Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Frets about Stability of Pagoda atop Hill

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Frets about Stability of Pagoda atop Hill

Article excerpt

READING, Pa. -- Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer said he doesn't want to be remembered as the man who was mayor when the Pagoda tumbled down Mount Penn into City Park.

But among the myriad financial problems the city faces is the fact that a section of the retaining wall supporting the foundation of the city landmark has collapsed, and more of the wall is in danger of crumbling.

If the wall goes, the Pagoda could be next.

"It's a serious problem because that is the foundation wall and a large piece of it is gone," Mr. Spencer said. "Once you get that kind of erosion going it's hard to stop."

City Public Works director Charles M. Jones said he doesn't think a wall collapse would necessarily endanger the foundation of the Pagoda.

"I don't believe it has any direct effect on the Pagoda," Mr. Jones added. "The [Pagoda] building is set back from the wall.

"I don't know what the foundation of the Pagoda looks like underground but to have a building of that size standing for 100 years, I would think it is substantial."

Mr. Spencer said city crews have cordoned off the area to prevent tourists from stumbling into a hole where ground has sunk at the top of the wall. The problem now is to find out exactly how much work is needed to repair the wall and halt its incessant erosion.

"The retaining walls were just stacked stones; they didn't have any cement in them," said Cindy L. Kauffman, who manages the Pagoda for the nonprofit Reading Pagoda Foundation.

"These retaining walls are over 100 years old and this one has been showing its age," Ms. Kauffman said.

"The hard rain we've had over the past year has made it a lot weaker."

Ms. Kauffman said that when restoration work was done at the Pagoda in 2008-09, the retaining walls were not included in the project.

Ms. Kauffman also stressed that the retaining wall supports the Pagoda foundation but is not part of the foundation. …

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