Out & About Magazine -- July 2013

Page 19



Cosmopolitan, With A Dash Of History The nearby Pennsylvania borough is a perfect day-trip destination By Scott Pruden West Chester decorated for its Sesquicentennial, looking east on Gay Street from Church Street, October 1949. Photo provided by Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA Russ Smith

There was a time not long ago when experts would have written off the borough of West Chester, Pa., as a classic example of the death spiral of the American small town. These days, however, Dub-C, as West Chester University students and locals are wont to call it, can serve as an example of all that can go right when businesses, residents and local government work toward a common goal. The result is a small town with a bustling, cosmopolitan feel that while for many is a bedroom community for Wilmington and Philadelphia, manages to maintain another identity that combines

everything there is to love about Chester County. As late as the early 1990s it seemed things weren’t going to get much better for West Chester, which had lost much of its downtown retail base to shopping centers and malls in Exton to the north and many of its residents to highly suburbanized neighboring townships. For many businesses, the only things that kept commerce moving back then were the borough’s status as the Chester County seat, which ensured that during the work day the streets would be busy with those engaged in the business of government or the courts, and the

presence of the university’s students and faculty. After 5 p.m., things rolled over to the student population, streaming to the few bars that catered to the low-priced plastic cup and pitcher crowd. By the late 1990s, however, there was a glimmer of hope, thanks to none other than Delaware-based Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant. After opening their flagship restaurant in Newark in 1996, the owners began casting around for a place to expand. West Chester, with its compact, walkable downtown and steady population of college students from south High Street, mimicked much about downtown Newark and provided a perfect vacant ► july 2013 | OutAndAbOutNow.com

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