June 25, 2015. A 61-foot-high rubber duck made its way upriver past abandoned piers to join a flotilla of tall ships at Penns Landing. It got away briefly just as it was approaching the Walt Whitman Bridge, but was recaptured by tugs and towed northward, much to the delight of an audience on Pier 53. This marked the start of a four-day celebration at the Independence Seaport Museum and other parks along the Delaware River in Philadelphia and in Camden.

But the duck (called 'Mama Duck') didn't make it to Penns Landing; one of the pontoons sprung a leak, and although repairs were made at Penns Landing, the repaired and re-inflated duck couldn't withstand high winds on the river.

But sailing ships love winds, and a dozen or so tall-masted ships made their way up and down the Delaware for the four-day celebration. Here are two of the pictures taken from Pier 53.

And Other News... Washington Avenue Green will be getting a little larger in the future. The Natural Lands Trust, on behalf of DRWC, is purchasing a strip of land behind the Sheet Metal Workers' Union Building site, which will extend the Park's boundaries to the south. This subdivision will make possible the continuance of the riverfront trail set back 100 feet from the river's edge and continued environmental restoration. And further south, the site adjacent to the Sheet Metal Workers' property south of Reed Street (the former site of the proposed Foxwoods Casino) will continue this extension. Developer Bart Blatstein, who controls the site, said on March 18 that he is also working with the Natural Lands Trust to set aside the next segment of the riverfront trail. Read the story from PlanPhilly.

Under the Central Delaware Master Plan, the area between the Washington Avenue Pier and Pier 70 to the south is planned to include mixed-use developments by private builders. So far, there are no immediate plans for commercial development around the Park.

 

In this 1870 photo, Pier 53 was identified as 'an emigrant station' but was still officially a part of the Navy Yard. To the right of the Pier are the shipyard buildings at the end of Federal Street used for construction of tall masted sailing ships.

Before Pier 53/Washington Avenue Pier became an immgration station in 1876, it was once part of a complex of military and shipbuilding properties.The country's first Navy Yard was there, with a wharf and the main entrance at the foot of Federal Street. No trace of that Federal Street wharf now exists. The path that runs through Washington Avenue Green Park crosses what would have been Federal Street and the foot of the Humphries Shipyard.

For the past several years the Independence Seaport Museum has featured an excellent exhibit of immigration in Philadelphia, and the story of Humphries and his shipyard will be an exciting addition.

The Independence Seaport Museum continues to honor Philadelphia's maritime history by building the skeleton of what will become a full-scale waterline model of a sailing ship in their gallery at the Museum. Visitors can check the progress and will eventually be able to board the vessel. Sailing ships of the late 18th and 19th centuries in Philadelphia were used as dispatch vessels and by privateers.

The exhibit gives visitors a chance to to look through time and experience what it would have been like at the first naval shipyard, which was located at the foot of Federal Street in South Philadelphia and presided over by the country’s first naval constructor, Joshua Humphries. Humphries designed the Navy’s first frigates, including the Constitution which survives to this day. The frigate United States was built at Federal Street, personally supervised by Humphries, and went on to win glory in a number of naval engagements.

211 South Christopher Columbus Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19106-3199
Independence Seaport Museum
211 South Christopher Columbus Boulevard Philadelphia, PA
http://phillyseaport.org
(215) 413-8655

 

Some people have expressed interest in setting up a gardening committee with the Washington Avenue Green Friends' group. If you are interested, respond to susanmack@washingtonavenuegreen.com

Pier 68. To the south of Pier 53 at Washington Avenue Green is Pier 68, which is being developed as a connecting anchor park. The $1.7 million construction project will have a hammock grove, sloping lawn, picnic area and fishing area. Construction should wrap up late this summer. When finished the two parks will continue DRWC’s plans to create a contiguous wetlands park along the water’s edge.

And in September of 2015, Washington Avenue Green and the trail to the south will become a venue for performances of the annual Fringe Festival. There is a play currently being written which incorporates the unique character of this area of many layers of history.

On October 3, the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club will host an event at the Park to look for fall migrants along the river, such as warblers, cuckoos and thrushes. More details to follow.

Ongoing at Washington Avenue Green is the Pier 53 Project—a historical study of the immigrants who arrived at the Pier from 1876 to the 1920's, their stories, and the stories of their descendants. Each story is part of a mosaic that contributes to the history of Philadelphia and its waterfront, and ultimately to the history of immigration in the United States.

Here's the link to the Pier 53 Project page on this site. Pier 53 Project 


Archival photo of waterfront taken from
Sparks Tower in 1870 from the Free Library
of Philadelphia

 

 

Rendering of Pier 68 compliments of Studio/Bryan Haynes.

 

All other photos by Susan McAninley