June 25, 2016. It was a lusciously beautiful hot summer afternoon when four artists arrived with paints and easels and canvases to Pier 53. They were there to continue a mid-Nineteeth Century tradition of painting directly on site and outdoors. It's called 'plein air'—open air—painting. Pier 53 has a six-foot tide and constantly changing light, so it was a bit challenging. A few visitors to the Park politely asked if they could watch, and then moved on with their dogs and bicycles.

The waterfront had once been described as 'the retreating glacier of Philadelphia's industrial past'. It is now gradually returning to its natural state with a series of parks and trails.

map of waterfront from Pier 53 to Pier 70

Washington Avenue Green is getting larger. Natural Lands Trust, in partnership with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC), has recently acquired a 100-foot swath of land, as well as Pier 56 (to the south of Pier 53) along with the riparian rights. The total acquisition of 9.5 acres will make possible the continuance of the riverfront trail set back 100 feet from the river's edge and continued environmental restoration.

 

Pier 70. In 2012 five acres of land and 11 acres of riparian lands at the end of Pier 70 Boulevard were purchased by Natural Lands Trust. The two sites (Pier 53 and Pier 70) now serve as bookends for the proposed southern Delaware River Trail, a permanent .7-mile multi-use, recreational trail along the river. The area is planned to include mixed-use developments by private builders.

historical sign at WSashington Avenue and Columbus Boulevard at the entrance to the Park

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 


Top photo is a detail from a painting by Mike Manley who also took the photo. the view is from the beach of Pier 53 looking south to the Walt Whitman Bridge and the S.S. United States. There are more photos. Here's the link. Photo directly above is by Kathy Martin. All other photos and artwork by Susan McAninley.