The Main Line is Experiencing a Cultural Revitalization
From bustling entertainment districts to a diversifying dining scene, Main Line Today Editor-in-Chief Hobart Rowland notes the region’s successes.
The Main Line is humming. Can you hear it?
I can. It’s the hum of success, and it’s never been louder or more persistent. A few might argue that it’s the disconcerting hum of too much success—especially those who bemoan the gridlock on the King of Prussia interchange.
But it’s success nonetheless—and it may have something to do with the enormous reader response to this year’s Best of the Main Line and Western Suburbs Awards. The total number of 2018 votes more than doubled over last year, and our list of winners is approaching 400. This would appear to indicate that we’re more excited than ever about living on the Main Line. Life is good, folks.
To put it in perspective for the relative newbies, I’ll reference the local dining scene (such as it was) in the 1980s. Then, you’d be hard-pressed to find decent Asian food—never mind Mexican or Indian cuisine. Cheesesteaks, hoagies or pizza? No problem. Sushi, tikka or shrimp tacos? Yeah, right. Three decades later, it’s like we’re on a different culinary planet, and the choices are too numerous to list here.
And it’s not just about eating out. In the past 10-15 years, our town centers have blossomed into full-fledged entertainment districts. Think North Wayne Avenue in Wayne, West Chester’s Gay Street, Ardmore’s bustling stretch of Lancaster Avenue, and hubs for music, performing arts and culture like the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, Media Theatre, Ardmore Music Hall and Kennett Flash. I’ve already spent a few nights agog over the quality of the Broadway-caliber shows mounted by the barely year-old Resident Theatre Company at West Chester’s Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center. People’s Light and Hedgerow continue to impress, and Salt Performing Arts is doing some impressive things in the tiny village of Yellow Springs.
In Wayne, at the spiffy new 118 North, original live music is not only tolerated, it’s celebrated. And speaking of live music, there’s more of it than ever, thanks to events like Media’s State Street Blues Stroll, the Wayne Music Festival (both in June), Bryn Mawr Twilight Concerts (through July 28) and the Haverford Music Festival (Sept. 8).
There’s so much great stuff happening in our suburbs that empty nesters are hanging around, downsizing to high-end apartments and condos in places like Ardmore, Malvern and West Chester. In Newtown Square, Equus Capital Partners senior vice president Stephen Spaeder notes that the median age of residents at his new “resort-style” Madison Ellis Preserve apartments is 58. Meanwhile, younger city types are moving our way in bunches, settling down with their new families in places like Bala Cynwyd, Narberth and Merion, just a few train stops from their favorite Center City haunts.
There’s that success thing again—and it’s wreaking havoc on the stodgy stereotype that once dogged the Main Line. Are we, dare say, becoming hip?
Maybe just a little.