Main Line Times Column, Places We Love – Shopping Locally is a Form of Preservation
As we creep towards the shortest day of the year, the weather outside becomes frightful and the holidays get closer and closer we may find ourselves looking for some indoor distractions and extra indulgences. Instead of jumping in the car and getting stuck in mall traffic, consider indulging in some historic preservation-minded activities that you might not have thought of. This week’s Places We Love is an invitation to invest in your own backyard while beating the winter blahs.
Bells will be ringing this season, all over the Main Line. This is the season to hear Holiday concerts. While you may have missed Ardmore’s St. Mary’s Church ‘Rock the Rafters’ event, it’s not to late for St. Charles Borromeo Seminary’s concert this Sunday, December 7. The event includes tours of the incredible campus and their sacred art collection, including crèche scenes from around the world. Tours begin at 1:00, ending at 3:00, followed by a concert starting at 4:00. This free event is open to the public. It serves as a great opportunity to visit a historic campus and see it in action being used as it has been used for more than 180 years. With development of the site on the horizon, it’s a once-a-year historic preservation must-experience event. Exceptional music in an inspiring place is an excellent reason to look high and low for special concerts this season.
In addition to getting out for music and art in special places, consider hiking through historic landscapes. For over 20 years, a group of Gladwyne-based non-profits have offered a fabulous Winter Trek series. For five Saturday’s in a row, starting on January 25th at 10:00 a.m., visit some of Gladwyne’s most interesting and historic landscapes. The Lower Merion Conservancy partners with Bridlewild Trails Association, the Henry Foundation for Botanical Research, Peace Palace Mission, and Riverbend Environmental Education Center to offer guided, free, enjoyable hikes. Take the same trails and see the same sites that some of Philadelphia’s captains of industry, world-renowned botanists, and internationally known peacemakers hiked to find inspiration. Your support for these groups helps care for these historic landscapes.
Perhaps you are not looking for a bit of exercise or inspiration but just simply want to do a little shopping. You can certainly do it in a way that invests in your community. Small-business Saturday has passed but of course it’s always a good time to walk through your neighborhood and support your local business owner. After all, a slice of quiche from your neighborhood deli might cost a little more but you are supporting local people, creating a locally produced good, and in many cases you are likely supporting the stewardship of a great character-defining building.
If you want to earn extra bonus points this holiday season for your historic-preservation minded purchases consider supporting a business or non-profit that stewards a special place, particularly one that has been in place unchanged for a long time. Buy tickets to an event for a friend or a gift membership. Take the time to get certificates for businesses that are operating in a space that was originally designed for that use. For example, consider organizations and businesses such as the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, a local mid-century modern bowling alley or the Old Guard House Inn in Gladwyne. Each space has been designed and used (more or less) for the same purpose for a very long time. While adaptively reused buildings should also be supported, there is something very special about buildings still in operating with their original purpose.
As you find yourself out and about this season, consider giving back in a way that protects the character of the places you love. Get out and enjoy the holiday concerts, Dickens festivals, decorations, special service opportunities, hikes and so much more that celebrate and bring you closer to the great historic places that define our neighborhoods. It’s a great way to enjoy the season and invest in the future of your community.
Patty Thompson is the Executive Director of the Lower Merion Conservancy. She can be reached at email@example.com.