Philly Love Notes Gift Guide

Hello friends and Philly-lovers, Time for the first Philly Love Letters Gift Guide! With some help from you, I put together a completely non-comprehensive list of amazing things being done right here in the city (or right outside). This only scratches the surface of the cool stuff being made here. There are always tons of great markets and small businesses to support (like Amalgam Comics, Philadelphia Independents, Yowie, and Omoi Zakka). And of course, one of the best gifts of all -- donating money, time, Read more

Giving Back 2017

Oh this year. Time to buckle down and do what I can to give back. Like last year, I'll be donating all of the profits from the map sales to local nonprofits from Thanksgiving through Giving Tuesday. That means that your purchase of a map will help to support all of the following organizations: Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory, Marian Anderson Historical Society, SEAMAAC, Red Paw Relief and Students Run Philly Style (more about the nonprofits below). Last year we raised Read more

#whyilovephillyarts Launches

It's official, the first #whyilovephillyarts, featuring Sean Martorana, is now live! Check out the prints below and purchase one of the 30 limited edition prints online. This is the first collaboration that aims to build a body of Philly-specific art across a variety of mediums for people to purchase with 100% of the profits going to the artist (along with a full commissions and licensing Read more

Love Notes

Love Note #85: Bob Bruhin loves the tiny green-space beside Noble Street at the Reading Viaduct in Callowhill

Bob Bruhin

Favorite Spot: Noble Street viaduct, above 13th Street
Neighborhood: Callowhill (aka Callowhill Industrial Historic District, aka The Eraserhood)
Address: 1300 Noble Street

I am: A web developer, photographer, blogger, and graphic designer obsessed by urban landscapes, especially depicting classic industrial architecture.
Years in Philly: 22 years
Current home: Mt. Airy

My love note:

Dear Reading Viaduct:

I love, so much, the part of you I have come to know already. The tiny green-space beside Noble Street, in the shadow of the Lasher Building and the Terminal Commerce Center, first woke me to the faded industrial glories of the neighborhood I now affectionately call the Eraserhood. This is why I still visit at least once a week to eat lunch and look at the vista of the surrounding neighborhood. I feel this is one of the best places to come to appreciate the rugged beauty of the Callowhill Industrial Historic District, commemorating Philadelphia’s former industrial might.

I only hope someday the dream of expanding this tiny green space in to a full-fledged Reading Viaduct Park is realized!

I love that I can buy an excellent sandwich down on 13th Street at Cafe Lift, or from a cart around the corner on Broad Street — too! You make my lunchtime complete!!

Love, Bob Bruhin

(Photos by Bob Bruhin, bottom photo Copyright 2011 by Karen Schlechter)
Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Center City Leave a comment

Love Note #84: DJ Suga Shay got her start at PYT in Northern Liberties

DJ Suga Shay (Shaina Robinson)
Favorite Spot: PYT
Neighborhood: Northern Liberties

Address: 1050 N. Hancock St.

I am: Local DJ and vegetarian foodie
Years in Philly: born and raised

My love note: PYT has many different interpretations – Pay Your Tab, Pick Your Toppings, and yes, Pretty Young Thing – and means many different things to me. Tommy Up, a close friend of mine and PYT’s owner, has had a huge hand in my success. I had my first formal DJ lesson in the infamous Backroom, my first weekly residency in the tent, and my first party, Brass Knuckles, at the front bar. PYT is home to America’s Craziest Burgers and it’s eccentric staff reflects that envelope pushing, colorful business model. They make me feel like I’m always welcome. I can walk in at any time, any day — even just to stop by and sit outside for a while — and it’s like I never left.

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Northern Liberties Leave a comment

Love Note #83: From Bum’s Park to the beautiful Franklin Square (Albert Lee)

Albert Lee (Part 1 of 3)
Favorite Spot: Franklin Square
Neighborhood: Chinatown
Address: 7th and Race

I am: I’m what you call “Philly homegrown.” Born and raised in the 215, I spend my days entertaining tourists and locals at the official visitor center of Philadelphia.
Years in Philly: 32
Current home: Chinatown

My love note: What kid doesn’t love going to Franklin Square? Mini golf, carousel rides and the promise of a Cake Shake are enough to make even the oldest kids (myself included) get excited about playtime. But the lure of a “sugar high” or a hole-in-one wasn’t always guaranteed. Growing up in Chinatown, I didn’t know what grass looked like. I’m not saying I was deprived but everywhere I looked, I saw blacktop. Baseball field? Yeah…in a parking lot outside my house. It’s amazing how fast your legs can take you when you’re being chased by your neighbor in his underwear.

Those wings of mercury would eventually show me the way to “Bum’s Park.” Oh wait, you know it as Franklin Square. My mistake. Unfortunately, there was nothing there at the time that deserved the honor of being named after our founding father. Yellow grass. Broken pavement. Faulty playground equipment. It was a dump both literally and figuratively but it was still a park nonetheless. If anything, tackle football felt a little softer here. The soccer ball would actually travel. Not much, but it was still good for a roll or two. The homeless were on one side and my friends and I were on the other. Never did we engage or intermix but then again, we never had to.

There’s a song by Madonna aptly called “This used to be my Playground.” Although I never kissed a girl there or was ever really victorious in any of my sporting events, it was still a park surrounded by blacktop. I often watched as the senior citizens of Chinatown would practice their Tai Chi every morning without fail and scratch my head as to why more people didn’t take advantage of this amazing space.

Little did I know that change was coming. Historic Philadelphia Inc. the historic arm of tourism in Philadelphia vowed to keep the promise of William Penn’s Green Country Towne by announcing plans to restore the grandeur of Franklin Square. A beautiful carousel, an 18 hole mini-golf course celebrating all of Philadelphia’s cultural icons and city’s monuments, and turning on a fountain that I frankly never even knew was there (It could have been because the fountain was covered in grass). Brand new playground equipment that kids of all ages could enjoy. And if that wasn’t enough, restaurateur Stephen Starr adding a small eatery specializing in burgers and milkshakes. Oh sweet Jesus… they even have green grass and picnic table.

Was this the same spot I used to waste away my summer days? To paraphrase a line from my parents when we all feasted on our eyes on the newly renovated Franklin Square – “Holy S*** !” Nuff said.

No, it’s not the same place that I fondly remembered. It’s better. On my commute to work (all of 4 minutes) I still see the seniors practicing their Tai Chi and kids running through the grass playing all sort of sports. Families love it and I’ve heard that even Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny make yearly appearances at 7th and Race during their perspective seasons.

I know Rittenhouse Square may be the best people watching place in the city but you tell that to the family who just sank a hole in one.

I love Philadelphia…

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Center City Leave a comment

Love Note #82: Arthur Etchells winds down with oysters at Pub and Kitchen in Graduate Hospital

Arthur Etchells
Favorite Spot: Eating oysters outside of Pub and Kitchen during happy hour.
Neighborhood: Graduate Hospital
Address: 1946 Lombard Street

I am: Founder of Foobooz, and a Philadelphia native. The only food I won’t eat comes from McDonalds.
Years in Philly: Whole life.
Current home: Graduate Hospital


Read more

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Graduate Hospital 1 Comment

Love Note #81: Zach Subar finds his peace and quiet at the intersection of Fountain Green Drive and Mt. Pleasant Drive

Zach Subar

Favorite Place: Fairmount Park at Fountain Green Drive and Mt. Pleasant Drive (near Smith Memorial Playground)

Neighborhood: Fairmount Park near Brewerytown

Address: Fountain Green Drive and Mt. Pleasant Drive
I am: Non-Philly-native journalist who covers Northwest Philadelphia and edits the news website Mt. Airy Patch; his love for the city has snuck up on him.
Years in Philly: Two years in Philly.

Current home: I live in Fairmount.

My love note: Kelly Drive, rightfully, gets a lot of pedestrian traffic. It has a well maintained bike path, runs right into Center City and has river views to boot. But, it can easily feel crowded on a particularly nice day. So when I want a break from pounding the pavement on the well-worn path, either by foot or by bike, I make a right on Fountain Green Drive, head uphill and enter a world of peace and quiet.

The area is populated by people playing softball and having massive cookouts on sunny summer weekends. But that’s not when I love it the most, although there is a certain comfort to be had in the voices that echo around the sprawling fields during those times. No, it’s my favorite on a chilly-but-not-too-cold afternoon or evening, when I can peel off from the Kelly Drive crowds and instantly be transported to a place that feels like my own little secret; where I can lie under a tree for hours or walk or run around like I’m removed from pretty much everything. 

Smith Memorial Playground, a frisbee golf course and 33rd Street are all pretty close by, as is, of course, Kelly Drive. However, none of that takes away from the fact that, every time I get to the top of Fountain Green, I feel like an ancient explorer who’s discovered something new and can hardly believe his good fortune.

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Art Museum 1 Comment

Love Note #80: JoAnn Greco suggests spending your Saturday morning eating a petite dejuner at Cafe Lutecia in Fitler Square

JoAnn Greco
Favorite Spot: Cafe Lutecia
Neighborhood: Fitler Square
Address: 2301 Lombard St

I am: New York-born freelance journalist specializing in urban planning, architecture, design, and travel topics; regular contributor to Plan Philly
Years in Philly: 21
Current Home: Bella Vista

My love note: Sitting outside in the Saturday morning sunlight, enjoying the “petite dejuner” special here — a (top-notch) croissant, baguette with jam and beurre, orange juice and, for a $1 more, a cup of espresso — doesn’t make me feel like I’m in Paris, it makes me feel like I’m in a lively and congenial part of Philadelphia. I love the stately rowhome, painted in black, that perches catty-corner from the cafe. And I’m enticed by the glimpse of trees over Fitler Square down the block, where the umbrellas of its farmer’s market beckons. Eventually, lazily, I will myself to get up to explore the park’s offerings, and then, to wind my way back east.

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Graduate Hospital 2 Comments

Love Note #79: A beautiful piece by Chris Bartlett about The Church of St Luke and The Epiphany, a congregation of The Episcopal Church

Chris Bartlett
Favorite Spot: The Church of St Luke and The Epiphany, a congregation of The Episcopal Church
Neighborhood: Washington West

Address: 330 S. 13th Street

I am: Executive Director of the William Way LGBT Community Center, Radical Faerie, and past host of @TEDxPhilly.
Years in Philly: 46
Current home: Bella Vista

My love note: Since I consider myself more spiritual than religious, it is perhaps strange that I chose a church as the recipient of my love note. But the Episcopal Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany is a special place to me and many others who lived through the worst years of the AIDS epidemic in Philadelphia. This church is a haven, a sanctuary, and a place for restorations and occasional epiphanies. Hundreds of activists have been energized and inspired within its walls, and hundreds of men and women who died of AIDS were eulogized and given a proper funeral within its lofty sanctuary.

I fell in love with St. Luke and The Epiphany when I attended my first ACT UP Philadelphia meeting in 1990. ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, is an activist group that has fought to bring an end to the AIDS crisis since 1987. ACT UP has met in the basement of this church at 330 S. 13th Street each Monday for almost the organization’s entire history, and to return to that space brings back the ghosts and memories of those weekly meetings and a very satisfying feeling of having been woven into the fabric of an activist community that taught me how to make a difference.

Until recently, I thought that the name of the church must refer to an epiphany that had struck Saint Luke, who is, by the way, the patron saint of artists, physicians, surgeons, students, and butchers. In fact, The Church of St. Luke & The Epiphany is the merger of two formerly independent Episcopal churches: St. Luke’s has since 1839 been located at its current site on 13th between Spruce and Pine, and merged in 1898 with The Church of The Epiphany, which used to have a grand church at the northwest corner of 15th and Chestnut. The inspiring sanctuary entrance sits upon a pedestal of granite, but we activists entered the church through the “Furness Addition”, the southernmost part of the church designed by my favorite architect, Frank Heyling Furness. Entering there, we descend via a grand marble stairway into a meeting space and kitchen, where we sit in concentric semicircles to plan strategies to reduce the price of AIDS drugs, bring condoms into the schools, improve the situation for prisoners living with AIDS, and help our friends who were living with AIDS get the latest information so that they can survive. Some of us did survive.

The Episcopal Church of Saint Luke & The Epiphany welcomed ACT UP in the late 1980s because the Rector, Rodger C. Broadley is a gay man who himself was to lose dozens of friends and parishioners during the AIDS epidemic. He arrived as an assistant priest in 1980 and served alone from the end of 1982, a year after AIDS came on the scene. He became the Rector in early 1984 and wanted St. Luke & The Epiphany to take leadership in supporting its local community, which was deeply impacted by these AIDS deaths. During the worst plague years of AIDS, Reverend Broadley sometimes had to preside over two funerals each weekend. St. Luke & The Epiphany conducted funerals for anyone who died of AIDS in the early days when many churches, synagogues and mosques ostracized their gay members. Rodger continues to welcome ACT UP and many
other organizations into its basement meeting rooms.

My favorite spot in the church is the lovely Chapel on the second floor of the Furness Addition. Frank Furness loved details like mini-pillars, blue painted stars, and leaded glass windows. This is a great place to come and sit in peace. And I should also mention the little garden as you enter the church at the main gate. I like to go there to sit and listen to the birds. Somehow the acoustics of the courtyard make this a great place to hear birdsong without being distracted by the street.

The Church of St. Luke & The Epiphany, perhaps more than any other building I have known well, symbolizes how a successful church (or really any successful building) embodies the community that it shelters and nurtures. The marble bones of this old church vibrate with the energies of so many who have been committed to strengthening the lovely neighborhood and communities in its vicinity. Next time you walk down 13th Street past its Corinthian columns, see if you can feel that energy.

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Center City 3 Comments

Love Note #78: Though it might be a little cold now, Trey Popp and his kids love Herron Park Sprayground in Pennsport

Trey Popp
Favorite Spot: Herron Park Sprayground
Neighborhood: Pennsport
Address: 2nd & Reed St.

I am: A father of two rough-and-tumble boys who need a break from the summer heat.
Years in Philly: 8
Current Home: West Philly

My love note: Herron Park isn’t the prettiest park, or the fanciest, or the one with the best playground equipment–and it certainly isn’t the most conveniently located one for us. But the sprayground side springs to life come summer, and it attracts parents and children from seemingly every walk of Philadelphia life. Well-to-do or not, black or white or brown, decked out in SPF-guard swimwear or just old T-shirts, everyone gets drenched together without regard to any of those differences. Every time we go, it strikes me as a place where the true Philadelphia puts its best foot forward. There’s a selection effect–every parent there has made a decision to devote time purely for their kids’ fun–but it’s open to everyone who likes the idea of good, clean, free, self-directed entertainment. I wish winter would never come.

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in South Philly Leave a comment

Love Note #77: Biking Oregon Ave at Midnight (Albert Yee)

Albert Yee
Favorite Spot: Oregon Ave at midnight, on a bike
Address: Oregon Ave between Columbus Blvd and 25th St
Neighborhood: South Philly

I am: I take pics
Years in Philly: 8
Current Home: Italian Market

My love note: I like to bike in town. It’s a great biking town. I liked it before there were bike lanes and I’m happy that more people have discovered biking since. But it gets congested in town and the drivers are fucking crazy whether they be locals, SEPTA drivers or visitors unaccustomed to driving with 1.5 million people around (many of which are on two wheels). While I do get around town a lot on two wheels during daylight hours, Philly shines after dark. 

I like to take long bike rides, over 15 miles, through town after midnight. I put on a bright shirt and make sure my blinker has a nice charge for the hour-plus ride. Recently I’ve discovered the joy that is Oregon Ave at night. It’s a six mile loop from Columbus Blvd to 25 St. East of Broad St, and it’s fairly newly paved which is wonderful. West of Broad St isn’t the worst street in town, but it’s far from the best. There are few cars on the road to deal with so I can pedal hard for a couple loops in peace. I like to finish up my rides with a trip up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a nice view. There’s always a little crowd of people there with the same idea after midnight. The sprint from the Museum to City Hall is quick and fun, but the calming Oregon Ave loop is grand.

(photo by Damon Landry)
Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in South Philly 2 Comments

Love Note #76: Need to feel good about Philly? Go to Anderson Yards in Grad Hospital and watch the Monarchs play baseball (Tim Whitaker)

Tim Whitaker
Favorite Spot: Anderson Yards, home baseball field for the Anderson Monarchs, a youth baseball program that operates under the auspices of the Marian Anderson Recreation Center
Neighborhood: Graduate Hospital
Address: 18th and Fitzwater

I am: Writer and editor. Executive director of Mighty Writers, a program that teaches city kids ages seven to 17 how to write.

Years in Philly: 25
Current home: Wynnewood

My love note: My favorite summertime thing to do after leaving Mighty Writers in the early evening is to stop by Anderson Yards, located just a few blocks away at 18th and Fitzwater. Anderson Yards is a classic baseball diamond, a gem in the city, beautifully cared for and manicured by the Anderson Monarchs’ program director and team manager Steve Bandura. The Monarchs play “team baseball,” which means they’re big on fundamentals and good sportsmanship. Bandura teaches his young players the legacy of Jackie Robinson and the Negro Leagues, believing you can’t chart your future without knowing your past. Best of all is the community that’s been built around baseball at Anderson Yards. Parents and neighbors come to the games, follow play closely and support the team with frequent trips to the refreshment stand to get water ice. Anderson Yards is where I go whenever I’ve misplaced my good vibe.

(Photos from Monarch’s FB page)

(Tim Whitaker with Nafeesah Cannady, a Mighty Writers high schooler, photo from Tim)

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Graduate Hospital 1 Comment