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Recently digitized historic maps depict much smaller Philadelphia

The University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab has digitized and made available online the entire Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States. By viewing the maps on top of contemporary images, you get a unique picture of progress. Check out Philadelphia.

The old paper maps have been geo-rectified so that they can be viewed atop digital maps. The atlas contains several series of maps across the years, which have now been animated. In one, you can watch the center of the U.S. population migrate from 1790 to 1930 (in the 1920s, the center of America's urban population was located in western Ohio).

As you might imagine, the newly accessible collection is full of arcane trivia about American exports in the 1790s, but also a wealth of knowledge about the early growth of U.S. cities, and what their first planners had in mind for them. One particularly delightful chapter is devoted to the "plans of cities" – all of them, of necessity, from the East Coast – dating back to as early as 1775
.

Original source: The Atlantic Cities
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The New York Times shines a bright light on Philly's new land bank

Philadelphia's recently passed land bank legislation got some big-time press in a New York Times feature.

The new city ordinance aims to consolidate ownership of the properties under the roof of the Land Bank. And to encourage developers to buy through one-stop shopping, the city ordinance also gives the Land Bank power to acquire title to privately owned vacant properties if they are delinquent in taxes. Officials said about three-quarters of Philadelphia’s vacant properties were privately owned and many were behind on taxes. That has deterred prospective buyers who have trouble tracking down owners of long-abandoned properties or dealing with liens on the buildings.

Once the Land Bank is operational later this year, developers will be in a better position to take control of whole blocks that currently show a “gap-tooth” patchwork of public and private buildings and land, proponents say.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Hope for redevelopment at the SS United States?

People are working hard to save the SS United States; the behemoth has been docked in South Philly since the mid-'90s.

Donors from around the world contributed at least $205,000, and another $116,000 was raised by scrapping obsolete pieces of the ship that would have had to be cleared eventually by a developer, said Susan Gibbs, the conservancy's executive director.

The influx of cash should cover the ship's upkeep bills for the next six months or so. By that time, Gibbs said, there's hope that a redevelopment deal will finally be close at hand.

"We aren't yet able to make an announcement about a final deal, but we're very hopeful 2014 is going to be the year for the SS United States," she said.

Unfortunately, that future might happen outside of Philadelphia -- perhaps in New York. Time will tell.

Original Source: Philadelphia Daily News
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GQ's Alan Richman weighs in on the cheesesteak wars

The renowned food critic drafted his list of the 10 best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. (Ed note: the presence of Pat's and Geno's on the list is a disgrace; the omission of Dalessandro's is even worse.) 

So many cheesesteaks, so much to learn, even for a Philadelphia native, which I am. Who makes the best, a debate that has consumed the city for decades? Which is the best cheese, sliced provolone or Cheez Whiz, the legendary goop invented by Kraft in the early fifties? (American cheese, a third option, is too feeble to be a viable choice.) Which establishment chops, caramelizes, and adds the correct quantity of onions, which is my particular passion, given that the grilled beef in these sandwiches tends to be bland?  And, finally, just how good is the bread, a judgment we tended to leave to Maria Gallagher, a former restaurant critic for Philadelphia magazine?

Original source: GQ
Read the complete list here.

Huge Mount Sinai plan revealed at public meeting

Developers have let the public in on their plans for the massive, abandoned Mount Sinai campus in Pennsport. 

Jeff DiRomaldo, Project Manager and Architect for Barton Partners out of Norristown, provided some background on the "urban repair project" and went over the early plans and designs. The key theme he wanted to stress -- filling the "voids" in the street scape that plague the area. The hope is to construct the town homes as a border around the property that "re-integrate those edges" of the site back in to the neighborhood.

As usual, parking was a major concern for neighbors:

The plan calls for the site to contain 137 spaces, all but five will be within the interior of the development and that number includes the garages in the town homes. However, as Developer Gagar Lakhmna explained, the existing curb cuts will be reduced from ten to nine in the process as a different curb cut at 5th and Dickinson will be necessary to accommodate a front-loading garage for those units due to space. Basically, the fewer curb cuts means more street parking. He also mentioned that they drew up plans for an interior parking deck but it would have only given them about 10 more spaces. They will look to have "80 bike spaces and two car share spots" as well. 

Original source: Pennsporter
Read the complete story here.

The 50K 'Rocky' run earns national attention

A 'Fat Ass' run stemming from a Philly Mag blog post -- plotting Rocky's run from the film Rocky II -- took place a couple weeks ago, and earned some national press.

The run through distal parts of the city seems almost impossible, even for someone as tough as Rocky.

Enter the ultra-running movement to show it is possible. Nearly four decades after the first Rocky movie, a group of runners set out Saturday to re-create Rocky's training run—all 31 miles of it, the equivalent of 50 kilometers...

Before sunrise Saturday, about 150 runners huddled in the cold near the South Philly house that Rocky moves into with his bride, Adrian, played by Talia Shire. This is where he starts his training run, hoping to beat Apollo Creed, played by Carl Weathers.

Many runners were decked out in old-school gray sweats and red headbands like the ones Rocky wore. Phil Yurkon of Scranton, Pa., wore boxing gloves and had "Lithuanian Stallion" written on the back of his sweatshirt, a play on Rocky's "Italian Stallion" nickname and a homage to Mr. Yurkon's ancestry. The 32-year-old hadn't run more than 17 miles before this run; he heard about the Rocky run the day before and decided to try it.


Original source: The Wall Street Journal
Read the complete story here.

SEPTA gets into the holiday spirit, with help from their operators

As we personally witnessed on a recent Broad Street Line ride, some SEPTA trains have gotten super festive this holiday season. CBS looked into the story behind these cheery decorations.

The company is decking out several trolleys, buses and even a Norristown High Speed Line train car for the holidays with lights, ornaments and boughs of holly. Riders should keep an eye out for the decorated “sleighs” on certain routes, including Trolley #9052, which operates on Route 10, and Bus #9253, which runs on Route 35. Routes 101 and 102, the Media/Sharon Hill Line, will also have decorated trolleys, and the Norristown High Speed Line will feature a decorated car.

Original source: CBS Philly
Read the complete story here.

Huffington Post Travel calls Philly a 'City of Makers'

Philadelphia gets props for its proclivity for hands-on activities -- many of them available to tourists.

Philadelphia's diverse neighborhoods have been the bastion of artisans and craftspeople since their very beginnings. In the early 1700s, immigrants sought their fortunes in the one colony that didn't require a tithe to the Church -- Pennsylvania. By 1740, Philadelphia was the largest city in the colonies -- an engine of industry. One German observer wrote in 1754: "Pennsylvania is heaven for farmers, paradise for artisans and hell for officials and preachers." This "paradise for artisans" has gone through a rebirth in recent years, revitalizing Philadelphia's flagging neighborhoods and bringing a distinctive creative energy to each.

Original source: The Huffington Post
Read the complete story here.



Drake building recording studio at Strawberry Mansion High

The recording artist (and notable Canadian) Drake has committed to funding the construction of a recording studio at Strawberry Mansion High.

The rapper and singer said that after watching a Diane Sawyer special about the school which ran last May, he wanted to help: "by the end of it I was so heavily affected that at the end I started questioning like major aspects of my life."

Drake surprised students at Strawberry mansion high during a taping of a follow-up to the original ABC special. He told them that "over the next few months," he would build a recording studio there. He said, "This about you. This about your principal. This about your future. I love you. I care about you. I want to see you succeed."

Original source: Curbed Philly
Read the complete story here.



Philadelphia's German-inspired Christmas Village is up-and-running

The grand tradition of lights and booths and hot drinks has once again arrived at City Hall.

The seasonal bouquet permeates the air of the Christmas Villages in Baltimore and Philadelphia, a pair of German-inflected colonies featuring crafts, local and Deutschland foods, toe-warming beverages and decorative lights as bright as a diamond tiara. The special events, which run through Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, respectively, transport the glee — and the glühwein — of the German Christmas markets to the East Coast.

"It’s the spirit of the traditional Christkindlesmarkt," said founder Thomas Bauer, a native of Nuremberg, which holds one of the largest and most celebrated markets in Germany.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Christkind the Christmas Angel even flew in from Nuremberg to officiate over the festivities, which are in their sixth year for Philadelphia and the first for Baltimore. Bauer chose the City of Brotherly Love as his original site because of the region’s German heritage and significant Amish population...In Philadelphia, the elfin structures occupied by more than 60 retailers encircle the 38-foot-tall Christmas tree in Love Park.


Original source: The Washington Post
Read the complete story here.

World's first selfie taken in Philadelphia?

A local photography pioneer turned the camera on himself:

The above self-portrait (that’s apparently what selfies used to be called), which resides at the Library of Congress, was taken by Robert Cornelius in Philadelphia in October 1839, 174 years before Jim Gardner would post a selfie. The first-generation American, born to Dutch immigrants, is considered a pioneer of photography. He took the photo–a daguerreotype–while standing outside of his family’s Philadelphia lamp store. Experts say that Cornelius had to remain still for several minutes to obtain the final product.

Written on the back of the photograph: "The first light picture ever taken. 1839."


Original source: Philadelphia Magazine
Read the complete story here.



Transit-oriented development Paseo Verde dedicated in North Philly

Paseo Verde, an exciting community-supported project in North Philadelphia, was recently completed. It is hopefully a standard-bearer in transit-oriented development.

Paseo Verde, a super green, mixed-use, mixed income community hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony this morning. The complex is the country's very first Platinum LEED certified Neighborhood Development, a distinction that it earned by creating an eco-friendly, transit focused project with the goal of "providing a healthy living environment for residents through sustainable practices, as well as cost savings through effective reduction in energy use."

Even Paseo Verde's most expensive apartments wouldn't fall into the luxury price range, but it does seem that they'll be offering quite a few luxury amenities: residents will get access to a fitness center, community rooms, a technology center, gardening plots, and green roofs.

Original source: Curbed Philly
Read the complete story here.

Inventing the Future: Researchers at Monell tackle the roots of obesity

Monell Chemical Senses Center, a nonprofit research organization in University City, is at the forefront of research into how eating habits during pregnancy and infancy impact obesity.

The Monell researchers have identified several sensitive periods for taste preference development. One is before three and a half months of age, which makes what the mother eats while pregnant and breast-feeding so important. “It’s our fundamental belief that during evolution, we as humans are exposed to flavors both in utero and via mother’s milk that are signals of things that will be in our diets as we grow up and learn about what flavors are acceptable based on those experiences,” said Gary Beauchamp, the director of the Monell Center. “Infants exposed to a variety of flavors in infancy are more willing to accept a variety of flavors, including flavors that are associated with various vegetables and so forth and that might lead to a more healthy eating style later on.”

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Martin Luther King High School emerges from school closings turmoil with success on the gridiron

Earlier this year, The New York Times reported on the absorption of Germantown High School's football team into that of rival Martin Luther King High School. Despite the heartache of the merger, the team had a triumphant season.

Martin Luther King High School had one victory in 2012. And that was by forfeit. This fall, a $304 million budget shortfall in the Philadelphia school district forced a merger with archrival Germantown High. Many doubted the merger would work...

Then something wonderful happened. Defeat became liberating. Desperation forged unity. Coach Edward Dunn, 27, embroidered a team from a ragged collection of players. Each game became a kind of playoff and King went more than two months without losing.

The Cougars won nine straight games and their first Public League championship. Quarterback Joseph Walker was named the league’s most valuable player. Delane Hart became the league’s career leader in receiving yards (1,932) and the first with more than 1,000 yards in a season. He sometimes wore socks with a Superman logo and little red capes that fluttered as he ran pass routes.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Science reporter sparks tough conversation about women in STEM

This might not be as Philly-centric as our usual Buzz posts, but Flying Kite has written extensively about efforts to engage women in STEM fields, so we thought we'd share this awesome video from Emily Graslie. Speaking from the Field Museum in Chicago, Graslie addresses the strange internet conversationt that often errupts when women enter the conversation on scientific topics. As she demonstrates, we have a long way to go. From an NPR story on the video:

Many of the folks who write her, write not about the science, but about her body, her looks, her clothes, and do so without any apparent embarrassment. She's a science reporter who happens to be a young woman, and her woman-ness is the thing they focus on. The science, to her chagrin, often takes second place.

Original source: NPR
Check out the video here.
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