Metropolitan Philadelphia: Living with the Presence of the Past

Overview

As America's fifth largest city and fourth largest metropolitan region, Philadelphia is tied to its surrounding counties and suburban neighborhoods. It is this vital relationship, suggests Steven Conn, that will make or break greater Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia region has witnessed virtually every major political, economic, and social transformation of American life. Having once been an industrial giant, the region is now struggling to fashion a new identity in a ...

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Overview

As America's fifth largest city and fourth largest metropolitan region, Philadelphia is tied to its surrounding counties and suburban neighborhoods. It is this vital relationship, suggests Steven Conn, that will make or break greater Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia region has witnessed virtually every major political, economic, and social transformation of American life. Having once been an industrial giant, the region is now struggling to fashion a new identity in a postindustrial world. On the one hand, Center City has been transformed into a vibrant hub with its array of restaurants, shops, cultural venues, and restored public spaces. On the other, unchecked suburban sprawl has generated concerns over rising energy costs and loss of agriculture and open spaces. In the final analysis, the region will need a dynamic central city for its future, while the city will also need a healthy sustainable region for its long-term viability.

Central to the identity of a twenty-first century Metropolitan Philadelphia, Conn argues, is the deep and complicated interplay of past and present. Looking at the region through the wide lens of its culture and history, Metropolitan Philadelphia moves seamlessly between past and present. Displaying a specialist's knowledge of the area as well as a deep personal connection to his subject, Conn examines the shifting meaning of the region's history, the utopian impulse behind its founding, the role of the region in creating the American middle class, the regional watershed, and the way art and cultural institutions have given shape to a resident identity.

Impressionistic and beautifully written, Metropolitan Philadelphia will be of great interest to urbanists and at the same time accessible to the wider public intrigued in the rich history and cultural dynamics of this fascinating region. What emerges from the book is a wide-ranging understanding of what it means to say, "I'm from Philadelphia."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Ranging widely over epoch and territory, from Henry James to M. Night Shyamalan, from Winterthur to the Poconos, from Eakins' aesthetics to the economics of coal, Conn brings the material and intellectual together, revealing a unique rather than typical metropolis."—Philadelphia Inquirer

"Steven Conn's book is just a delight. It is beautifully researched and written. It is meditative and soulful. Why is Philadelphia great? Why is it so special? Why must it be preserved? Conn's book, presented with clarity and affection, makes the best case for the city I have read in a very long time. Quakerism. Clark Park. William Penn. Pearl Buck. The city mural program. The orchestra. The zoo. Conn has tied together all the different roots and traditions and institutions of the Philadelphia region together in a wonderful package."—Buzz Bissinger, author of A Prayer for the City and Friday Night Lights

"In this beautifully wrought book, Steven Conn combines an insider's intimate knowledge and abiding affection for his hometown, a historian's deep research, and a social critic's sharp wit. For Conn, history is the soul of the city. Weaving together past and present—both the commonplace and the extraordinary—Conn captures the essence of Philadelphia as no one has before."—Thomas J. Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania

"An incisive, learned, and proudly unconventional portrait of the Philadelphia region. This richly textured and well-written volume attempts neither an exhaustive historical synthesis nor a focused examination of a particular time period or topic. Instead, Conn successfully strives for something different and distinctive—a deeply personal look through the prism of socioeconomic, cultural, religious, and environmental lenses at how Philadelphia's past and present interact with and shape each other. What emerges from this undertaking is an invaluable work that joins the ranks of Nathaniel Popkin's Song of the City (2002) and Buzz Bissinger's A Prayer for the City (1997) in helping us understand the essence of what Philadelphia is now and how it got that way."—Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812219432
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/12/2006
  • Series: Metropolitan Portraits Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,435,365
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

A native Philadelphian, Steven Conn is coeditor (with Max Page) of Building the Nation: Americans Write About Their Architecture, Their Cities, and Their Landscape, winner of the Noble Book Award of the Pioneer America Society and available from the University of Pennsylvania Press. Conn contributes regularly to the Philadelphia Inquirer and City Paper.
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Table of Contents

Prologue: The Naked City

1. Echoes of William Penn
2. The Ghosts That Haunt Us
3. The Delaware Valley Makes the Middle Class
4. Two Rivers Run Through It
5. In the Mind's Eye: Imagining the Philadelphia Region
Epilogue: The Naked City and the Story of Decline

Notes
Index
Acknowledgments

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