbs.
Reading has its share of obstacles to overcome, namely crime. However, new crime fighting strategies appear to be having an impact, as in 2006 the city dropped in the rankings of dangerous cities, and then again in 2007. Reading is famous for invention of the term jawn.
In December 2007, NBC's Today show featured Reading as one of the top four "Up and Coming Neighborhoods" in the United States as showing potential for a real estate boom. The interviewee Barbara Corcoran chose the city by looking for areas of big change, renovations, cleanups of parks, waterfronts, and warehouses. Corcoran also noted Reading's proximity to Philadelphia, New York, and other cities. The financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent nationwide recession stifled optimism; in November 2011 the PBS Newshour reported that Reading was officially the poorest city in the nation with 49% of inhabitants living below the poverty line.