Lewisburg is what historians have classified as a “Pennsylvania Town”, a distinct town layout developed in Colonial, central Pennsylvania. The classic form has a main street with a town square in the center, usually with a courthouse. Streets are typically numbered in one direction and named after trees in the other. In the case of Lewisburg, the streets parallel to the main street are named after Saints. This is a unique quirk of Lewisburg, but obvious upon the realization of its clear Victorian look. If there was any single belief that characterized the Victorian era it was Christian belief; hence Saints as street names. However, this was also an age of major scientific progress and discovery, parallel to that of finding a science fiction book and paraphernalia shop as the central jewel of Christian-burg.
Off the corner of Lewisburg’s iconic Market Street, my group and I found this hidden gem. In reality, it’s not hidden at all. The building is quite large. It’s not a storefront along the main strip; it’s a two-story house on the corner of a branching side street. I parked my car on Market Street, and with no spare change I used every last second available from the thirteen minutes remaining on the meter for the newly opened spot I pulled into.
According to Lewisburg’s own website, the Lewisburg Historic District remains remarkable because of its neighborhoods, each having its own character. Even more remarkable is the fact that these neighborhoods have survived into the 21st century, intact. The active Historic Architectural Review Board, or HARB, is responsible for maintaining the historic integrity of the district. The place called Lewisburg does not want change, or a new age look. The town’s pride is in their history, their unwillingness to conform, their old school character, their religion.
Despite this lack of progressiveness, the town buzzes with new business and modern ideals. Bucknell University is also located in Lewisburg, housing generations of students and educators. With a college in such close proximity to the main strip of Lewisburg, business has changed to accommodate what will thrive in said environment. Although Christianity is the harboring religion of the Victorian Era and this Victorian style town, Bucknell University is not affiliated with any religion, unlike my college, Susquehanna University, only 14 miles away. It seems to me that from the outside, the town holds the same image from a century ago, but when you look at the signs for each business, you see that the inside market is much more diverse and progressive than what meets the eye. It’s almost as if the townspeople, or the town leaders, want to put Lewisburg in a bubble as to keep it from any harm, that harm being change. It surprises me how much of an oxymoron Lewisburg really is when looking at both online demographics and the town in person.
Still keeping the Victorian era in mind, there are three Christian affiliated churches alone on the same block as Comics Metropolis. One of the churches, First Baptist Church, inspires a different type of literature. Using a barter system approach, the church’s literary affiliation called Little Free Library aims to “build community, spark creativity, and inspire readers”. When referring back to Victorian times, church and state were inseparable. In modern day Lewisburg, government affiliated buildings are never too far from a church… how ironic (see map below).
Laura Miller in Reluctant Capitalists Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption highlights the standardization of communities and values and how this affects bookstores. Lewisburg is very uniform in terms of historic values and religious ideologies. This is why the comic book store almost feels out of place a block away from the Barnes and Noble and across the street from a few churches, and next to a law firm. It sounds unrealistic… maybe because the supporting reputation of a comic is to highlight and enjoy unrealistic things. To truly understand and interpret what kind of place Lewisburg really is, I’d have to visit for more than thirteen minutes. In my eyes, this comic book store is exactly the type of place Lewisburg needs. According to Data USA, The most common employment sectors for those who live in Lewisburg, PA, are Educational Services, Healthcare & Social Assistance, and Accommodation & Food Service. These jobs are all real life, real problem careers. The majority of people in Lewisburg need an escape. What better way to escape than through comics! In Parnassus on Wheels, Roger says “it’s all right for college presidents to draw up their five-foot shelves of great literature, and for the publishers to advertise sets of their Linoleum Classics, but what the people need is the good, homely, honest stuff—something that’ll stick to their ribs—make them laugh and tremble and feel sick to think of the littleness of this popcorn ball spinning in space without ever even getting a hot-box! And something that’ll spur ’em on to keep the hearth well swept and the wood pile split into kindling and the dishes washed and dried and put away. Any one who can get the country people to read something worth while is doing his nation a real service. And that’s what this caravan of culture aspires to….”. People need a little adventure, a little fantasy, a little escape in the mix of their responsibilities including but not limited to careers, work, religion, reading, eating, LIVING, so that they may continue those responsibilities soon after with a little more light and lot more drive.
All images courtesy of Sydney Smith.
“Comics Metropolis LLC” Google Maps. https://www.google.com/maps?ll=40.963954,-76.88407&z=16&t=m&hl=en-US&gl=US&mapclient=embed&cid=1540229437531972516. Accessed 2019.
“Lewisburg, PA.” Data USA. https://datausa.io/profile/geo/lewisburg-pa/. Accessed 2019.
“Lewisburg”. https://lewisburgpa.com/history/. Accessed 2019.
“Little Free Library” https://littlefreelibrary.org. Accessed 2019.
Miller, Laura J. Reluctant Capitalists Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption. University of Chicago Press, 2014. Accessed 2019.
Parnassus on Wheels. 1917 edition. HathiTrust Digital Library. Accessed 2019.
“Victorian Religion of Christianity”. https://victorian-era.org/victorian-religion-of-christianity.html. Accessed 2019.