#whyilovephilly — A city even a suburbanite can be proud of

     Getting out of your car can help you learn to love the city. (Nathaniel Hamilton/for NewsWorks, file)

    Getting out of your car can help you learn to love the city. (Nathaniel Hamilton/for NewsWorks, file)

    I love the City of Brotherly Love! That being said, I must admit that I was a suburbanite for most of my younger days. Now, looking back, I see that I never realized how boring the suburbs were until I moved into Center City.

    Why do you love Philly? NewsWorks is helping to sponsor an event on Dec. 6 celebrating all that’s great about this city. We want to know what you love. Tell us in an essay to publish on NewsWorks. Tell us on Twitter for a chance to win food and beverage tickets for the party (hashtag #whyilovephilly).

    I love the City of Brotherly Love!  That being said, I must admit that I was a suburbanite for most of my younger days. This includes the first 15 years of my life, when I was raised in a suburban-like neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia.

    In 1980, my family moved out of the city entirely, to Bucks County. And so, as a suburban teenager and young adult, I was scared of Philadelphia and all it offered. For many years I commuted into town to attend college and then to go to work, but it was as if I was a reluctant tourist, shielding myself from the essence of the city inside my car—and heaven forbid that I would take public transportation!

    Now, looking back, I see that I never realized how boring the suburbs were until I moved into Center City.

    It was in 1998 when I finally became a genuine city boy. I parked my car, started taking public transportation, and even bought a bicycle! Half the fun really is getting there, when traversing a vibrant urban landscape to do so.

    I soon joined several organizations that promoted Philadelphia and its history and architecture. I started taking the tours these groups sponsored, or simply found myself walking or biking around town to see what was happening. I became fascinated by Philadelphia.

    While exploring the city in this way, I kept running into others who had similarly discovered (or rediscovered) the City of Brotherly Love. I realized that I had joined the ranks of a growing number of Philly boosters: individuals enamored of and enthralled by William Penn’s “Greene Country Towne.” I had no idea there were so many people who so relished living in or near what is or what was once the Athens of America, the Birthplace of the Nation, the Cradle of Liberty, the City of Homes, the City of Neighborhoods, the Workshop of the World, and most recently, the Place That Loves You Back.

    I then started collecting books about Philadelphia.  At first, it was usually glossy-paged volumes with lots of pictures. I loved poring over photographs showing the city throughout the years, particularly in areas that I had come to know first hand. I then started using the Internet to track down books about the city and its institutions and attractions that I had only read or heard about. Before long, books were piled high in my bedroom closet, waiting until I found the time to slog through them.

    At one time or another, Philadelphia was the center of the nation’s architectural, artistic, business, civic, culinary, cultural, educational, entertainment, industrial, legal, medical, manufacturing, maritime, publishing, recreational, religious, retail, scientific, social, technological, and transportation activities and endeavors. Besides being the site of the nation’s founding and the first real capital of the United States, much of what we appreciate as part of modern life began or was once concentrated in this part of the country often (confusingly) referred to as the “Delaware Valley” and, more recently, “Greater Philadelphia.”

    Harry Kyriakodis is the author of “Philadelphia’s Lost Waterfront” (2011) and “Northern Liberties: The Story of a Philadelphia River Ward” (2012), both issued by The History Press, and is currently working a postcard history book on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

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