The Pagoda and the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower are two of three landmarks on Mount Penn. The third is a large peace sign painted on a large rock on Mount Penn facing Reading.
In 1967, LeRoy G. Levan and a handful of friends on break from college decided to paint a giant peace sign to protest the Vietnam War. They all knew people who were drafted and sent to Vietnam. Some of them never came back.
They chose a large rock which was a scar on Mount Penn from quarrying more than a century ago.
LeRoy G. Levan and his friends rented a thick rope, and bought 12 cans of paint. At dusk they headed to the former model-airplane flying area east of Skyline Drive. They tied the rope to a tree and around their waists, and lowered themselves down the steep quarry rock. They worked at dusk to avoid being detected but still have enough light to work.
The sign measures about 30 feet in diameter and is located on Mount Penn north of the Pagoda and about three blocks south of Reading High School.
Once the sign was discovered, city crews covered it with tar. A few weeks later Levan and his crew returned to paint it again.
In 2004 LeRoy G. Levan, now an attorney with a practice in Shillington, sent an e-mail to Berks historian George M. Meiser IX, confessing the deed and detailing the creation of the peace sign.
In September, 2015, a West Lawn resident named Kenny who had some fond memories of the peace sign, realized that the peace sign needed some TLC. Kenny borrowed a climbing rope and a harness from a buddy and set out to refresh the peace sign. With the harness attached safely to a tree, he lowered himself about forty feet down the steep quarry rock to the peace sign. Over the course of twelve to fifteen days Kenny worked in the morning and after work to give the peace sign coat of red, white, and blue paint.
Kenny was born and raised in the 500 block of 13th Street in the City of Reading. He attended 13th and Green Elementary School. As a kid, he used to climb the peace sign. Kenny now occasionally takes his family up to the peace sign.
Today it’s hard to spot the peace sign from Reading’s streets. It’s tough to see with a full foliage of green leaves and the paint has faded some. It can best be seen from upper floors of the Berks County Courthouse or in the winter after the trees are bare.