Back in the day, Philadelphia was a huge international port, but those days are long gone. So, what to do with all of those abandoned piers along the waterfront? Commercial and recreational development are options – the Race Street Pier is a cute little park in Old City, the new Cherry Street Pier is working towards becoming an art-friendly community space, and the Spruce Street Pier has been a hugely popular destination for food and recreation the past 2 summers. The city took a different path at the Washington Street Pier. This 1 acre park makes use of repurposed materials to protect the surrounding wetlands, and provide habitat for migrating birds and other wildlife (including resident beavers, and lizards that live in the recycled brick benches).
Humans are welcome to enjoy the park, with a boardwalk, benches, and a viewing platform that allows visitors to enjoy panoramic views of the Delaware River. Signs along the trail relate the site’s history as both the nation’s first Navy Yard, and Philadelphia’s first immigration station, where over one-million people entered the United States between 1873 – 1915. There are plans to turn additional piers into similar wildlife habits if the land can be acquired.
This part of the city is pretty commercialized and a bit away from the major tourist areas, but it is right near the Old Swedes Church (Philadelphia’s First Colonists… the Swedes?! Swedish Day in Philly). For a quick, tasty lunch (including cheese steaks that often show up on “best of” lists), a block up Columbus Boulevard is Shank’s – a walk-up, window service place with tasty breakfast and lunch sandwiches, where you can eat at picnic tables overlooking the river (or take your sandwich back to the park). Philly Restaurant Review: Shank’s Original (Cheese-steaks)