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 Note #267: Skyline porn at its finest

Michael Kissinger
Favorite Spot: Philly skyline views

Years in Philly: I lived in the city for 5 years, Drexel Grad. Worked there for an additional 4 years.
Current Home: Wayne, PA. So now I miss the sunsets!

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

Love Note #250: Pro tip: Parking lots are the best for Philly skyline photos

Editor’s Note: This post features photos by the amazing @kylehuff, who’s skyline and abandoned building photos are some of my favorite in the city.

Schuyler L.

Favorite Spot: The top level of any parking garage at night!

I am: A Philly based food event and urban exploration photographer who is trying to make the transition to independent documentary filmmaking.
Years in Philly: Five
Current Home: Conshohocken

@kylehuff6 Read more

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in West Philly 2 Comments

Love Note #206: Where it all started

Liz Spikol
Favorite Spot: Graffiti Pier
Neighborhood: Port Richmond

I am: A writer and editor
Years in Philly: Born and raised
Current Home: Cedar Park


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Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Fishtown / Kensington 2 Comments

Love Note #171: The Art Museum steps are the ONE thing that Beryl Belcher shows all visitors

Beryl Belcher
Favorite Spot: As a child I fell in love with the center city library. I couldn’t stay out of there. Going to Hallahan School only fueled the fire. But one day, I walked to the Art Museum and sat on the steps and realized my city is most beautiful from there day or night.
Neighborhood: Art Museum
Address: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130

I am: An investigator with the Defender Association of Philailadelphia who grew up in here, left and came back.
Years in Philly: Born here, and have returned. I’ve been back 19 years
Current Home: Mt. Airy


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Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Art Museum 3 Comments

Love Note #102: Phil Jablon’s love note to the spectacular views from the PSFS building

Phil Jablon

Favorite Spot: The Board Room of the PSFS Building (33rd Floor)
Neighborhood: Market East
Address: 12th and Market Streets

I am: Native Philadelphian who loves places, built or natural.
Years in Philly: 25
Current Home: Bella Vista


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Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Center City 2 Comments

Love Note #97: "There is no rush, only serenity" (Seth DiLorenzo’s Love Note to Bartram’s Gardens)

Seth DiLorenzo
Favorite Spot: Bartram’s Garden
Neighborhood: Southwest Philly
Address: 53rd and Lindbergh

I am: An avid wanderer…of mind and bicycle
Years in Philly: 8
Current Home: West Philly


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Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Southwest Philly 2 Comments

Love Note #72: Race Street Pier, the past, present and future of the City (Gary Steuer)

Gary Steuer
Favorite Spot: Race Street Pier Park (and environs)
Neighborhood: Old City
Address: Race Street and Columbus Boulevard/Delaware Avenue

I am: The Chief Cultural Office of the City of Philadelphia and Direct the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy. I am grateful that my job allows me to support and celebrate the culture and creative energy that drives this City.
Years in Philly: Four (but I have a little bit of Philly roots in that my parents met here in the Fifties…)
Current Home: Bella Vista – Broad and Fitzwater 

My Love Note: I would say that my new favorite spot is the Race Street Park. It is beautifully designed, peaceful, offers a fantastic Philadelphia cityscape view of the Delaware and the Ben Franklin Bridge, and provides inspiration for the further development of the Delaware waterfront. Approaching the park from Race Street, you also get to experience “Marquis,” a work of digital public art by Richard Torchia and Greenhouse Media that presents a live feed of a moving image of the surface of the Delaware River that is somewhat abstracted by the LED screen. Really cool! 

AND, if that were not enough, across the street from the Race Street Park is the new headquarters of Live Arts/Philly Fringe, in a historic water pumping building. I feel like in this spot, at this point in time, the past, present and future of the City are all simultaneously evident, as well the integration of the arts and design into the urban environment.

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Delaware River 12 Comments

Love Note #66: "Then one day I ran the bridge" (Dan McQuade, Ben Franklin Bridge)

Dan McQuade
Favorite Spot: Ben Franklin Bridge walkway

Neighborhood: Old City-Delaware River-Camden
Address: Bridge is between Race and Vine from N. 5th Street to the river, with pedestrian walkway entrances at New (north) and Florist (south).

I am: I write things, usually for money. I have a blog and a Twitter.
Years in Philly: Native (I’m 29)
Current Home: Center City

My love note:

12 years and about 50 pounds ago, I was a pretty decent runner.

My times were never great — I won a few cross country dual meets, I never got hurt — but I was hardcore. By senior year of high school I savored every minute of every run. I loved running in the woods in Philadelphia and Bucks County, on streets near the Northeast Airport and on tracks all over. Unfortunately, running competitively for 10 or so years killed my spirit. I fell out of it in college. I found new interests. I dropped my favorite hobby for reasons I still don’t understand.

A few years ago I got fired, got dumped and, most importantly, saw an incredibly unflattering photo of myself. I’m pretty vain, so it wasn’t hard to get back into running. But even though I was running every day, I never found that perfect place to run. I don’t own a car (so no Belmont Plateau) and I live east of Broad (so the Schuylkill River trail is a bit far, too). I thought I’d be running big loops around South Philly streets forever.

Then one day I ran the bridge.

The Benjamin Franklin Bridge is gorgeous, but I never realized how great it is until running over it. It opened on July 1, 1926 to rave reviews as the Delaware River Bridge; the chief engineer, Polish-born American bridge maven Ralph Modjeski, was born exactly 122 years before me. The view of the skyline from the middle of the bridge is the best in the city, but the scenery from the bridge is great, too: The backsides of buildings, a baseball stadium and nicer-than-you-think Rutgers-Camden campus in New Jersey.

I’ve been running the bridge almost every day this summer. I dread it a little every day; my shins do even more. I only have to go through Washington Square, past Independence Hall and down Fifth Street to get there, but some days I step onto the walkway and already feel defeated. It’s steep. The first incline on the Philadelphia side goes up forever. Unlike running on streets, though, there’s no opportunity to slack. It’s a straight shot to the top, no stopping. And, yes, the runner’s high from going up and down and up and down is unmatched.

The Ben Franklin Bridge is this city: Beautiful and formidable, underrated and unmatched. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s really nice out today and I’m headed out.

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Delaware River, Old City 11 Comments

Love Note #64: Erica Hawthorne watches over the city she loves from Drexel Park in University City

Erica Hawthorne
Favorite Spot: Drexel Park
Neighborhood: University City
Address: Baring and 32nd streets

I am: Poet, artist advocate, chocolate chip cookie connoisseur (or addict…same same), owner of one very spoiled cat and founder of Small But Mighty Arts Grant (thanks to the Knight Foundation!).
Years in Philly: 9 years…and counting.
Current Home: Powelton Village…but I just call it West Philly 🙂
My love note: I fell in love with Philadelphia before I even moved to Philadelphia. When I arrived, I had a bit of culture shock! But it grew on me…the neighborhoods, the restaurants, the friends I’ve made (who have awesome house parties), getting lost EVERYWHERE, every creative, artistic venue, event, person and moment I experience, and the skyline that peeks out every time I crest a hill in surrounding neighborhoods.

This park used to be a graveled inaccessible space, the skyline hidden behind fenced tension. Even then, I used to drive by, slow down and strain to see what I knew was a great view, save for all of the barriers. When they began turning over soil I thought the space would end up as a condo haven, but to my surprise, it become this amazing park space. 

Here, the city looks close enough to touch, and I come here to reflect on how far I’ve come since I’ve been here and just how close I have become with the city. The park is a great spot to hang out during the day, although the grass is a bit rough, but isn’t that so Philly?: a bit rough, even more beautiful…and still someplace you want to be. At night, from this place, it’s like watching a rambunctious toddler finally settle down, peaceful and resting. Only a few windowed lids flutter on the building facades, haloed by the stars, the occasional whining of a train pulling into to the station like a familiar blanket, while the Art Museum sits off to the left like a night light. Even at night, you can feel the city still building and renewing and getting ready for another day.

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in University City 1 Comment

Love Note #57: Thomas Faust’s ode to Philly’s summer sunsets

Thomas Faust
Favorite Spot: Sunset behind the Philly Skyline

Neighborhood: Best seen from Old City (particularly from the Race Street Pier or Ben Franklin Bridge)
Address: The big sky above

I am: An architect/urban designer who is obsessed with how people experience and move through space, the way people shape their world, and why the places we live in are the way they are (ie, human and natural history).
Years in Philly: 3
Current home: Physically, I live in New York City. Mentally, in Philly. 

My love note: The Philadelphia skyline is a strange thing. With the “gentleman’s agreement” broken long ago the skyscraper cluster in west Center City still feels like a half-finished endeavor, or that it’s trying to change the city into something that it’s not. But, there is one thing that almost makes the developer-and-speculator-driven mess of Philly’s skyscrapers worthwhile, and that is the summer sunset.

A sunset occurs everyday, but how many have you actually watched in your lifetime? Its funny to think that we tend to reserve witnessing a daily occurrence for special occasions, like vacations or cliched romantic moments. People are busy, they’ve got to get home from work, microwave dinner, turn on the TV, look at a screen to read a book, look at a screen to shop from a store, look at a screen to watch a sunset…look out the window, ya dummy! Or get outside, or on the roof and look westward, young man. 

The result of a city consisting of 95% three to four story buildings and 5% high-rises in the center is the creation of a great theater for the sunset to do its thing, at least for the eastern half of the city. It’s particularly powerful in the summer. There’s that moment, after a long, sweltering, humid day in July or August, when it feels like someone just flipped a switch and all your suffering under the sun transforms into anticipation for the cool, cool night, and it quite naturally coincides with the sun setting to the west. Standing on a roof top, along the Delaware, the Ben Franklin Bridge, or a place like Race Street Pier is where I feel you can take in the full glory of a Philly summer sunset (potential beer name?), but I’m sure everyone has their own favorite spot. And I’m sure many people in west Philly enjoy their sunsets sans skyscrapers, but I simply can’t accept that. 

Because the sunset does the unthinkable: it turns the banal monstrosities that hover over the city into beautiful, other-worldly mirages. Every other moment of the day I’ll think “What did that view look like when all you could see was City Hall?,” but on a day when the sun paints the glass of Liberty Place and the Comcast Tower a darkened yet radiant, hazy yet crisp orange and amber, all of those misgivings fade away. It’s amazing what a drastic change a little color can bring into your world. That glow might last twenty minutes, tops, and even then it’s only at it’s brightest for a few minutes. But those few minutes are worth stopping for. They are the one gift that mother nature gives us after kicking our asses for twelve hours a day. So find a spot, sit back, feel the heat slip away, and enjoy as man and nature combine into something unique to Philly for one brief moment each day. 
(Top two images by Thomas Faust, middle images by Conrad Benner, bottom image by me)
Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Uncategorized 1 Comment