It's cold. Visitors to the Park these days are few and far between—the occasional jogger or dog walker. The Delaware River is a soup of moving ice chunks. And moored mid-river is a freighter named "Cool'. Pier 53 is covered with ice and is closed to pedestrians, although some of the birds who have been seen on the pier here are planning to go north pretty soon, while the hawks and geese and gulls stay around all year. Plans are being made for spring events, and construction crews are getting ready to start renovations on Pier 68 to the south.

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.

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.


Top photo by Susan McAninley. Archival Photo from the Free Libary of Philadelphia.

 

 

 

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.

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
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

Future Events. Also planned for the spring is a cleanup of debris and trash throughout the Park and along the trail to the south. Date to be announced.

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.

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.

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