Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City

Nathaniel Popkin and Peter Woodall, photos by Joseph E.B. Elliott. Temple Univ, $40 (200p) ISBN 978-1-4399-1300-0
Popkin and Woodall, the cofounders of the website Hidden City Daily, argue that many of Philadelphia’s best assets are too often overlooked. Working with architectural photographer Elliott, the authors aim to change that with this illustrated urban history. “The fact that Philadelphia isn’t fundamentally a dynamic, ruined, or polished city, but incorporates some combination of all those qualities, has cost it traction in the national imagination,” the authors write, adding that those same qualities make it an excellent location for contemplating the “endless supply of hidden layers” that the past provides. Many of the buildings discussed—churches, old cinemas, power stations, and repurposed prisons—seem as though they could be in any older city. The most interesting sights included in the book are those unique to Philadelphia: for example, the Wanamaker Organ, located on the second floor of a Macy’s in Center City, and Wayne Mills, where employees still manufacture and dye cotton, nylon, and polyester twill tape in a facility that’s been doing essentially the same thing since 1885. The authors also give a quick history of Philadelphia’s social clubs and tour several that still exist—the Undine Barge Club and the German Society of Philadelphia Library among them. Readers looking for an offbeat history of one of America’s oldest cities would do well to pick this up. 102 photos, eight halftones. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/25/2017
Release date: 11/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
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