Professional landscape gardener Paul VanMeter is a co-founder of the non-profit VIADUCTgreene, which advocates to transform the viaduct, an abandoned stretch of the Reading Railroad, into a linear greenspace through Philadelphia. He also hosts a SideTour walking experience on which you can Explore Philly’s Secret Urban Jungle on a Viaduct Tour. In addition to his many outdoor ventures, he has a few indoor spots he thinks are worth visiting (or at least cruising by).
As told to SideTour:
8:00AM Take in the View Start the day with a stroll to Reading Terminal on 12th and Market to admire the reflective curved facades of the 1893 Terminal Headhouse and the 1929 PSFS Building (now the Loews Philadelphia Hotel), then revel in the views from PSFS’s 33rd floor; I love elevated perspectives and contrasts.
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9:00AM Grab a Quick Breakfast While in the area, stop by Old City Coffee at the Reading Terminal Market. My order: Iced cappuccino and apple cake.
10:00AM Marvel at Art Visit the powerhouse Barnes Foundation building and its exhibits, opened just last year. It’s art’s greatest story, and the finest building in Philadelphia since PSFS. From the Barnes’ soaring interior court admire the views of the Rodin Museum’s garden courtyard and the 1925 Philadelphia & Reading Granary. ”The first fruits of the new age!” said Le Corbusier of grain elevators.
Photo: All rights reserved by Scott Norsworthy
1:00PM Take a Bite of History Have a late lunch at Café Lift, a Callowhill neighborhood pioneer. Linger over the turkey sandwich (made with granny smith apples), knowing that Albert Barnes and his classmate and soon-to-be renowned painter William Glackens were at nearby Central High in 1901, a time when Baldwin Locomotives was just across the street assembling close to seven locomotives a day. Authentic. Gilded. Gritty.
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2:30PM Do a Little Shopping The gardener needs clothes, which invites travel to Center City. Moving between selling design and being a good dirt gardener requires a layered and easily varied wardrobe. It’s heartening to see the worldwide fascination with American workwear. I marvel at Barbour Philadelphia with their “International Collection,” including Steve McQueen’s World-class timeless style. If I’m not yet suitably outfitted, I’ll head to N. 3rd in Old City. At Sugarcube, they sell workwear new and renewed—maybe there’ll be a vintage find, or there’s always Red Wing and Levi’s.
4:30PM Make a Gallery Pit Stop On N. 3rd, it’s impossible for me not to drool in view of woodworking masterpieces from Nakashima and Esherick at Moderne Gallery. They’re a study in Delaware Valley world-class craft.
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5:30PM Browse and Buy a Bit More Nearby, my favorite upstate Pennsylvania-born clothing lines, Woolrich Woolen Mills and Gitman Vintage, appear at Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction. I’ll pick up some of Art in the Age’s house spirits, Root (made with sassafras, sarsaparilla, birch bark and other wild roots) and Snap (a ginger liquor). After a day with a couple tours, miles of walking and talking, these mixed with some club soda really hit the spot.
7:00PM Dine Al Fresco Pick up some takeout from Jose’s, located just next to the 9th Street Branch of the abandoned elevated railway we hope will become a garden park. Trespassing is necessary to get onto the elevated area, which in-the-knows know and everyone should. I have little doubt that the views of the city on high at dusk + Jose’s tacos + wine is damn near the most romantic event the city offers.
Photo: Paul VanMeter