Reading is without question an extreme city, a trait seemingly encouraged by plan rather than circumstance. Concurrent with the slow death of passenger rail, the West Shore Bypass roadway was built to allow traffic to avoid the downtown area entirely. This ensured not only the starvation of many small businesses, but an urban version of the isolation that you might find in a remote rural village. In elementary school I experienced the city as a place one drives over on the way to the mall or a restaurant. Only occasionally would my parents take me downtown, a trip which involved traveling over or under a bridge no matter the approach (Reading is bound by river or mountain on all sides). At Christmas we would go to the Reading Symphony Orchestra to watch their rendition of The Nutcracker. Mid-year my mother might drag me to a specialty vendor that the suburbs couldn’t or wouldn’t host. I remember annual visits to a vacuum cleaner repair shop and a ceiling fan store. And then there were bureaucratic issues that could only be resolved in the Reading City courthouse, probably dropping off taxes or some kind of professional licensing. But I remember thinking the building was big and old and beautifully out of place.
more from Chris Reitz at n+1 here.