I have often enjoyed visiting the Race Street pier on a warm summer day, the views are wonderful and it is a chance to get close to the Delaware River and enjoy a cool breeze on a hot afternoon. In a short time , there will be another place to visit. The long abandoned Municipal Pier #9 is getting a much deserved renewal as a public space and artists venue and I think that this will add even more to our increasingly popular waterfront after decades of being ignored.
Municipal Pier #9 was built in 1919 as a result of Philadelphia's early 20th century move to update and modernize port facilities. In the early 20th century Philadelphia was considered to be "The Workshop of the World" and we proudly produced everything from mighty Baldwin locomotives to delicate lace tablecloths and sent them throughout the world. The Delaware River waterfront was a busy place indeed with ships loading and unloading, wagons, and later trucks moving goods around and boxcars being delivered to piers for loading and unloading.
With the updating of the municipal piers and deepening of the Delaware River channel Philadelphia became one of the busiest ports in North America and aerial photographs show a lineup of ships waiting in the river. While Philadelphia was not a port for the biggest liners of the period like the Lusitania or the Olympic, Philadelphia was an important hub for immigration ( Pier 53 at Washington Avenue) the city was a port for the smaller liners of the period and the city was served by both the Red Star and White Star Lines to Europe and South America With updated municipal piers cargo and passengers could efficiently be transferred to their respective destination in as short of time as possible.
By the 1960's the Philadelphia waterfront was changing, and not for the best. Industries moved out of the city, the construction of I-95 effectively cut the city off from the waterfront and destroyed entire neighborhoods in it's path and the rise of containerization made the old piers obsolete . Delaware Avenue became another abandoned and forgotten dead post industrial landscape. Piers decayed and were torn down, some were used for storage, and at one point I think Pier 9 was used to store trolley cars used by the Delaware Valley Trolley Association when they had a short lived line using the existing tracks along the street.
Things are looking brighter now and Philadelphians are flocking to new waterfront venues. Places like Morgan's Pier are filled to capacity on a warm weekend, Spruce Street Harbor has exceeded expectations, Penn's Landing is a popular place for festivals and even the old South Philadelphia piers, long abandoned, are becoming popular parks.
The newly renovated Cherry Street Pier ( Pier #9) is next to the popular Race Street Pier and will be a multi-purpose community space. The main focus will be as a venue for artists studios, ironically in re-purposed shipping containers, the very things that made piers like this obsolete. There will also be a bazaar style market where people can purchase products made by the resident artists and other goods. Performance space has not been forgotten and at the river end, an open air garden will provide seating and river views. Much of the old structure will be retained and re-purposed, and even the old railroad tracks running down the center will remain. Expect to see an ever changing collection of popular food trucks and other concessions much like what one sees at Spruce Street Harbor. While I doubt there will be hammocks, I am sure there will be seating areas with great water views, interesting things to purchase and some great art to bring home.
I look forward to visiting this newest attraction to our waterfront and seeing another important part of our great past brought back to life
Author:Steve Drabkowski Phone: 215-760-5825 Dated: September 3rd 2018 Views: 141 About Steve: Steve has been a long term resident of Philadelphia, coming here in 1983 and being stationed at the ...
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