Monday, March 06, 2006

West Chester: The Next Great Small Town

Philadelphia may be the Sixth Borough, the Next Great Place, and all that, but let us now cheer West Chester on its designation by the National Trust as one of America's "Dozen Distinctive Destinations." Then, see if you can say that five times fast.

The trust plans to roll out the list tomorrow. We don't know which other towns are on it, but who cares? The borough's 1.8-square-mile grid is crammed with Victorian and Greek Revival architecture, yet has a small-town feel that is increasingly hard to find. Its most famous building is probably the Greek Temple-like courthouse by Thomas U. Walter, who also designed the dome and wings of the U.S. Capitol, Founders Hall at Girard College and quite a few other buildings. (See the entry below on his Mt. Airy country house.) Despite being surrounded by all sorts of weekend tourist destinations, like Longwood Gardens, the Brandywine Museum and a Revolutionary War battlefield, West Chester was off everyone's map until recently. In fact, a few years ago, the Chester County commissioners were all set to raze a big chunk of the downtown. It's just a reminder of how casually America's patrimony gets discarded. Fortunately, the commissioners were brought to their senses, and today West Chester is healthier than ever. Go see it before the bus tours arrive.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose it's a little late to start complaining, but the headline was actually "The Next Borough?" not THE SIXTH BOROUGH. Christ. Why can't anyone READ.

4:55 PM  
Blogger mark said...

Anonymous shut the hell up. Who cares, its an irrelevant point you idiot.

West Chester is an amazing town. It should be the blue print that every small town uses. Unfortunately it's the exception and not the rule. Delaware County besides Media is scarred with horrible borough after borough. A suburban nightmare. Chester County is turning into one gargantuan subdivision.

The sad part about West Chester is that developers are carving up the immediate surrounding area and making a personal fortunes with their million dolar Mcmansions. Theres no land left for them to expand the borough, thats a shame as they are one of the few locales that get it.

The West Chester area had so much potential in a different era. Its a great town nonetheless, just not as great as it could be.

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear first commenter, You are correct about the NYT's headline but the story itself did refer to the "sixth borough." Moreoever, the same reference is also in today's Gawker ( It's clearly proper usage.

6:21 PM  
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