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  • Writer's pictureMalcolm Johnstone

National Magazine touts the renaissance of downtown West Chester, Pennsylvania

Updated: May 17, 2022

The online version of the Preservation Magazine article can be found here:

by Joe Sugarman with photography by Samuel Markey. Preservation Magazine, Spring 2022.

The historic Bank of Chester County, 1836, designed by Thomas U. Walter, is one of many structures featured in Preservation Magazine.

Photo by Malcolm Johnstone

“It’s another busy Friday night in downtown West Chester, Pennsylvania,” is the matter-of-fact opening sentence of the article appearing in Preservation, the quarterly magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation celebrating the places that have shaped the diverse American cultural experience. The article goes on to say that West Chester “has got a supremely walkable downtown” which is “lined mostly with a mix of structures built between 1830 and 1930.”

The story then takes us back to the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s when “downtown was 60 percent vacant” and the local economy was, well, in the toilet.

Through a series of interviews conducted with nearly a dozen individuals by author Joe Sugarman, he’s able to examine how community leadership, over the last 20+ years, have worked together to reverse the urban blight of this historic community. It paid off. New businesses and restaurants began to appear. The Hotel Warner opened in the center of town, saving the 1930 Art Deco facade of the partially demolished Warner Theater. It is now part of Historic Hotels of America.

The Warner Theater (left) was repurposed into the 80-room Hotel Warner (right).

Courtesy of Chester County History Center

At the same time, the seven-page article showcases many of the structures, including those designed by renown architects such as Thomas U. Walter, who designed the historic 1846 Chester County Courthouse (below). This easily provides downtown with a historic sense of place. Photographer Samuel Markey captures that feeling with a journal of nine images throughout the article.

Photo by Malcolm Johnstone

In total, Preservation Magazine showcases West Chester in a very engaging and positive way. It’s the first time a national magazine, with an estimated reach of 300,000 readers, has focused on West Chester as a destination to an audience that appreciates its heritage.

Perhaps most important, a hearty THANK YOU is given to the community leadership of restaurant and retail owners, developers and property owners, and elected and appointed volunteers who used historic preservation for their revitalization efforts guided by the Main Street Approach with support of Main Street America and the Pennsylvania Downtown Center.

For more information or to get your own copy of Preservation Magazine, contact Malcolm Johnstone at

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