30 April 09: Worth repeating:

In the two years since Philly Skyline relocated its headquarters from G-Ho to Fishtown, we've written about Penn Treaty Park approximately 436 times, through the Summer of the Delaware On the Delaware series to Ken Milano's book release to Shadfest just last weekend (which, again, was just outstanding. Eat your heart out, Lambertville!).

Tonight is the second in a series of public meetings to form a master plan for the future of the park. There are so many hands at work with Penn Treaty Park's master plan that rather than trying to summarize, I'll let the words of Penn Praxis' Bridget Keegan explain:
Friends of Penn Treaty Park and Fairmount Park received funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the William Penn Foundation for the plan. The funding is being administered through Fairmount Park. Fairmount Park staff is managing the project with guidance from the Penn Treaty Park Steering Committee. Together Fairmount Park and Friends of PTP co-chair the steering committee. The steering committee includes:

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which has been funded to assist in coordinating the public involvement side of things.
Penn Praxis, which is on the committee to represent the civic vision and to ensure that the values and principles are at the core of the master plan.
New Kensington Community Development Corporation.
• William Penn Foundation.

Together, the steering committee issued the Request For Proposals (RFP), interviewed a handful of candidates and selected Bryan Hanes. Bryan is a landscape architect who recently opened his own shop -- Studio Bryan Hanes.

There is also a Project Review Team that includes community representatives, business owners, property owners, PennDOT, and others.
That's a lot of stakeholders right there. All the more reason for the community to come out and speak up. This isn't "do you want a casino in a mobile home with a gigantic parking lot" or "what transit pipe dream do you have that Septa will never build", this is "we already have the money, so let's make something you love even better."

At the first meeting, many suggested bringing the old fishing pier back, some were into having a motor-less boat launch (for canoes and kayaks), and other things like more art installations and public bathrooms were floated out there. Those are all wonderful ideas . . . but there has GOT to be a priority placed on removing the boulders along the shore. Just look at the algae in the photo above.

John Connors, who wrote the foreword to Milano's book and who heads the excellent Penn Treaty Museum (only online for now, perhaps with a physical home in the future), was a big part of the park's expansion in 1982, in time for the city's tercentennial the following year. He told me the other day that the boulders were the result of a lot of discussion concerning safety. "People were concerned that if there was a shoreline then small children could easily walk into the River and drown. The channel is close to shore, the dropoff is steep and the current can be swift."

The problem I have with this, though, is that this is a potential problem, one which is lessened considering parents ought to be keeping watch over their children in the first place.

The giant boulders, on the other hand, are a real problem. Penn Treaty Park is one of the very few places in all of Philadelphia where you can physically touch the Delaware River. A ribbon of boulders makes it maddeningly and unnecessarily hard to do that, though. You have to walk gingerly across hard, jagged rocks, hoping not to roll your ankle or slip onto those hard, jagged rocks. The rocks are slippery when wet, which is often, since the Delaware River is tidal, rising and falling six to eight feet every day. (And they're simply impossible when there's snow on them, as pictured here.)

And, of course, they're unnatural. Penn Treaty Park is beloved for the brotherly love shared there between Penn and the Lenapes. There was no ribbon of boulders on the sand and soil embankment of the river in 1682.

Penn Treaty Park is one of the most historical places in this most historical of American cities. It's one of the few places with a real, honest connection to the Delaware River that the city is trying so hard to reconnect with. Leaving these hard, giant, cumbersome and unsafe boulders ruins that connection and reconnection. They must be removed.

The meeting is this evening from 6:30 to 8:30 at the First Presbyterian Church in Kensington, 418 East Girard Avenue.

On a related note, and speaking of Ken Milano, he will be speaking on The History of Penn Treaty Park (and signing his book), next Wednesday May 6th at 6pm at Kensington Methodist Episcopal Church -- "the Old Brick Church" -- at 300 Richmond Street.

–B Love

30 April 09: Your brand new leopard-skin billboard ad

As seen at the former Architects Building. It's actually not brand new, but it's the first non-cell-phone picture I've managed to get of Kimpton's ad announcing the opening of the Palomar Philadelphia later this year.

You have to hand it to Kimpton. With all the new hotel talk of the last few years -- the W, Stamper Square, Waldorf-Astoria, Mandarin Oriental, etc etc -- they're really the only ones who've come to town anew and actually have something to show for it. (Unless you count the aloof Aloft at the airport . . . I don't.) Kimpton's $93M adaptive reuse comes to a building that was in severe need of adaptive reuse. It will be interesting to see if the elevators were upgraded as part of the renovation, because those things didn't work so well when it was an office building.

Anyway, about this ad. Leopard skin? As someone who has worn camou cutoffs and hoodies with Chucks and Timberlands for going on two decades straight, I do not profess to be some fashion expert (though my wife may qualify, as one who makes clothes and owned a boutique for over two years). However, like obscenity, I know tacky when I see it, and is leopard skin ever not tacky? (Bettie Page is an obvious exception.) Leopard skin print reminds me of Jody Watley or cheap handbags with Marilyn Monroe's "kiss" or Kenzo hookers. Bonus tacky points to the stretch SUV limo parked under the leopard skin ad.

To each his own, I reckon. I am, on the other hand, a big fan of real leopards. The Philadelphia Zoo, celebrating its 150th birthday this year, has four of them: two amur leopards (the golden brown ones the leopard skin fabrics are based on) and two snow leopards.

The Palomar Philadelphia is set to open late this year, but as yet palomarphiladelphia.com still redirects to the Kimpton brand site, where there is neither any info on this hotel, which is definitely happening, nor on the ones planned for the Robert Morris Building (at 17th & Arch) and the Boyd Theatre renovation. Marc Vetri was rumored to be exploring a restaurant for the 17th & Arch site, but I've heard nothing about who will helm the restaurant at 17th & Sansom . . . I figure if it's not on The Illadelph, it's not public knowledge yet.

What we do know is that Kimpton is about to unleash some fun . . . some leopard-skin patterned fun.

–B Love

29 April 09: A view anew

Philly Skyline Post-Roebling Skyline.

It's always nice when a new view pops in unexpectedly. Driving into Darlington Burlington County, you come over a hill on southbound US-130 that was once the site of a shopping mall that has since been replaced with . . . a shopping mall. Cinnaminson Mall, which surprisingly has no entry on deadmalls.com, died a slow, bleeding death, and when The Marketplace at Cinnaminson, with a Wal-Mart and Sam's Club (oh boy!), opened in 2003, it was Cinnaminson Mall's final death knell. In August 2005, Cinnaminson Mall was condemned and its demolition happened over 2006 and 2007. In Cinnaminson Mall's place, The Shoppes at Cinnaminson have opened with a ShopRite, Wachovia and Ross Dress for Less, so you just watch your back, Marketplace at Cinnaminson!

Anyway, a shitty new mall replacing a shitty old mall aside, the Shoppes (pronounced "shoppies") at Cinnaminson are up on a hill with a distant, twilight view of the Philly Skyline about nine miles in a straight line from City Hall. Click it, enlarge it, doowutchyalike with it.

–B Love

29 April 09: Month of Rauuuuuuul

Keep on truckin', Raul. My man's on his swag, ingratiating himself to even Pat Burrell's most diehard fans, if the guy in the Burrell jersey doing the "we're not worthy" bow after Raul's grand slam two nights ago is a fair measure.

Phillies fans who've attended or watched or listened to every game so far could very easily find themselves frustrated or upset by the defending champs' 2009 performance, particularly that of the starting rotation, but as the month draws to a close they're a whole half-game out of first place. Awesome.

It's in no small part thanks to Raul Ibañez, whose free agent signing didn't bother me as it did so many Burrell fans, especially so soon after the World Series parade, but didn't really excite me too much either. Nineteen games into the season, I'm sure we're all happy to be wrong -- wrong that another lefthanded batter would throw off the balance of the lineup, wrong that his defense was a liability (he made three spectacular catches in the Marlins series alone, two of which were the result of pure hustle we know Pat doesn't possess), and just generally wrong that Pat couldn't be replaced.

Looking at the first month's stats, it seems almost unfair to pile on Pat, but the numbers don't lie: in April, Ibañez is batting .355 with 7 homeruns and 17 RBIs. Burrell's at .238, 1 and 8 for the Rays. That's a 117 point difference. Phew. Of those 7 homers, one was a walk-off game winner, one was a dramatic eighth inning grand slam to give the Phils the lead they would hold, and one was last night's straight up muscle shot to the deepest part of the ballpark. And for what it's worth, his first homerun as a Phillie was blessed with a Harry the K "watch this baby, way outta here!"

Good on ya, Raul, and welcome to Philadelphia.

Hey Pat, you keep on keepin' on down there in St Pete. Don't look back in anger.

–B Love

28 April 09: ON THE DELAWARE . . .
Roeblin' on the River

All right, from here forward, "Summer of the Delaware" is simply "On the Delaware". No more seasonal constraints or weird constructs. Now this is fanfare, baby, let's celebrate.

We'll kick off this rebirth of the series that never died by dropping our inner tube in with the tide and riding it 25 miles upstream to a little Jersey town called Roebling, Roebling-on-the-Delaware if you're nasty.

Right along the river in Burlington County, just up from Burlington City and just down from Bordentown Town is a village, a planned village, for Roebling by Roebling. In 1904, JP Morgan and Andrew Carnegie were expanding the US Steel empire by buying up smaller, extant steel concerns. In Trenton, there were over forty iron and steel factories alone, and counted with the brick, wood, wool, textile and other industries, it's easy to see how Trenton was making and the world was taking. The largest of the steel companies was New Jersey Iron and Steel, which caved in and cashed out to US Steel in a financial downturn. John Roebling's Sons Company refused to sell out but was at a crossroads; the company, relocated to Trenton by the father in 1850, had grown beyond its resources there and wanted to supply its own steel for the company's flagship wire cable.

Charles Roebling, one of the sons, was a shareholder of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which conveniently owned tracks (formerly owned by the Camden & Amboy Railroad) running alongside a 300 acre peach farm on the Delaware River just ten miles downstream from Trenton. He bought that farm and immediately began building furnaces, mills, factories and so forth that would employ 1,400 people within five years. And those people would need places to live, raise families and be entertained, so he built a town, too. The Roeblings never intended for the town to be named for them, but instead Kinkora, after the rail station that served Florence Township. Kinkora didn't stick, though, as the PRR named the new town's station stop Roebling, and that the company was the very reason for the town, Roebling became the de facto name.

This picture, by the Dallin Aerial Survey Company, was taken in 1930 and gives an overview of the town's layout in relation to the river, railroad and company compound. Click it to go to the Dallin archive at the Hagley Library's web site.

The Roeblings are quite a storied family. John Roebling studied architecture and engineering in Berlin, but when he moved to America in 1831, got into farming and with his brother set up a town called Saxonburg north of Pittsburgh. After his brother died, he took up engineering again, and at a time when the trade was flourishing -- canals were booming and railroads were taking off. Roebling worked on the Allegheny Portage Railroad, a series of inclined planes that were the first railroad system across the Appalachians (and which predated the Horseshoe Curve and the PRR Main Line by twenty years). The use of hemp rope on the Allegheny Portage inspired him to devise a stronger rope, the wire cable that would make him rich and famous. Roebling's aqueduct used the product for the Pennsylvania Canal across the Allegheny River in 1844 and it landed him a number of subsequent contracts, including Pittsburgh's Smithfield Bridge, still the oldest standing steel bridge in the country (1846), and the four aqueducts for the Delaware & Hudson Canal, including the one across the Delaware at Lackawaxen (from which I saw my first ever wild bald eagle). In 1866 his bridge between Cincinnati Ohio and Covington Kentucky opened as the longest suspension bridge in the world, and a year later he began designing his magnum opus, the Brooklyn Bridge. In 1869, while on the Brooklyn shoreline surveying for the bridge, a ferry crushed his foot; his refusal of medical treatment led to an infection and ultimately the tetanus and lockjaw that killed him 24 days later.

John Roebling's son Washington Roebling, a decorated Civil War veteran who was instrumental for the Union in the battle of Gettysburg, took over the Brooklyn Bridge project and, like his father, fell victim to it. He fought several bouts of decompression sickness (the bends) from working underwater on the caissons and was crippled and blinded by it in 1879. His wife Emily oversaw the completion of the bridge. Washington's brother Ferdinand Roebling was the financier of the John Roebling's Sons Company back in Trenton and was an investor in several corporations including Otis Elevators, who used Roebling's wire cable. A third brother, Charles (whose son Washington Roebling II died on the Titanic), was the Roebling who oversaw the company's growth into the new town just down the Delaware.

From Bruce Stutz' Natural Lives, Modern Times:
[A]long with the new furnaces, mills, and rail sidings, Charles built houses, a general store, a bakery, a drugstore, and a hotel. (To those who objected to a bar in the hotel, Charles, the realist, replied that there was "no use in trying to make a mollycoddle out of a mill man.") . . . The Roeblings provided water, gas, electricity, sewers, drainage, streets, watchmen, policemen, doctors, a jail, a theater (with a Brooklyn Bridge curtain across the stage), a public school, and, of course, a park. "The man who owns a town," lamented Washington, "often wishes he had never been born." Kinkora became known as Roebling-on-the-Delaware.
Roebling-on-the-Delaware might as well be known as Roebling-almost-on-the-Delaware, though, because the town and its park are separated from the river by a long, barbed wire fence (seen in the picture at the beginning of this post). The largest island in the entire Delaware River and Bay, Newbold Island, is just off the shore of the factory, but you'd never know it standing outside its fence. The town and its park are on a bluff overlooking the river, but there's still a good hundred yards to the bank of the river -- former marshland that was reclaimed by the Roebling company. Very little physical evidence still stands on this brownfield/no man's land, but there are plenty of remnants. Under Roebling, the area was used for slag heaps and dumping, and under the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, which bought out Roebling (then under Charles Roebling Tyson, great-grandson of John) in 1952, new processes further contaminated the land before it shut the plant down for good in 1972. In 1984, the Roebling Steel site made the EPA's National Priorities list as a toxic superfund site. On top of that, directly across the river is Waste Management's mountain of a landfill at Tullytown.

View Larger Map

The cleanup has been going on ever since, and just last week, the EPA was awarded $25M of stimulus money for continued remedial work on the site. After the removal of contaminants, they're hoping to restore the wetlands along the shore and open the land up as part of the Roebling Museum, housed in the company's main gate.

John A Roebling's Sons Company has been gone for 57 years, but the town it created is alive and well. And as a testament to the company's legacy, so are so many American icons it lent its wire cable to: Empire State Building (elevators), the Golden Gate, George Washington and Verrazano Bridges.

In 2004, New Jersey Transit began operating the RiverLine light rail between Camden and Trenton on the former PRR right-of-way, with a stop at the old station in Roebling. A year later, the town celebrated its centennial anniversary. And last year, it dedicated a sculpture of Charles Roebling by artist Morris Docktor in the town circle on Main Street.

Roebling-on-the-Delaware is a little slice of the American Industrial Revolution's history, and it's 12 miles from the northeastern border of Philadelphia. I took a little stroll through the town on Sunday. I've put 40 photos, about 7.7M total, all on one page for easy scrolling, so just give it a few seconds to load. To launch this little Roebling photo essay, click

Heading out of town, I took Hornberger Avenue past the Roebling School, built in 1914, and hung a right onto Delaware Avenue, which leads into Florence proper. (The US Census recognizes Florence and Roebling as the Florence-Roebling census-designated place, each an unincorporated area within Florence Township.) Delaware Avenue turns into Front Street and then into River Road. It was on River Road that I caught the sunset beyond the Turnpike Bridge. And this Philly Skyline Turnpike Bridge Skyline is gonna take this post into the sunset.


Roebling.org: official site of the village of Roebling.
RoeblingMuseum.org: "Main Gate to Roebling History".
InventionFactory.com: thorough history of the Roebling family and company.
CivilWarStudies.org: Smithsonian account of Washington and Emily Roebling.
CentralJersey.com: Roebling cleanup gets boost from feds, 4/16/09.
Arcadia Publishing: Images of America: Roebling, 2001.
Penn Press: Natural Lives, Modern Times by Bruce Stutz, 1992.

–B Love

27 April 09: Unseasonably burned

Pop the top on that lotion, there's an April sunburn to tend to. The record high weekend was cause to get out to the first Shadfest, a rousing success indeed, the Penn Relays, the Schuylkill River trail, even downtheshore. Larry Andersen made the comment on Sunday afternoon's broadcast that the Phillies had gone to Miami to escape the heat back home, go figure.

Oh baby, what a weekend. It was so nice that a trip to the Plateau was in order just to check in on the spring buds over the best view of the city. It looked like . . . that photo above there.

* * *

Hereafter on this Monday morning post is, I suppose, what was once called a Monday Mornin' Lookin' Up, Philly Skyline's slight reference to Kris Kristofferson, who ought to be referenced more than just slightly. (His "Best of All Possible Worlds" is probably one of the ten best songs ever written . . . not bad for a guy whose most famous song was famous for Janis Joplin's cover of it. While he was flying under the radar, he did so as a Rhodes scholarship educated helicopter pilot. How about that!)

This summer-in-the-spring Monday marks the beginning of Philly Museum Week, where every museum worth its salt in the city amps up its marketing and offers admission discounts. Considering the next few days will mostly stay warm and awesome, could be worth a sick day to make a couple rounds. Worth noting: the Rosenbach's Sendak on Sendak exhibit closes next week, so if you haven't been, now's the time to do it.

* * *

The Flyers and Phantoms each unceremoniously marked the end of their seasons over the weekend, but at least the Flyers will be back next year for another elimination at the hands of Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. The fate of the Phantoms, on the other hand, is officially unknown, or at least officially unannounced. The unnecessary sale of the Flyers' top minor league team was hardly publicized by the team, and though Comcast-Spectacor has been touting its Remember the Spectrum, they haven't remembered to tell anyone what's going to become of the hockey team that won two Calder Cups on its ice. Even right now on phantomshockey.com (where there is a timeline that only goes up to last August), there is no mention of what happens to the Phantoms now. Well, according to the Albany Times Union, an official announcement will be made tomorrow that the team's new owners have signed a three-year lease at the Civic Center in Glens Falls, New York (about an hour north of Albany, at the southern end of the Adirondacks). The Civic Center is, conveniently, owned by Global Spectrum, the subsidiary of Comcast-Spectacor that operates the Spectrum. Dun dun dun!

Thanks for your support, Phantoms fans, perhaps you'll enjoy a five hour drive to continue supporting the team. I might recommend the Elephant restaurant in Kingston NY, right along the way, though its Swine of the Week special may take a hit from this flu we keep hearing about . . .

Meanwhile, plans to demolish the Spectrum move forward despite no concrete plans to fund the Philly Live complex. Dun dun dun!

* * *

Back at the Shadfest on Saturday, people of all colors -- including Dwight Yoakam Cap'n Shad Paul Kimport and his delectable fishy concoction, at right -- soaked up the sun with a nice view of Petty's Island right across the river. Plans to return that island, a Summer of the Delaware subject, were finalized in time for an Earth Day announcement by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, who not long ago favored its development as a golf resort. Perhaps sensing a 54% disapproval rating in this re-election year, Corzine changed his tune and now supports Petty's Island's preservation, made possible by a donation from Venezuelan-owned Citgo, who will also supply a $3M endowment fund for a culture center and the island's maintenance. (This even made CNN.)

The state won't take over until the Crowley shipping center's lease expires in 2017, but overall this is great news for a region reestablishing its relationship with the Delaware River. Between Penn Treaty Park, Petty's Island, the Palmyra Cove and the Conrail Yards, Philadelphia and New Jersey could have four adjacent reasons to get out on the river.

Speaking of Penn Treaty Park, the second meeting in the master plan process is this Thursday at 6:30, at the First Presbyterian Church of Kensington (418 East Girard, the building with the sea green dome). Friends of Penn Treaty Park, the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society, Fairmount Park and Studio Bryan Hanes are facilitating the meeting to show a sampling of some of the visions for the park that are ultimately being shaped by community input. If Shadfest's massive attendance was any indication, the first thing that should be done is to REMOVE THE BOULDERS. The big, hard, stupid, intrusive, non-native, unnecessary boulders that line the banks of the park are an impairment to physically touching the river; since the river is tidal, the shoreline rises and falls, leaving the boulders slippery and even harder to navigate. The banks of Penn Treaty Park should be sand, or dirt, but not boulders.

–B Love

24 April 09: Cherry fields forever

It's Arbor Day (happy Arbor Day!) and for it, yr Skyline's gonna head up to yonder Fairmount Park. This landscaped growth of weeping Japanese cherry trees -- Shidarezakura -- is one of my favorite groves in the city, but it wasn't always meant for trees.

The planted promenade runs in a straight line from the "Moses Fountain" -- the Catholic Total Abstinence Fountain by Herman Kirn for the 1876 Centennial -- to the Horticulture Center on the other side of Belmont Avenue. Called "Cherry Allée" by Fairmount Park, it was originally to be called Strawberry Fields, supported in part by WMMR, as a tribute to John Lennon after his death in 1980. (Central Park sorta beat them to it, and fair enough, since Lennon was murdered outside his apartment building across the street from the park by some subhuman who is so worthless his name should have been stricken from history, but Hollywood being Hollywood, was martyrized in film, by Jared Leto of all people, giving the son of a bitch what he always wanted, recognition.)

Fairmount Park's Strawberry Fields fell through some time in the 80s, ultimately resulting in a Plan B of cherry trees, but different cherry trees from the ones lining the Schuylkill River and the 1926 planting at the Horticulture Center that was a gift from the Japanese government for America's sesquicentennial. Lori Hayes, now a district manager for the park, was a landscape project technician at the time and chose the trees from the nursery and was involved in their planting.

While the Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia is winding down and the sakuras have passed their peak on Kelly Drive (and in Washington DC, where the Tidal Basin hosts the most famous American Cherry Blossom Festival in late March to early April every year), the weeping cherry trees here are at their peak.

Some time before 1980, Cherry Allée was Fountain Avenue, running from the Abstinence Fountain to the Horticulture Center, with a traffic circle at Belmont Avenue. (Google Maps calls it 52nd Street Drive.) The weeping cherry tree grove materialized in the late 80s and stands largely in secret today, between the better known Ohio House (which now has a café), Memorial Hall (which now has a Please Touch Museum), and the Mann Center . . .

Philly Skyline Bonus Skyline: the view from the Mann, mannnnnnn. Just up the hill from the weeping cherry grove, one has one of the wider views of the skyline, panning from the Ben Franklin Bridge to the Walt Whitman Bridge, with the little skylines of Franklintown and University City adding depth to the larger view. In this one, we see the near finished 10 Rittenhouse Square and Drexel's newest Erdy McHenry dorm, now called Millennium Hall, taking their positions.

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts opened as the Robin Hood Dell West for the bicentennial at the top of the hill made famous at the first centennial. This season's lineup was announced recently and includes David Byrne, John Legend, Herbie Hancock, and a Woodstock 40th anniversary concert featuring Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe McDonald and Canned Heat(!). The Philadelphia Orchestra, Curtis Institute musicians and Philly Pops will all be there too, of course. Check the full schedule HERE.

For more on Philadelphia's cherry trees, check out the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia's web site HERE.

It's gonna be a summertime spring weekend out there, so pack your shades and I'll see you at the Shadfest.

–B Love

23 April 09: New summer of the Delaware

The new buds and leaves on the trees haven't even darkened beyond spring green yet, and the New Hampshire snow's still drying from my boots, but brother, summer is on its way. The view from Thursday morning sees a forecast of sunny and 88 on Saturday afternoon, prime riverside time for the first ever Fishtown Shadfest.

What is a Fishtown Shadfest, ye might ask? Fishtown Shadfest, this Saturday at Penn Treaty Park from 11am to 5pm, is a celebration of the fish whose presence was once so thick in the Delaware River that the fisheries and smokehouses that lined its banks lent a nickname that has stuck for well over a hundred years to this riverfront section of the larger Kensington neighborhood.

The event is being hosted by the Fishtown Area Business Association and has been captained by its president Paul Kimport, the co-owner and chef at Johnny Brenda's. Shad dishes have been making appearances on the JB's menu over the past couple weeks in a preview of this weekend. Kimport will be hosting cooking demonstrations on Saturday, to include hickory smoked shad filets with bacon, Kimport's own remoulade and spring onions on Metropolitan brioche.

In addition to the fish itself, there will be live music from Lara & Joe (who make monthly appearances for kids brunches at JB's), and roots rock and reggae from Hoots & Hellmouth, Gildon Works and Iron. There will also be a ton of vendors (Grasshopper, Outlaw Print Company, Jeffro Kilpatrick's Sketches of Fishtown), educational outposts (Bicycle Coalition, Seaport Museum, PA Horticultural Society), and free kayaking on the river.

Perhaps most fitting, Ken Milano will tie his Remembering Kensington and Fishtown and The History of Penn Treaty Park together with a trolley tour of the neighborhood he's hosting at 1. The former book has a chapter called The Fishermen of Fishtown outlining the rise and fall of Philadelphia's shad fishing industry, which fell into the history books largely thanks to overfishing and pollution. There's only one remaining commercial fishery on the Delaware, and it's still around more for history's sake than revenue's. The Lewis Fishery is based in Lambertville (which has hosted its own shad festival for 28 years).

That pollution has long since been addressed, though, and after decades of little to no shad, the Delaware River is again healthy enough that shad still migrate through Philadelphia on their way up above the falls at Trenton to spawn. Shad spawns were once so massive that Indian lore suggested one could walk from one side of the other on the backs of the shad schools.

The Fishtown Shadfest is not neighborhood inside baseball, it's a live city history lesson with lots of fun things attached, so even if you've got any hangups about Fishtown (be they casino, sociological or Arctic Splash related), Saturday is the day to hang up those hangups because Penn Treaty Park is gonna be the place to be. Shad, music, art and the Delaware River under 80 degrees of sun. What's not to love?

Oh! And one final important note . . . the poster for Shadfest, created by artist Roger Peterson, is just fantastic. A good looking colorful shad, the PECO station in bucolic Penn Treaty Park, and a Comcast-havin' skyline reflected in the wavy Delaware. While I'm here and full of love, I'll give Roger and Shadfest the highest rating, the Philly Skyline A+++, for the best skyline graphic I've seen in 2009. Hot damn, let's go to Shadfest!

Fishtown Shadfest's official web site is HERE.

–B Love

22 April 09: It's official: big blue is now gold green

During the construction of Comcast Center, we heard how it was going to be the tallest green building in America. And we obviously remember the hilarity that was the plumbers union's protest against the installation of waterless urinals, resulting in a compromise of pipes being installed anyway, "just in case" . . . but amidst the fanfare of the grand opening of the city's 975' new tallest building last summer, and the fanfare of Table 31 (three bells as a steakhouse before the sudden and unfortunate shift toward all-Italian), and the lobby's HDTV and the marketplace and Philly Beer Week, the green building issue seemed to fall by the wayside.

Effective immediately, it's back from the wayside for good: Comcast Center has been certified LEED CS (Core and Shell) Gold. Natalie Kostelni broke the news for the PBJ this morning HERE. Philadelphia's tallest building is also officially now America's tallest green building, as the tallest LEED certified building in the country.

Those waterless urinals (and just in case pipes?) were a big part of the process, which was authorized by the US Green Building Council and announced this morning. The urinals, by Zurn Industries, save 1.2M gallons of water a year. Likewise, the water fixtures save 40% over standard issue fixtures.

Additional green features include rainwater retention, recycling and on-site irrigation (for the plaza and sidewalk trees which help to reduce the urban heat island effect), a double-façade winter garden, incorporation and extension of Septa's Suburban Station, and a low-E coating on the curtainwall glass which reflects heat while allowing maximum natural light.

Liberty Property has received a lot of acclaim as the developer, as have Robert AM Stern (architects), Thornton Tomasetti (engineers), LF Driscoll (builders) and a host of others who worked on Comcast Center. Atelier Ten, the environmental design consultant, earns its medal today with the LEED Gold certification.

–B Love

22 April 09: Inspection jam

Don't look now, ladies and gentlemen, but the Philadelphia 76ers have a 1-0 lead in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. On a related note, Philadelphia not only still has a basketball team, but they are in the playoffs.

The Flyers are one game away from a long summer of golf and Old City bar hopping, so we're gonna start this latest round of Skyline Inspections on the hardwood down where it's Dre Day (and Everybody's Celebratin'). The Wachovia Complex for the rest of this year consists of the Wachovia Center, which has played host to exactly 0 champions since it opened 13 years ago (unless you count the Lakers' game 5 exclamation point in 2001), and the Wachovia Spectrum, home to the Flyers' only two Stanley Cups and the city's last championship before October's WFC Phillies run.

The 1983 NBA champion Sixers are the subject of the photo above (photographer unknown -- if anyone knows, please drop me a line), part of a year long eulogy called Remember the Spectrum. While it's not our standard Skyline Inspection fare, it's a nice blast from the not too distant past, a fun picture of the fans lining the 1700 block of Market Street for the Sixers' championship parade.

The Greyhound Bus terminal is the most noticeable difference, as Mellon Bank Center's podium now rises there about four times what the old bus station and shed did (its tower reaching up to 792' above). In the top right, above the fans dangling their feet over the edge where there's currently a walkway between Market and JFK next to Mellon's winter garden, is the Sheraton Penn Center hotel. That building was one of the earliest contributions to the Penn Center complex, standing on the block occupied now by Comcast Center. Just above the "BUS" sign, 1800 JFK is under construction. And off in the distance in the left, the brown, white and dark blue striped building peaking out is the Penn Center Inn. That short-lived 20 story hotel stood at 20th & Market, where there's been a green grass lawn for going on twenty years now since Independence Blue Cross never built the twin to the tower they did build.

The photo's a nice little slice, I think, and is part of the Sixers slide show (among several others including the Flyers, concerts, circuses, and the arena's construction) at Remember the Spectrum, HERE.

* * *

Getting back up to proper inspections, then, we're gonna ride the rails from DC's Union Station back up to our 30th Street Station with a tear for Harry. This here is the safety instruction pamphlet in the back of the seat on Amtrak's trains that crisscross the country. It's your standard "know where the emergency exits are" and "hold the escalator's handrails" fare. Its cover features a photo of a Metroliner crossing the Schuylkill River after leaving Amtrak's second busiest station. In the background? Philly Skyline!

It's a significantly dated photo now, missing Comcast Center, Murano and the St James, which is visible from this lower Belmont Plateau view. They also photoshopped out the PSFS Building's antenna. Appreciate the gesture, Amtrak, but maybe we can spend 25 grand of that $1.3B grant to update the skyline on the literature.

* * *

Moving along, we find ourselves at the latest Promotion Week Week. Have I just never noticed any fanfare for this? Is this new? A search on the American Association of Museums web site only returns one result for Museum Week, a PDF of this year's event.

So here it is, Philly Museum Week. A recently redesigned Philly Fun Guide has the full rundown of participants HERE. It's got the usual suspects PMA, Constitution Center, the Franklin Institute and so on, but also some less recognized destinations like the Fabric Museum and Workshop (1214 Arch St in Chinatown), Wagner Free Institute of Science (1700 Montgomery, near Temple) and the Simeone Foundation (6825 Norwitch Dr, just off Passyunk & Essington in Southwest Philly).

Philly Fun Guide's graphic looks to build on an existing South Street Bridge view skyline with a photoshopped in Comcast Center (it's in the right place but is awful big), but the parent AAM organization uses the same view pre-Comcast for their annual expo, which is here this year. Simultaneous A/F!

* * *

But we can let a national organization slip. It's the locals you've got to keep to the fire. (Hiya, Septa.) This one has been hanging around for a while, but has surprisingly slipped past Philly Skyline Skyline Inspections. This graphic, as we can see, is a collaboration between GPTMC and philly.com . . . and it uses an at least four year old West Philly view for its visitor's guide (one visitor, singular). On the other hand, if you click the ad, which frequently shows up on philly.com, and then click through to gophila.com, you're treated to a beautiful (and recent) wide angle photo by longtime GPTMC photographer Bob Krist, presumably from the Aramark Tower. That photo and several others by Krist are HERE.

Bob Krist is an amazing photographer, based just upstream in New Hope but world renowned. He's a regular at National Geographic, and his travel photographer was the subject of an interview in the Wall Street Journal this past Monday. His web site is HERE and now features a regularly updated blog.

Rock on, Bob.

* * *

This past Monday was also a national holiday to those who subscribe to the end of the prohibition of a plant that has grown in the wild since the dawn of time. When Michigan's law goes into effect, it will make 13 states that have legalized medical marijuana (the list also includes New Jersey). It's still not enough, but it's a step in the right direction, and it recognizes the fact that the legalization of marijuana is a very serious topic, not just some stoner meme. That the Constitution Center booked an auditorium for the Philadelphia chapter of NORML, on 4/20 no less, really backs that up.

And yet President Obama still scoffs at the fact that the top rated question submitted to his town hall meetings concerns the legalization of marijuana. Even Andrew Sullivan said that Obama's reaction was pathetic. Immediately following that, reporters asked Obama's press secretary Robert Gibbs for clarification, and he had none. It's been a really shameful performance by the new executive branch.

Northeast Philly's PA state rep Mark B Cohen has introduced a bill that would legalize medical pot in Pennsylvania. Given PA's backward ways, it seems unlikely to pass, but at least the subject is in the open and on the tongues of politicians. It's too bad Pennsylvania has to wait for everyone else to make it OK before finally taking action. Mayor Nutter has toed the same, safe line that President Obama has, too. I wish that, for once, Philadelphia and/or Pennsylvania could take the lead on a serious issue that would generate massive tax revenue, jobs in farming, manufacturing and related industries, and oh by the way make people feel good, the sick and the healthy. Thank you for taking the first step, Representative Cohen.

Where was I going with this . . . oh right, Philly NORML. You guys need to pass that thing to the left and get back to your desk to update your skyline graphic!

* * *

This one here is a fun submission from longtime Skyliner Zach down in Fitler Square. He writes:
I thought you would appreciate this still from the movie "Surviving the Game" with Ice T. Had me cracking up.
The 1994 awful-classic features the psychotic Gary Busey as a psychotic doctor who stages hunting expeditions -- hunting for people, in this case, Ice T. It also features a circa-1990 Philly Skyline as a 1994 stand-in Seattle Skyline. Good eye there, Zach.

Speaking of the Seattle Skyline, if you've never taken the Space Needle-and-Mount Rainier postcard picture from Kinnear Park, you better get there soon. Discovery News reported a couple weeks ago that Seattle's skyline will be wiped out not if, but when, a giant earthquake (9.0 or greater) erupts there. The Cascadia megathrust is one of the world's most volatile fault lines, and it lies less than 100 miles from downtown Seattle. The largest earthquake ever recorded was a 9.5 in 1960 in Chile, and four years later the largest ever recorded in America, a 9.2 happened in Alaska. If a 9.2 were to happen in Seattle, buhbye Starbucks.

The Discovery story is HERE.

* * *

And on that potentially deadly note about the marvels of our Mother Earth, Philly Skyline bids you a Happy Earth Day!

–B Love

21 April 09: Live free or die tryin'

Greetings from cold, hard New Hampshire. Maybe this state is salty the Old Man of the Mountain crumbled away a few years ago after identifying itself so closely with it (on the state symbol, state quarter, state road signs, all sorts of logos, etc). And maybe that's fair . . . it was the face of the state's signature landscape, the National Forest of the White Mountains.

I can't accurately describe what it's like to veer off a trail in six to eight feet of alpine snowpack (surrounded by less-packed snow that you can fall into up to your neck with a backpack on) in 4,500'+ mountains with nearby peaks called "Mount Terror" and "The Fool Killer", let alone three months after underestimating a snowy hike in the Pennsylvania woods by four miles and two hours of daylight.

In the past ten years I've been to Vermont probably half a dozen times and have loved it, every single time. It's a warm and nurturing grandmother, come on in you're always welcome. New Hampshire is a cold and impersonal old man, you're free to be here all right but you're on your own.

New Hampshire makes eleven the number of the Appalachian Trail's fourteen states in which I've dirtied my boots. I've heard that it's considered the hardest of the 14 by those who thru-hike the whole 2,175 miles. (Pennsylvania has a reputation as the rockiest.) And I can see it . . . the elevation gains are unlike anywhere else on the trail, and the abrupt weather changes are unlike anywhere else in the world, particularly around Mount Washington, where the world's fastest recorded wind (over 230 mph) was recorded.

There are plenty of views of Mount Washington, the highest mountain peak in the northeastern US (6,288') like the one above, between the towns of Lincoln and Bretton Woods, on a hike that goes Lincoln Woods Trail - Wilderness Trail - Bondcliff Trail - Appalachian Trail - Zealand Trail. As the crow flies, that's a good 20-some miles. As the hiker who stays on-trail hikes, it's about 23. Veer off-trail in the deep, hysteria-inducing snow as the familiarity of darkening woodlands piles onto your fear and the total is anyone's guess.

But hey, after a night in a strange hut whose appearance was nothing short of a miracle, an extra six mile hike out to the road peppered with signs reading "STAY ALERT, aggressive bull moose spotted in this area", spotting that aggressive bull moose, unsuccessfully hitchhiking back to the first trailhead and car, settling instead on hiring a ride, then a daylong drive home through misty, early rush hour Hartford, rainy, late rush hour New York City and a monsoon drenched New Jersey Turnpike . . . well, the barking dogs of Fishtown never sounded (so) good.

Did I miss anything?

–B Love

17 April 09: Back to the future

WHOOMP, there it is: the Vision for High-Speed Rail in America.

That's eight billion dollars up front, and some subsequent annual billions for what looks like an Amtrak on steroids. Or, one could say, what a vision for rail travel in America looked like once upon a time. This is separate from the $1.3 billion in grants Amtrak was awarded last month for repairs and renovations, $63M of which is for the replacement of the 'Lamokin Converters', a key component of the Northeast Corridor's power structure, located in Chester.

That this much money is being invested in a genuine 21st century American railroad network is good news, insofar as the assurance that transit is going to get a piece of the pie. Highways are still getting over $27B, but a three and a half to one ratio is a hell of a lot better than the near infinite ratio of the past fifty years.

There's not much of a chicken-and-egg argument with the railroad's slow death and the highway's explosive growth . . . in the post-WWII American Dream 50s, railroads were old, cumbersome and tied to the past, and highways were new, space agey and monuments to freedom -- personal and American. The private railroad empires lost the money they once swam in and died off, and the subsidized highways came along, mostly free of charge. They connected the continent and shortened travel time . . . like the railroads had done the previous century.

Check out this map of the Pennsylvania Railroad from 1893 (click that to go to a super-high-res version of it on Wikipedia). While PRR is the clear focus, it shows the expansive railroad network of the 44 United States (and five territories, Oklahoma being two) only thirty years after the Civil War, twenty years after John Gast's American Progress painting and three years after Wounded Knee. (Even little Tyrone PA is a junction for three lines, one of which is the PA main line.)

Eisenhower's vision for an interstate freeway system was rooted in his childhood travel of the Lincoln Highway (which connected the country but must have taken forever) and influenced by the ease and convenience of the autobahn from his time in Germany. He also saw its use as a military defense strategy, one of the major sells of the system in 1956. Fortunately, the system's growth in the fifty years since then has never warranted that application. What we have seen, though, in addition to the ease and convenience, is the devolution of transit oriented development, with gridlock, pollution and sprawl. (Interesting aside: Eisenhower retired to Gettysburg, where the closest interstate highway is 25 miles away.)

I don't think that the interstates have reached their breaking point, but they've definitely reached their potential. The stimulus money is going toward repairing it, not expanding it. In Philadelphia, I-95 was scheduled for a billion dollar full rebuild between Northeast Philly and Center City long before the Obama administration.

But there is room, and need, for growth among transit. When Houston and Phoenix have installed light-rail lines, you know there's a need for transit. Philadelphia . . . well, we have Septa, and like the interstates, its stimulus money is going largely toward repairs and maintenance, not expansion. No Schuylkill Valley Metro, no return to West Chester.

The Vision for High-Speed Rail in America, whose map was unveiled at the White House yesterday and is at the beginning of this post, is a vision for intercity high-speed rail. (The map and strategic plan of the are available as PDFs on the Federal Railroad Administration's web site HERE.) It's a merger of two old models, railroads and interstates, but with an emphasis on speed. Again before the Obama adminstration, California voters approved nearly $10B for construction of high-speed rail across the state, connecting cities from Sacramento to San Diego. San Francisco and Los Angeles would have a speed-train capable of over 200 mph, linking the two cities in 2 and a half hours. (It takes six to drive I-5.)

In Philly, we're in the middle of the only existing high-speed rail option in the US, and the Amtrak Acela averages less than half that speed. With a 200 mph train -- like the ones that already exist in Europe and Asia -- Philadelphians could get to New York in a half hour, to DC in under an hour, and Boston in an hour and a half. Sure, you can already do that by airplane -- once you're in the air, after getting out to the airport and going through security checkpoint, and not including the travel from the other airport into the city.

This American HSR proposal works because it's not a single, nationwide magic wand, but a series of logical, regional corridors. Chicago to Milwaukee in a half hour and Chicago to St Louis in an hour and a half. Portland to Seattle in an hour, to Vancouver in another hour. A new train in Ohio where there is no longer a train at all, Cleveland to Cincinnati in a little over an hour with the capital Columbus halfway between. Atlanta -- whose original growth was entirely because of the railroad -- to Charlotte in an hour. In fact, the entire east coast will build upon Acela and see an almost contiguous high-speed line from Portland, Maine to Miami, with the exception of a gap between Jacksonville and Orlando. (It'll be the Trenton I-95 of the HSR.) Even oil king Texas, which already leads the nation in wind energy, will see a line built between San Antonio and Dallas (with spurs out to Oklahoma and Arkansas). Amazingly, a Houston-to-Dallas line (which in theory could take a little over an hour on HSR) is not a part of this vision.

All told, a system of regional intercity high-speed trains is, well, change we can believe in. Rebuilding the highways is necessary, but the end result will be the same. Rebuilding our transit infrastructure, on the other hand, will see a great improvement that will -- eventually -- soften up the hardest of auto adherers.

It makes sense -- city-to-city, region-to-region sense. It's too bad a town-to-town, suburb-to-suburb provision for the Schuylkill Valley Metro isn't a part of it.

* * *

This is gonna be some gorgeous spring weekend, right? Sunny and 75 tomorrow? Ma Nature must've loved her some Harry Kalas, too. Harry's memorial is tomorrow morning at the ballpark, followed by a Phillies evening tilt with the Padres. The Flatlanders(!) are at the World Café Live tomorrow night, too. All weekend long the Free Library's Book Festival returns to the Parkway, followed by a Sunday evening one-night-only performance by the renowned Sexcop at the North Star Bar. And as a precursor to next weekend's Fishtown Shad Festival (more on this next week), the Fairmount Water Works is hosting its third annual Urban Shad Watch, a series of events at the interpretive center celebrating the healthy return of the Delaware and Schuylkill's most hallowed fish.

You all have fun out there this weekend. Yr Skyline will be back in business on Tuesday after a long weekend of looking for answers in the Berkshires, Greens and Whites.

–B Love

16 April 09: Buenos ding dong diddly días, amigos

Philly Skyline HQ Skyline, 8:30am.

Nice day out there, innit?

–B Love

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