< Previous/ 0 Main/ 1 Campus/ 2 Connections/ 3 Susquehanna/ 4 Preindustial town/
5 Read a house
/ 6 Deindustrializing/ 7 Downtown/ 8 Lower town/ 9 Highway/ 10 Past & future / Next>
Learning from Lewisburg
6. The Post-industrial town
  The small local population obviously isn't supporting this density of specialized retail establishments ... Celtic paraphernalia, local wine, prints of the Lewisburg landscape.
Winning in the post-industrial economy.
  Lewisburg is now doing quite well by itself. Of all the towns in the region, Lewisburg has been most successful in profiting from historical-ness. Lewisburg had nice buildings to begin with, and Lewisburg is open enough and sleepy enough to have been spared significant downtown destruction in the 1960's. The University was probably the catalyst for the town's current growth. What was most important in the success of this town is that Lewisburg found itself to be the most livable place in an increasingly dismal region, and has benefited more for its relative attractiveness than for any absolute qualities. Because of its shops, its trees, and its college town flavor and functions, Lewisburg attracted the wealthy and mobile people of the region: doctors from Geisinger, managers from Weis grocery chain home offices in Sunbury, shoe factory managers, lawyers, bankers, and salesmen from the whole region. And that appeal is self-perpetuating; the town becomes more attractive as more wealthy people live here.
  Obviously the residents of the local area (17,623 people in the 17837 Zipcode, according to the 2000 US Census) cannot support this number of specialized businesses. Specific populations are attracted at specific times to shop here. Regional young adults for Friday/Saturday dinners — see the badly parked BMWs, and the cellphone-shouters on the sidewalk. Bucknell Parents and Alumni at football weekends, parent's weekends, etc. — see the "urban" car behavior at 4-way stops and the well-dressed-except-the-orange-and-blue-parts out-of-towners. And students, and the summer B-and-B folks, and, well, you.
  Lewisburg invests heavily in promoting its self-image ... family / Victorian / small-town / stylish, etc. This is one of a number of festivals hosted through the year.
   The small-town quality is not invented or imagined, but it lies awkwardly with the commercial use to which it's put ... a use which may be damaging the genuineness of the small-town air.
   Quiz: find the three examples of Lewisburg's iconic streetlights on the front of the Hotel. (It is ironic that the emblematic 3-globed Lewisburg street lamps were salvaged from the hard-coal town of Mt. Carmel, whose "Victorian" 19th Century experience was much more Charles Dickens than Henry James.)
    ...click here for the answer.
  The reordering of central Pennsylvania's landscape in the coming decades, as the traditional sources of wealth continue to dry up, will follow the model of Lewisburg. The advantages of towns are now esthetic or perceptual advantages, and the benefits of those advantages are relative to nearby towns, not relative to the entire national manufacturing apparatus. It is style, not resources, that will select the growth poles for the 21st Century.
Gentrification in Lewisburg
  Handsome houses are relatively cheap in Lewisburg, and people moving to town for whatever reason — professors, doctors and other professionals working in the surrounding area, retired and semi-retired city people — have been buying and renovating many of the nicer houses. The first blocks of South Front, South Second, and South Fourth Streets are probably the best examples. The effect on Lewisburg is to preserve and improve fine old buildings, and to provide employment for local renovators —but also to push up real estate prices and to change the ways houses are used.
  This process is called "gentrification" in cities, as the new gentry move in and bid housing prices out of reach of the traditional residents. There is little evidence that there is much disruption of this sort in the stable housing market of Lewisburg. One person who bought a house on S. Water St. was told by the local banker that that was a nice neighborhood except for all of the professors.
  Elegantly refinished house of S. Front St. This was always a nice neighborhood & professional people moving to the area have helped to preserve the quality of the built environment. The owner of this house apparently had those shutters custom made, presumably at a cost that would boggle the minds of most homeowners in the area. Non-traditional colors (i.e., not white, gray, and light blue) indicate non-central-Pennsylvania architectural tastes.
  Relative new-comers have significantly different habits about use of space than do longer-term residents. Walls, for example, (like this newly-enlarged job on S. Front St.) say 'privacy' and 'security' to someone from the city; they may say 'secretive' and 'unneighborly' to a small town resident.
   Suburbanization of the small town. The modern SUV is too large for the traditionally sized garage.
  Professional lawn guys are a good marker for gentrification; someone has more yard than time, and enough money to solve that problem.
< Previous/ 0 Main/ 1 Campus/ 2 Connections/ 3 Susquehanna/ 4 Preindustial town/
5 Read a house
/ 6 Deindustrializing/ 7 Downtown/ 8 Lower town/ 9 Highway/ 10 Past & future / Next