When I arrived in Phoenixville this Sunday after a 2.5 hour journey on the train and then a bus that tours every suburban mall and plaza and hideous corporate park in the region, I was excited to see the small town main street was worth the 45 minute wait at the Norristown Transportation Center.
I came for an architectural tour, but thanks to Septa's "signal problems" I missed the tour and wandered around on my own. Bridge street serves as their main street, crossed by Main street (little odd) running parallel to the river. Church street is further up the hill and had several churches (surprise) and a block of older houses with second story wrought iron balconies on porches that reminded me of New Orleans. The homes are unique and some are being renovated and the unusual woodwork restored.
The town is filled with independent businesses that had a home-made and fun feel, from the second floor bookstore with snarky signs, to the hand carved lava rock fountain store, to the movie theater playing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to the Fire House Bingo Nights (every Tuesday!). It's renovated, but still seems to belong to the town, not to trendy new business start-ups.
Right along the river, the old foundry was made into a Schulykill River Museum with a bridge, a small falls and a paved nature trail. Two bike stores in town rent bikes, including a tandem, for $9 - $14 per hour.
Iron Hill Brewery and Majolica are amoung the restaurants that offer local farm fresh foods and there were several coffee houses to choose from including a nice one with handmade ceramics piled up in the window and applesauce muffins
I'm planning another trip back to bike the trail and try the restaurants.