Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Signs: Norristown Edition

Had to head out to Norristown, PA for a few hours yesterday, so of course I used the opportunity to ride out on SEPTA's somewhat unique Norristown High Speed Line (p.k.a. Route 100).

The seat of Montgomery County, Norristown is a municipality of about 35,000 people, 6 miles northwest of Philadelphia, connected by the High Speed, the Manayunk-Norristown SEPTA regional rail line (which runs through Center City to Marcus Hook, PA and Wilmington / Newark, DE) and a handful of buses.

A large and mostly intact downtown (except for a few clear recent missteps like a half-dead, low-rent strip mall facing the wrong way, anchored by a fried chicken fast food chain featuring garish, plastic cartoon architecture and a three-sizes too big, mostly-empty surface parking crater in the heart of downtown; as well as a tragically failed courthouse plaza and a block-long, blank-walled generically offensive mid-20th-century government building in the Soviet Brutalist style) and plenty of well-maintained rowhouse blocks show good bones.  The Lawyers' Row off the courthouse is beautiful.  A few old mills stand and look well, though industry (and retail) seems to be gone.  Its section of the Schuylkill River Trail runs along the waterfront, is completed, and was being well-used yesterday.

Physically, Norristown is (aside from the few flaws noted above) my ideal of what every small town in this corner of the United States should look like.

Wandering around town was a rather disconcerting experience, however, as on a beautiful (if somewhat chilly and breezy) sunny Saturday afternoon, there was nobody on the streets and nothing much open for business, either.

A security guard slowly cranked and clanged while adjusting a flag at the rear of the (breathtaking) courthouse, three teenagers sat on benches in its aforementioned plaza looking half-bored and three-fourths shady, a well-worn older gentleman in heavy winter clothing asked me for a cigarette or a dollar... I nearly tripped on a cracked sidewalk while admiring a cornice on a nicely kept commercial building and I'm pretty sure a lone crow cackled at me due to this.  I demanded of the crow, "what are you laughing at?" while the winter wear guy mumbled to himself about what a nut this sidewalk-tripping, roof-admiring, non-smoking, no-dollar-having, bird-talking motherfucker is.

C'est la vie.  He's not far off.

Anyway.  Signs of the week.

Main Street family pharmacies in any town are always a solid source for excellent signage.  Norristown does not disappoint.

Stepping back a bit, this is a great block except for the Verizon building at center.  Seriously, why do all Verizon buildings look like this?  Do they spend so much on bricks that they don't have anything left over for windows?  They have littered way too many of our cities with such atrocities.  The municipal parking garage down the block has better architecture than that... thing.

One other misstep is the bench at lower right.  Turn it around and face the sidewalk!  Who wants to sit facing speeding traffic on a too-wide, one-way street from three inches away?

A cool, though unfortunately empty, storefront, featuring four distorted Jays (that's my band name if I ever start one!  Four Distorted Jays).

Nice art deco entrance to this place.

Can't leave without taking a (bad) shot of the Montgomery County Courthouse.  Excuse me, I only had my cellphone on me yesterday.  The clock in the dome is worth a post of its own, but I just couldn't zoom in well enough.

At the end of any day out of town, though, this is the sign I always like to see best!

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