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Reading ( , ) is a city in southeastern Pennsylvaniamarker, USAmarker, and seat of Berks Countymarker. The center of the Greater Reading Areamarker, it had a population of 81,207 in the 2000 census; by 2008, it was estimated to have fallen to 80,560, making it the fifth largest city in Pennsylvania after Philadelphiamarker, Pittsburghmarker, Allentownmarker, and Eriemarker, and the sixth largest municipality after Upper Darby Townshipmarker.


Overlooking the city on Mount Penn is Reading's symbol, a Japanese-style pagoda visible from everywhere in town and referred to locally as "the Pagoda." It was built in 1908 as a hotel and restaurant, but was never used for that purpose. It remains a tourist attraction. In 2007, plans were announced to renovate the area surrounding the Pagoda. The vision is to include walking paths and, possibly, a new mountaintop restaurant.

Duryea Drive, which ascends Mount Penn in a series of sharp bends, was a testing place for early automobiles and was named for Charles Duryea. The Blue Mountain Region SCCA hosts the longest hill climb in the PHA series, the Duryea Hill Climb, 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 English-language version of the Monopoly board game.

During the general decline of heavy manufacturing, 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. It is also known as "Baseballtown," after the Reading Phillies trademarked this moniker to market Reading's rich baseball history. Legendary left-handed pitcher Ty Sofflet led Reading to several fast-pitch softball victories in the mid-1970s.

The city has been the residence of numerous professional athletes of national stature. Among the athletes native to the Reading are Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Carl Furillo, Baltimore Colts running back Lenny Moore, and Philadelphia 76ers forward Donyell Marshall.

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 others of the Rabbit series were set in fictionalized versions of Reading and nearby Shillingtonmarker, called Brewer and Olinger respectively. These stories were written by John Updike, who 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 Museummarker and the Historical Society of Berks Countymarker.

Reading is the birth place of artist [[Keith Haring], graphic artist Jim Steranko, poet Wallace Stevens, and country singer Taylor Swift. John Philip Sousa, the March King, died there in 1932.


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 Readingmarker 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.

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 Germanymarker. 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).

Reading's Pagoda seen from Skyline Drive

Early in the 20th century, the city participated in the burgeoning automobile industry, hosting the pioneer brass era company, Daniels.

In 1927, Reading elected J. Henry Stump as its first and only Socialist mayor. Stump was re-elected on two other occasions, and during his first term, the entire city government was Socialist. Many tangible improvements were made during his tenure.

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 general flight to the suburbs.

Filmmakers Gary Adelstein, Costa Mantis, and Jerry Orr's Reading 1974: Portrait of a City, relying heavily on montage, is a cultural time capsule.

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 2000 census showed that Reading's population decline had begun to reverse itself. This was attributed to an influx of Hispanic residents from New Yorkmarker, as well as from the extension of urban sprawl from Philadelphiamarker's northwest suburbs.

Like all metropolitan areas, 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.

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. The criteria for the study of these neighborhoods was hip factor, nightlife, creative types, new cars, and ladies sitting on park benches. Corcoran also noted Reading's proximity to Philadelphiamarker, New Yorkmarker, and other cities.


The climate in and around Reading is variable, but relatively mild overall. The Reading area is generally considered to be on the northern edge of the humid subtropical climate zone, as areas just to the north are in the humid continental climate zone. Summers are very warm and sticky, with average July highs around 85 °F. Extended periods of heat and high humidity do occur. On average, there are about 15–20 days per year where the temperature exceeds 90 °F. Autumn can be gorgeous, as the heat and humidity of summer move out and clearer skies and lower humidity and temperatures move in. The first killing frost generally occurs in mid to late October.

Winters can occasionally be harsh, but it is rarely long-lived. A respectable snowstorm will occur from time to time, but the harsher winter conditions experienced to the north and west don't often visit Reading and Berks. It is not unusual for temperatures to fall to 0 °F at least once per winter, but rarely are below zero temperatures reported. Average January highs are in the upper 30s, average January low is around 20 °F. The all-time record low was −21 °F during a widespread cold wave in January 1994 (actual temp, not wind chill). Annual snowfall is variable, but averages around 32 inches. There may be 60 or more inches (152 cm) of snow in a winter (which is rare), as in 1993–94, 1995–96, and 2002–03, but then the following winter may feature very little snowfall. Spring is variable, it may snow one day in March and then a few days later temps may be in the 70s. The last killing frost usually is in later April, but freezing temperatures have occurred into May. Total precipitation for the entire year is around 44 inches (112 cm).


Reading is located at (40.341692, -75.926301) in southeastern Pennsylvaniamarker, roughly 65 miles (93 km) northwest of Philadelphiamarker. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.1 square miles (26.1 km²). 9.8 square miles (25.4 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.6 km²) of it (2.39%) is water. The total area is 2.39% water. The city is largely bounded on the west by the Schuylkill River, on the east by Mount Penn, and on the south by Neversink Mountain. The Reading Prong, the mountain formation stretching north into New Jerseymarker, has come to be associated with naturally-occurring radon gas; however, homes in Reading are not particularly affected. The surrounding county is home to a number of family-owned farms.



Public transit in Reading and its surrounding communities has been provided since 1973 by BARTA, the Berks Area Reading Transit Authority. BARTA has an active fleet of 53 buses serving 21 routes, mostly originating at the BARTA Transportation Center in Downtown Reading.


A number of federal and state highways allow entry to and egress from Reading. U.S. Route 222 Business is designated as Lancaster Avenue, Bingaman Street, South 4th Street, and 5th Street. U.S. Route 422 Business is designated as Penn Street, Cherry Street, Franklin Street, and Perkiomen Avenue. U.S. Route 422, the major east-west artery, circles the western edge of the city and is known locally as The West Shore Bypass. PA Route 12 is known as the Warren Street Bypass, as it bypasses the city to the north. PA Route 10 is known as Morgantown Road.

The most congested intersection in Reading and all of Berks County is in the Millmont section of the city, where U.S. Route 222 Business, U.S. Route 422, and PA Route 10 all converge.


Reading and the surrounding area is serviced by the Reading Regional Airportmarker, a general aviation airfield. Scheduled commercial airline service to Reading ended in 2004, though Reading is a short drive from Harrisburg International Airportmarker, Lehigh Valley International Airportmarker, and Philadelphia International Airportmarker.


Passenger trains ran between Pottsville, Reading, Pottstown and Philadelphia until July 29, 1981, when transit operator SEPTA curtailed commuter service to electrified lines. Since then, there have been repeated calls for the resumption of the sorely needed services.

In the late 1990s and up to 2003, SEPTA, in cooperation with Reading-based BARTA funded a study called the Schuylkill Valley Metro which included plans to extend both sides of SEPTA's R6 passenger line to Pottstownmarker, Reading, and Wyomissingmarker, Pennsylvania. The overpriced project suffered a major setback when it was rejected by the Federal Transit Administration New Starts program, which cited doubts about the ridership projections and financing assumptions used by the study. With the recent surge in gasoline prices and ever-increasing traffic, the planning commissions of Montgomery Countymarker and Berks County have teamed to study the feasibility of a simple extension of the R6 from Wyomissing to Norristown, PAmarker. Options to be studied include complete electrification of the line, diesel service (with a cross-platform change in Norristown), or an electric-diesel hybrid. The study had been expected to be completed sometime during the summer of 2008.


  • Center City/Downtown Reading
  • Southeast Reading
  • Northeast Reading
  • Northwest Reading
  • South Central Reading
  • Oakbrook/Wyomissing Park
  • Millmont
  • Hampden Heights


As of the census of 2000, there were 81,207 people, 30,113 households, and 18,429 families residing in the city. The population density was 8,270.2 persons per square mile (3,192.9/km²). There were 34,314 housing units at an average density of 3,494.6 houses per square mile (1,349.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 59.18% White, 12.25% African American, 0.44% Native American, 1.60% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 22.32% from other races, and 4.18% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 37.31% of the population.

There were 30,113 households out of which 33.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.4% were married couples living together, 20.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.8% were non-families. 31.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.63 and the average family size was 3.33.

In the city the population was spread out with 29.9% under the age of 18, 11.7% from 18 to 24, 28.9% from 25 to 44, 17.0% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 93.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,698, and the median income for a family was $31,067. Males had a median income of $28,114 versus $21,993 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,086. 26.1% of the population and 22.3% of families were below the poverty line. 36.5% of those under the age of 18 and 15.6% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

In 2000, the Reading metropolitan statistical area was the second most segregated place for Hispanics in the United States, behind only the Lawrence, Massachusettsmarker area. Only 2.1% of the rest of Berks County is Hispanic or Latino, while this ethnic group is highly concentrated in certain city neighborhoods.

2008 estimates

According to the US Census Bureau, Reading's population in 2008 was 80,888. 51.9% of the residents were White, 11.9% were African American, 0.3% were Native American, 1.6% were Asian, 0.1% were Pacific Islander, 30.3% from other races, and 3.9% from two or more races. 52.1% were Hispanic or Latino of any race, with 28.7% being of Puerto Rican descent. Reading has the highest percentage of Hispanics in a single city in Pennsylvania. Other cities in the state with high Hispanic populations include Allentown, Lancaster, and Bethlehem.

32.9% of all residents live below the poverty level, including 45.7% of those under 18. Reading has an unemployment rate of 7.6%.


Four institutions of higher learning are located within Reading's city limits:

Three high schools serve the city:

The Reading School District provides elementary and middle schools for the city's children. Numerous Catholic parochial schools are also available. It is possible to get a complete education, from kindergarten through college, on 13th Street.


Club League Venue Established Championships
Reading Phillies EL, Baseball FirstEnergy Stadiummarker 1967 4
Reading Royals ECHL, Ice hockey Sovereign Centermarker 2001 0
Reading Express AIFA, Indoor football Sovereign Centermarker 2006 1
Reading Railers PBL, Basketball Sovereign Centermarker 2008 0
Reading Rage USL, Soccer Don Thomas Stadium 1996 0
Reading Buccaneers DCA, Drum and Bugle Corps Buc Field 1957 9

Reading played host to a stop on the PGA Tour, the Reading Open, in the late 1940s and early 1950s.The mechanical ice cream scoop was invented in Reading by William Clewell in 1878. He didn’t patent it and 100 years later another inventor claimed it. The 5th Ave Bar and York Peppermint Patty were invented in Reading. The first Amish community in the country was established in Greater Reading, Berks County.

Notable residents


The Reading Public Museummarker is an art, science, and history museum in Reading. The Reading Pagoda, located atop Mount Penn, is also a popular recreational stop for tourists and residents alike.


  2. Sports Illustrated, May 28, 1979
  5. Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States 1492-Present (New York: HarperPerennial, 1995), p. 243.
  6. Clymer, Floyd. Treasury of Early American Automobiles, 1877-1925 (New York: Bonanza Books, 1950), p.158.
  7. Historical Review of Berks County, Summer, 1958
  8. City Crime Rankings by Population Group
  9. Interview with Barbara Corcoran on NBC's Today show. Online. December 2007. Retrieved 27 September 2009.
  11. bccf,org
  13. Mr. Stephen D. Mull Nominated as New United States Ambassador to Lithuania: Biography

External links

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