The leaves are changing colors. November is turning colder, and it seems colder when it rains.

November 9, 2016. It was raining. The third grade class of Germantown Friends' School met at Pier 53, the precise spot of disembarkation of approximately a million European immigrants to the United States. They were dressed for the occasion, with the addition of modern rain gear.

The students were randomly issued passenger tags, each representing the identification and a short history of a real person who arrived at the immigration pier beween 1876 and 1926.

"I'm Irish","I'm German", "Do you have any Italians?". One ten-year-old asked, "Do you have any Americans?". There was in fact one person identified as American—a returning citizen who had arrived from Europe with his wife in 1876.

All the others were from southern and western Europe and identified on the tags by nationality and country of origin.

There were tags representing family members who had traveled together, and the students sought out brothers and sisters and parents among their classmates. Many of these stories have been gathered from living descendants —stories of what was left behind and what became of their ancestors' lives after they arrived in Philadelphia.



The waterfront had once been described as 'the retreating glacier of Philadelphia's industrial past'.


Liberty on the River. K4 Associates is in the initial planning stages of a mega- project on Columbus Boulevard adjacent to Washington Avenue Green. Barton Architects is doing the design, and Gilbane is the contractor.

The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) retains 9.5 acres to around what is now Pier 56, making possible the continuance of the riverfront trail set back 100 feet from the river's edge and thecontinuation of environmental restoration.

Liberty on the River is a huge project, with the final plan to have ten towers total which will include two towers on what is now Pier 55 and two towers on what is now Pier 57. Future community meetings with K4 and residents of the surroundling neighborhoods are anticipated to provide feedback and to help nail down the final design.

K4 expects to break ground in the spring of 2017, with initial building of a rental tower of approximately 268 units, a hotel, and an open space entrance connecting to the off-ramp from I95.

Above is from a K4 video of the prospective view to the east near the entrance from Columbus Boulevard. As the proposal currently exists, much of it is inconsistent with zoning set down by the Central Delaware Master Plan in 2007.



November 13, 2016. Supermoon rises over Camden. Photo was taken from the end of Pier 53.

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 .

Photo of sign above is by Kathy Martin. Photo at bottom of center column is from a K4 video of what they envision as the final completed stages of Liberty on the River. All other photos and artwork by Susan McAninley.