Reading is a declining industrial center in southwest Pennsylvania originally built on heavy industry, textiles, and anthracite coal. The heavy industry and Victorian wealth have left an imprint on the town, which has done a good job preserving its historic heritage. The city reached its nadir in the early 1970’s, first with industrial and downtown commercial closures and then with flooding from Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Among the first steps in recovery was the creation of a large outlet mall, supposedly among the first in the country, for which the area is well known today.
More recently the area has gained ground as a strategic location relative to larger East Coast areas, notably Philadelphia and, farther away, New Jersey and even New York. Nearby Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton is undergoing a similar transition from its old-economy working class roots. Reading is attracting migrants seeking a small-town feel, an attractive setting, a moderate cost of living, and proximity to Philadelphia and its amenities. Outside of some local cultural and minor-league sports activities, there isn’t a lot to do in the immediate area.
The area is characterized by large, wooded hills surrounding flat agricultural valleys. The continental-type climate is modified by ridges to the west and the ocean and its bays to the south and east. Summers are warm, still, and humid with occasional thunderstorms. Winters are fairly mild for the latitude. The mountains block some northwesterly cold air and moisture, creating more clear days than even Philadelphia to the southeast. Snow amounts are variable and freezing rain occurs occasionally. First freeze is mid-October, last is late April.