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 #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)
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Being a scientist in Philly

The purpose of this blog is to highlight why we love our city, but I still want it to be somewhat personal. Before this month, I had time to post shorts about my life and goings on in the city, but I’ve been swamped recently.

So for some more personal info…

For the last six years, I’ve been working (posing) as a neuroscientist at UPENN. We’ve been studying how the visual system develops in fish, baby fish, really really tiny fish. I’m leaving in two weeks for a yet to be determined job or internship in the environmental field (fingers crossed for the Montgomery County Planning Commission and Next American City). I love science, but am ready to move on to something new. So I’m leaving with these pics to show what a lab and fish facility look like.

(My desk — surrounded by lots of chemicals)
(Microscopes. I spent years dissecting the eyes out of fish)


(Some of the 500,000 fish in the facility)
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Ruin Porn

Tracy Levesque runs a super cool Ruin Porn site. She photographs the beauty of urban decay and includes the history for some of the structures we’ve all probably seen and been curious about.  

Below is a couple of my favorite shots…
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Sometimes the best part about Philly is leaving for a little bit

Sometimes the best part about Philly is leaving for a little bit.  I took my summer vacation to Ocean City, NJ for three days this week with my lovely family. Luckily it overlapped some of the hottest days of the summer. We grilled, played in the water, attempted (note the word attempted) to paddleboard in the bay, and got sunburned.  It was my first vacation where I remained attached to my computer for some of the day as I deep into this blog and trying to look for a new job. 

 (me and my lovely cousin, Hannah)

After the beach, I spent one day back in Philly to celebrate my 30th, and finally managed to cut the computer cord. My roommate and I drove down to her family’s farm outside of Shenandoah for a huge party. We all piled into pickup trucks sitting high atop inner tubes and canoes and lazily made our way down the river cutting through the farm.  There were three beer coolers full to the brim and tons of great people. At night we sat out on the porch swatting flies, making hamburgers, playing football and enjoying the fire pit. It was indescribably beautiful, and I purposefully left my camera in the car most of the time. And now I’m back, and it’s a perfect night to sit on the porch and catch up and look forward to the week ahead.

(Soybean fields)

(My lovely roommate, Isabelle)

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Estate hopping right off the regional rail

Ashbourne Road in Elkins Park is lined with some amazing homes from Philadelphia’s industrial titans. The one accesible house is The Elkins Estate, designed and built for William L. Elkins, a Philadelphian who made his fortune refining crude oil, and later as a pioneer in the street car and railroad business. The estate consists of 42 acres of land and 16 buildings, including Elstowe Manor, built by Horace Trumbauer. It is private property, but you can visit to see a variety of different performances put on by White Pines Productions (varied, fabulous, and free much of the time). If you go, check out the Chelten House next door, which is also part of the Elkins Estate, and Lynnewood Hall, which is a 110-room Neoclassical Revival mansion on the (now) 36-acre Widneer Estate. Lynnewood has been listed as by the Presrvation Alliance as one of Philly’s 
most endangered historic properties.

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I’m not really going to start posting about street art because it is covered thoroughly and beautifully by other sites (most notably, Conrad Benner’s However, I ran across this piece while biking down Christian St the other day (at 17th), and dragged my roommate back with me to take pics. It is amazing, and my picture does it no justice. 

The artist(s), Harlequinade, create their Gargoyles “as atuas of wrathful guardian spirits to be installed throughout the city. The philosophy being that their presence will affect the metaphysical energies of the local area and deter any predatory or violent spirits on the streets.” With that in mind I liked the idea of taking my own picture in front of it, sort of an image of protection. I keep thinking how I would like a collection of more people with this image enfolding them. I’ll be back to it with friends in tow (and armed with a small step stool).

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Mann Center

One of the highlights of a Philly summer is the Mann Center summer concert series. $12.50 gets you an amazing orchestral concert, fireworks, and a beautiful lawn on which to picnic your heart out.  

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It’s so goddamn beautiful.
It’s so goddamn broken.
Both of these things are true of Philadelphia at the same time.

A few months after I moved to Philadelphia, I was dating a geologist who liked to “urban explore,” which meant breaking into abandoned buildings around the city. He’d grown up in the woods across the water from Canada, and I think all this trespassing was his way of balancing out the weight of his degree from the University of Pennsylvania. It was a grey day, and we were driving south on PA 611 as it turned into Broad Street, coming back from an overnight camping trip, when he grabbed my arm and told me to pull over. I pressed my nose into the glass of my window, and stared up at the Divine Lorraine Hotel…

Reprinted with permission from Emma Eisenberg.  

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Art Museum

I love when you bike around a corner and see something like this…

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Brandywine Valley

If you’re looking for an unexpectedly amazing night post-work, head over to the Brandywine Valley region. 

First — Terrain at Styers where I could blow a year’s salary on beautiful plants, linens, balms, etc. 
Second — Chaddsford Vineyards where $10 gets you 10 wine tastings and you can stay till 8pm on Thursday. 
Third — Longwood Gardens. Wander aimlessly around Bruce Monroe’s light exhibit till 11pm on weeknights. You will come out disoriented, amazed, and feeling like you just walked through Avatar.

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