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Recipe for Philly ‘mountain lodge’ on the river: Ice, fire and rockers

The threat of snow in the forecast makes those summertime days of lounging in a hammock seem like a distant memory.

The wildly popular hammocks of Philadelphia’s Spruce Street Harbor Park, a temporary park created on the bank of the Delaware River, have found their winter counterpart.

 

“We knew we had to come up with the hammock of the winter,” said Jodie Milkman, vice president of programming at the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, responsible for the Harbor Park and Winterfest at Penn’s Landing. “People can enjoy rocking in oversized rockers on a waterfront porch wrapped around the lodge, under heaters, near fire pits.”

The rockers are on the porch of a warming lodge — a faux ski chalet fashioned out of a tent with wood paneling, upholstered furniture, and fireplace mantels scavenged from the Divine Lorraine Hotel. Inside is a beer garden; outside are fire pits.

Winterfest, opening Friday, is a public amenity accompanying the annual Blue Cross RiverRink ice skating facility at Penn’s Landing. The first Winterfest, last year, anticipated the summer park with its cargo containers and boardwalk. The two pop-up parks, funded in part by a grant from Artspace Foundation, were conceived to share resources and ideas for how to draw people to the river.

“The success of Harbor Park really began to change the conversation about how people used their waterfront,” said Milkman.

Water, or, in this case, ice is not enough. People come for the food (concessions by celebrity chef Jose Garces), the novelty (hammocks and bonfires, in the city?) and especially the beer garden. Electric heaters will take off the winter chill until March 1, when the amenities will be dismantled and the park reverts to its former life as a parking lot.

“We knew it was going to be a success. We didn’t understand the magnitude,” David Fierabend, the designer of both summer and winter parks, said of the Harbor Park. “Now we have these crowds of people that we want to manage better. The customer service aspect is managed better.”

Fierabend discovered the best way to disperse a crowd through the space is with food and fire. Multiple concession stands decentralize the kitchen, encouraging visitors to gather among the many fire pits or the heated porch.

The park recycles both materials and ideas. The blankets on the rocking chairs are made from recycled sweaters. The boardwalk and steel cargo containers have been repurposed from last year. Boardwalk games and lounge areas have returned. Even the trees have been planted, and uprooted, and replanted at least three times.

“We’re kicking them around but they are resilient,” said Fierabend. “They are being great friends.”

The novelty is what changes. Winterfest has changed from its original incarnation, with a rustic warming hut reminiscent of a mountain cabin.

Of course, it’s not a mountain, it’s a parking lot where Market Street meets Columbus Boulevard.

“We just kind of ran with it,” said Fierabend, who included fake electric fireplaces (no real fires allowed at Market and Columbus), fake mounted elk heads above the mantels, hanging chandeliers of faux antlers, and wilderness-print upholstery. “A little kitschy, yeah.”

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