Points of interest that plot rich past

By Matt Blanchard
For PlanPhilly

As Philadelphia reconnects with its historic riverfront, many residents will be in for a nasty shock: Much of the city’s maritime history has been wiped out.

The last 50 years of demolition and highway construction claimed hundreds of historic structures along the Delaware waterfront. Year by year, and for various reasons, an entire landscape was leveled. Mighty shipyards, historic taverns, sturdy workshops and graceful homes were all reduced to rubble and carted away.

Now, through the Central Delaware River planning process, thousands of Philadelphians have identified their historic heritage as a core value and a key principle upon which to chart the city’s waterfront future.

So as we forge ahead let’s appreciate the amazing pieces of our romantic past that do survive:

– An epic 1920s power plant still commands its shoreline site.
– A sculptural pier attracts the attention of a famous German architect.
– Pennsylvania’s oldest church
– The world’s fastest ocean liner
– The last, handsome building of the Cramp’s Shipyard stands under threat of the wrecking ball.

And beyond the buildings, there are the stories:

– A pleasure island once stood offshore Center City
Caves at river’s edge inhabited by early Philadelphians
– A colonial church that floated on the Delaware.
– A supposedly utopian community was a national center of snake-oil sales
– Aramingo Avenue was once a canal!

Think there’s no history left on the waterfront? On this page, with much help from the Independence Seaport Museum staff, we’re assembling bits and pieces of evidence to prove you wrong.  Each historic site is plotted on a satellite map. Zoom in for closer scrutiny.

We surely missed a lot, so we welcome all additions and corrections. Contact blanchard.matt@gmail.com.

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