Learning to See Lancaster Avenue
Photos by John Hansen-Flaschen

Photography by John Hansen-Flaschen

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Copyright 2003 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 01/05/03

When a suburban commuter

finally got out of his car,

he found himself

viewing an old street

—and its people—

through new eyes.

By Samuel Hughes


At first, Dr. John Hansen-Flaschen couldn’t make out the words. He would be driving east on Lancaster Avenue—his usual commuting route from the Main Line suburb of Wynnewood to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania —when he began to notice a man standing near the 40th Street intersection.

“He was holding up a wooden sign that was a mosaic of newspaper and magazine clippings,” recalls Hansen-Flaschen, professor of medicine and chief of the Pulmonary and Critical Care Division at HUP. “But I couldn’t read it from my car.”

Though he didn’t realize it at the time, that sign would soon lead him into a new world, one that had once seemed depressingly familiar.

Like most commuters from the western suburbs, Hansen-Flaschen viewed the four-mile stretch of Lancaster Avenue that angles through West Philadelphia as a means to an end, and a grim one at that. The commercial artery that dates back to the earliest days of the Republic had gradually hardened, atrophied, lost its pulse.

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