In case you’re wondering why I haven’t posted for two weeks, we recently moved from our apartment in College Heights to a new (and also very old) place in Centre Park. While that obviously means I’ve been very busy setting up our new home, it also means I was without internet for about a week. Now that those hurdles are (mostly) overcome, it seems fitting to reflect on the move to Reading’s first Historic District and how a city with such a rich past can successfully move into the future.
My last post was about Bell Alley Pretzels, which turned out to be one more place on a surprisingly long list of spots in Reading that no one my age has heard of before, but when I mention them to anyone in my parents’ generation, they invariably respond, “Oh I haven’t been there in years. What a great place. Are they still open?” Everyone knows and loves these pretzels, fondly remembers walking there after school, but life moved on and drifted away from these “quaint” old establishments.
When the bakery considered closing a few months ago, many identified it as part of “Real Reading,” a term that I found a little offensive, as if this town forever should be defined and measured by what it looked like from the 1940s through the 1960s. While we have certainly had our years at the bottom, Reading is on the upswing, but it’s not going to return to what it was before. Like it or not, the city is changing and moving forward. Those of us working for progress know that the “good old days” may have been great (at least for some), but they are not the key to the future. Reading is headed into a new phase in its life, one that will retain elements of the past for sure, but it will also take new forms as our culture, economy, and demographics continue to shift, as they have done many times before. This city is always growing and adapting.
But as someone who just moved into a home built circa 1875, I think I have some credibility when I say I also love the history of our city and want to see it integrated into our future in a healthy way. That integration means not clinging to broken nostalgia, but finding new purpose and new ways for things to come together.
I’ve already written about several restaurants that repurposed historic buildings here in Reading, and I’m learning new things about our past all the time. Hopefully as I continue to explore Reading and write this blog, I will continue to discover connections between this city’s incredible past and promising future.