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Episode No. 9 – A Guide to Why Streets Matter (Companion Blog)

This series of the History of Philadelphia Streets is over a year in the making. It began with a remarkable conversation with Professor Michael Kahan from Stanford University. I had stumbled across his PhD dissertation at Penn while researching Philadelphia’s streetcar integration fight in the 1860s. Our conversation happened while life was still pretty much locked down in Philly. I hope that Episode 9 gives you some of the same revelations that I had in talking with Professor Kahan. It was like having a new pair of eyeglasses. Everything looked crisper after our conversation. I had lots of ideas about how a podcast might tackle this big topic. I thought it might take up to 2 or 3 episodes to do it justice.

But then, I hit a wall. Something had to give, and the podcast got scraped into a bag, tearfully labelled, and put in the freezer for the future.

But my talk with Professor Kahan stuck with me. I started to gather up the threads again. If the podcast was going to talk about the history of streets, we’d need a modern perspective. Through some connections, I met up outside with Lily Reynolds, Deputy Director of Complete Streets at the City of Philadelphia, and part of the team implementing the City’s Vision Zero plan. This was a delightful nerd fest about traffic safety on our streets today. I was back into the podcast. I was thinking that 3 or 4 episodes would really be needed to integrate the past and the present.

On a whim, I reached out to Professor Elijah Anderson at Yale University, who had done a lifetime of ethnographic research in Philadelphia’s streets, and is author of Code of the Street, Streetwise, The Cosmopolitan Canopy, and Black in White Spaces. I never thought I would get a response. But Professor Anderson not only responded, he has been extremely generous with his time and expertise over a series of conversations at the end of 2021. This felt like such a gift.

So, this Found in Philadelphia podcast series on the History of Philadelphia’s streets is currently planned for 10 episodes. I mean it.

Gallery: Episode No. 9 – A Guide to Why Streets Matter, plus Philly’s Early Streets


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