south side of unfinished Pier 53

Almost done. The photo above shows the remnants of pier supports of Pier 53 at Washington Avenue Green. It is currently a construction site. This section will be covered with a wooden boardwalk and become a fishing pier some time in the summer of 2014. Future Park visitors will be able to walk to the end of the Pier and experience the water's edge.

The Park is located at Washington Avenue, just south of the Coast Guard station and behind the Sheet Metal Workers’ Union Hall, 1301 South Columbus Boulevard. The one-acre site on the long-abandoned pier is one of the few tracts along the Delaware riverfront that is owned by the City of Philadelphia. It is the first of the public parks to be created by the Action Plan for the Central Delaware. Because there has been no commercial activity at that location for decades, the pier that originally had welcomed ships and freight carriers has deteriorated, and both native and non-native trees and plants took hold and flourished.

Pier 53 at dusk

The rotted piers and eroded shoreline have become a nursery for migrating fish and a permanent home for several species of mussels.

This newly discovered habitat is being exploited and informs the park’s unique spirit. Delaware Avenue Green has been redesigned and reconstructed as a public space on the interim trail that is planned for the southern section of the Central Delaware. The Park and the trail is open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week.

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

When the pier was originally built, workers constructed wooden walls out into the river, and put fill inside the walls. Outside that box, piles were dug into the riverbed to hold the structure.

Washington Avenue Green (exclusive of the Pier) was developed first. New trees and plants supplanting existing growth were planted shortly before the park was officially dedicated on October 27, 2010.

On September 6, 2012, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) awarded a $1.5 million contract for the design and building of a new Pier 53 park to Applied Ecological Services, Inc. (AES) — a national firm with local offices in Conshohocken. The AES contract is being paid for with a mix of DRWC capital funds and grants from the William Penn Foundation, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Federal Coastal Zone Management Program.

On November 15, 2012, about 50 people attended the first public input session on the future of Pier 53 at the Southwark House, 1010 Ellsworth Street, Philadelphia. Participants weighed in: they wanted to be able to touch the water; they wanted an arbor or other structure that helps bring attention to the Park, and they wanted a walking rail that leads to viewing spots, nature tours, and a place to fish.

Under the Central Delaware Master Plan, the area between Pier 53 and Pier 70 to the south is planned to include mixed-use developments by private builders. The Pier 53/Washington Avenue Green Park will be the northernmost element in a string of wetland parks that would stretch south to Pier 68 behind the WalMart. Pier 68 and the path connecting Washington Avenue Green will be joined by a trail and series of pocket parks. This plan is in beginning stages, and is expected to be completed in late summer, 2014.

directions to 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.

immigration pier

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


Top photo and first column photo by Susan McAninley. Historical photo of the immigration station from the Free Library of Philadelphia.