Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Butler Named Top Small Town

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Butler Named Top Small Town

Article excerpt

Butler's appearance on Smithsonian's list of the 20 best small towns in America is only surprising if you're a glass-half-empty kind of person, say several fans.

The city may have its share of struggles with budgets, blight and empty storefronts. But it also has a picturesque Main Street, a rich history, access to higher education, thriving arts and sports communities and an increasingly busier business district.

"I have always known that Butler is the best town in the country," said Bill McCarrier, who can survey the historic downtown from where he works in the County Government Center as the chairman of the Butler County Commissioners.

A lifelong city resident, Mr. McCarrier acknowledged that the city has problems -- it has struggled in recent years with declining revenue and increasing costs -- but he said he said the "so many good things" take the day.

The May issue of Smithsonian, the journal of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., proposes 20 "best small towns" in the U.S. -- places the magazine deems "worth traveling to."

With the help of a geographic information systems firm, the magazine searched databases for places with concentrations of museums, historic sites, botanic gardens, resident orchestras, art galleries and cultural assets common to big cities but in towns with populations less than 25,000 so travelers "could experience what might be called enlightened good times in an unhurried, charming setting."

The result was Butler being designated seventh on the list of 20.

"Thrilled" was how Mayor Maggie Stock described her reaction to the news. Noting that the city didn't do anything to nominate itself for consideration -- in fact, wasn't even aware that it was under consideration -- Ms. Stock sees the designation as a validation of the efforts of many segments of the community to earn such recognition.

Butler businesswoman Christine Erskine saw it coming, sort of.

A hairstylist by trade, she chose to open her shop, Hairtopia, on Main Street in the downtown business district last May because she was convinced that she could grow her business there. And she has. She recently hired an assistant and is considering moving to a larger site, if she can find another on Main Street. "I won't give up working on Main Street. There's so much happening here. The foot traffic is up. More businesses are opening. There's an energy in the city," she said.

Her salon was buzzing with the news of Smithsonian's designation.

"I think it may seem surprising at first, but, when you think about it, we've got a symphony, a museum, an arts center, a playhouse, a college right down the road. We really are a great small town," Ms. Erskine said.

Cranberry manager Jerry Andree said he was happy to see Butler getting its due. Cranberry often wins accolades for its traffic and land planning, communication efforts and job generation. …

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