It's still cold. The ice in the river is now gone. On the first day of spring, the park is brown and nothing seems to be budding. The days are getting warmer, the twilights are getting longer. Plans are being made for spring events, and construction crews are getting ready to start renovations on Pier 68 to the south.
The Big 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.
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.
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.
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.
211 South Christopher Columbus Boulevard
Some people have expressed interest in setting up a gardening committee with the Washington Avenue Green Friends' group. If you are interested, respond to firstname.lastname@example.org
This year, we're partnering up with the Central Delaware Advocacy Group, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation and Lew Blum Towing to finish what we started! A few hours of cleaning will be followed by a group lunch at the pier. Volunteers must sign-up by April 7th to be included in the lunch headcount. Sign up right here.
Other Future Events. Our annual "Love Your Park' Event will take place on May 9, from 11 am to 1 pm. Crafts, family play activities, lunch...and all free.
On June 25 through 28, 2015, the Independence Seaport Museum will bring tall ships up the Delaware River and Pier 53/Washington Avenue Pier is a great place to see them. The Friends of Washington Avenue Green will have a 'Welcome to America' event at the Land Buoy at the the end of Pier 53—the exact site of the arrival of approximately a million immigrants who arrived in Philadelphia. Details with exact dates and times to come.
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 avent 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