Sunday, September 15, 2013

Discover Downtown Philadelphia

As a transplanted Philadelphian, I have a hard time uttering "Pashyunk" or "worter ice," and I expect crab on my Crab Fries. However, I try my best to call the Loft District, "Callowhill," and am pretty sure that Center City is between Vine and South, not Spring Garden and Washington.

One particular outsider expression I have managed to break myself of, one that seems to annoy natives of any neighborhood, is referring to Center City as "Downtown Philadelphia."

But where is Philadelphia's "downtown?" Every city has one. And while Center City's compact boundaries do encompass our city's central business, residential, and retail corridors, Center City is not necessarily synonymous with "downtown."

Center City can often be as diverse as the city itself. With Chinatown, the Gayborhood, Society Hill, Market East, Rittenhouse, and Old City, Center City tends to look less like a traditional downtown like those clearly defined in New York or Los Angeles and more demographically and economically like the entirety of a city.

The truth is, there is a very real, specific "Downtown Philadelphia." When you pass by the city on 95 or 76, or view it from Camden or University City, Philadelphia's downtown neighborhood is its most visible, yet once you get to the city, it's the last place you'd visit.

West of City Hall, roughly north of Chestnut and below Logan Square's quaint Colonial relics lie our cities most towering feats of modern engineering. Downtown Philadelphia is what makes our city look like a city, yet we never really bothered to give it a name.

Some call it West Market, which is more indicative of the street itself, while others refer to JFK Boulevard as Logan Square. However JFK's towering skyscrapers and apartment blocks conjure up images of Midtown Manhattan more than Logan Square's Swan Memorial Fountain and Franklin Institute.

In fact, according to Wikipedia the area around 18th and JFK is known as Philadelphia's "French Quarter." Did you know we had a French Quarter?  

If you're like most Philadelphians, you probably don't spend much time under our city's skyscrapers. Next time you're downtown, look up. Day or night, you'll find something to do.

Chima's Brazilian Steakhouse is an exercise in gluttony that would make a Montana beef farmer blush. Bet on a horse at the Turf Club. If you have a "society" friend, check out the view from the Pyramid Club. Catch a game at Commerce Square's massive outdoor television. Check out the Art Deco interior of Suburban Station. Grab a cocktail with a view at R2L. Or simply grab your camera and spend an afternoon or evening gawking upward like a tourist in your own town. Downtown Philadelphia is a remarkable place.

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