• Jody Ferguson

The Pagoda of Reading, Pennsylvania


Reading, Pennsylvania was the birthplace of my grandfather Harry Ferguson. Reading (pronounced like the color 'Red') is a small town nestled in the Allegheny foothills of southern Pennsylvania. Reading is perhaps best known for the Reading Railroad, a Monopoly property that we all held at one point playing that game as kids. In 1908 a wealthy local manufacturer (there were many companies in Reading at the time supplying brass parts for the automobile and railroad industries) built an Oriental-style pagoda on the slopes of Mount Penn to try and attract tourists. He had hoped to build a resort nearby. The resort never came about, but the pagoda still stands and is the most famous landmark in Reading.


Harry, the protagonist of my novel Above the Water was born in Reading and there are numerous references to this landmark in my book. Sent to Shanghai as a foreign correspondent, Harry also frequents the older walled section of the city called Nantao, where there are pagodas and temples. It is there that he is reminded of the pagoda from his childhood, which ignited his interest as a boy toward the Far East and China.


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