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8/7/2008
Councilman Weiner challenges rejection of Phila. Pike for Scenic/Historic Byway Designation - Community News

Councilman Robert Weiner (R-Chatham), who helped initiate the Philadelphia Pike submission when his district used to include the road, disagreed with the State’s rejection of Philadelphia Pike for Scenic & Historic Designation.

He said he believes the flaws are not with the roadway or the previous application, but with the training of the committee members.

“I think that rather than focusing on the claimed shortcomings, there’s a need to focus on educating those making the decision about what qualifies something for the program,” he said. “I think there’s an unintended elitism in the rejection of Philadelphia Pike just because it doesn’t have the scenic viewscapes of the other designated highways in the state.”

 

The fight for Philadelphia Pike

By Jesse Chadderdon
Community News
Posted Aug 07, 2008 @ 01:41 AM
________________________________________
Bellefonte, Del. —
Philadelphia Pike.

To many it is among the most historic roads in the United States – a vital cog in the Colonial efforts in the Revolutionary War. To others it’s an eyesore, representative of the 20th-century suburbia, when the strip mall became king.

To the folks on the state’s Scenic and Historic Highways Advisory Board, however, it’s both. And that’s the problem with the 4.4-mile stretch of U.S. 13 between the Pennsylvania state line and Wilmington’s northern boundary as it relates to the state’s Historic Highway designation: it is cluttered by its own history.

But Councilman John Cartier (D-Penny Hill) doesn’t see it that way. Cartier, who is hoping to be elected to a second term in November, said one of his top priorities for the coming years is to put together a second application for the program. The first was denied last year.

“It’s the most historic roadway in Delaware,” Cartier said. “It was a main transportation link during the Revolutionary War. It still has its original alignment. Granted it’s not a quaint rural road, but it has all the history.”

Cartier said having Philadelphia Pike designated a Historic Highway would do a lot to bolster the image of the community, which to some is known more as an exit off Interstate 95 to a Mecca of fast food restaurants than as the place that Washington and Rochambeau gathered on their way their decisive victory at Yorktown in 1781.

But also, he said, it would allow the community to devise a corridor management plan, using state and federal resources to formulate a strategy for maintaining the road and improving bicycle and pedestrian access. It also would mean promotion of the Pike through state tourism efforts.

Maria Andaya, who oversees the Scenic and Historic Highway Program, said the core goal of the program is to promote roads that would give visitors a unique travel experience. She said Philadelphia Pike, while no doubt historic, may not offer the same experience that scenic highways like Brandywine Valley and Red Clay do.

“The [evaluation] committee is looking for a cohesive story that the road tells,” she said. “There was a lot going on with their last submission. They mentioned a lot of things, but from many themes.”

She said the program centered on visual stimulation, something the committee believed was lacking on Philadelphia Pike.

“The proposed route lacks the required intrinsic quality and appears too fragmented to create the traveler’s experience envisioned in the program,” the committee wrote in their May 2007 report rejecting Philadelphia Pike for the program. “Strip malls and commercial establishments interrupt the view along the route.”

David Ames, who heads the Center for Historic Architecture and Design at the University of Delaware, the group that was contracted by New Castle County to prepare the Philadelphia Pike application, said he predicted the committee would have a question about the road’s cohesion.

“This road goes through more of Delaware history in a shorter distance than any other road in the state,” he said. “The question, which I think is legitimate, is whether the road tells a story to tourists. It’s a difficult road to interpret. There a many things from many periods.”

He said he believes the county should first give the road some special designation to help build the case that it is special, and then refocus on the strongest features of the road – whether it’s the Colonial and post-Colonial residences, the steel mills and worker housing that survive from the Industrial Revolution or the suburban characteristics resulting from its expansion as a “Federal Aid Highway” in 1917.

Ames said Detroit’s Woodward Avenue and portions of the National Highway (U.S. 40) were roads that shared many characteristics with Philadelphia Pike, yet have received historic designations.

“Maybe this particular scenic and historic designation is a red herring,” he said. “Maybe there are other opportunities for the road to be recognized.”

But Councilman Robert Weiner (R-Chatham), who helped initiate the Philadelphia Pike submission when his district used to include the road, disagreed.

He said he believes the flaws are not with the roadway or the previous application, but with the training of the committee members.

“I think that rather than focusing on the claimed shortcomings, there’s a need to focus on educating those making the decision about what qualifies something for the program,” he said. “I think there’s an unintended elitism in the rejection of Philadelphia Pike just because it doesn’t have the scenic viewscapes of the other designated highways in the state.”


“This road goes through more of Delaware history in a shorter distance than any other road in the state. The question, which I think is legitimate, is whether the road tells a story to tourists.”
David Ames, Ctr for Historic Architecture & Design

 

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