You can’t go home again

I was born in Lancaster, Pa., in 1948. And the last place I remember living in that city before the family pulled up stakes and departed for Florida – when I was 7 – was a tiny second floor apartment on Prince Street.

Back then the street was known for small bakeries (where I could get baskets of soft pretzels to sell on the street), tobacco warehouses and and tenement-like apartment row houses.

This week I returned to Lancaster after an absence of many years. And seeking out the street where I once lived, I discovered that much had changed.

From talking to folks on the street, I learned that Prince Street has undergone a dramatic revival just in the last decade or so. Now it is a bustling arts-and-cafe district well mixed with offices, stores, educational institutions and other elements that conspire to create a lively street life.

But for all its newfound success (gentrification?) there is still room for small businesses. Looking at Stans Records, I imagined our apartment might well have been in that very building.

This was once a car dealership and, later, a pool hall. Now it is the home of Our Town Brewery.

We were sitting outside enjoying a beer when the flow of auto traffic was temporarily interrupted by the clop-clop-clop of a horse-drawn coach. This is Amish county after all.

Prince Street is lined with art galleries.

Supplemented by schools of music and design. I used to go to the movies at the old Fulton Theater with money earned from my soft pretzel sales. Now it’s a center for the performing arts.

Lots of street art of course.

Not to mention an open air market.

And a low budget Billy Joel performing in the parking garage.

Everywhere you look there are signs of creative energy at work.

And new architecture mixed in with the familiar old red brick edifices of my youth.

Not surprisingly there is considerable demand for housing on Prince Street. It is a place where people want to live, work and play.

A pleasing mix of the new, the old and the eclectic.

A place to see and to be seen.

I hardly recognized the street where I once lived. Of course, it’s been nearly seven decades. On balance, it occurs to me that Prince Street has aged considerably better than I have.

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