Thursday, February 25, 2010

Then and Now: Second and Dock Streets looking east, Philadelphia


The first of a series of posts:

There is too much that can be written on the heritage of Philadelphia's Dock Street, which, like its snaking path through the city's rigid grid, defies a simple explanation. Originally a natural creek along the banks of the Delaware, it was settled by industrial activity during the early 18th century, which quickly reduced the waterway to a hazardous pool of pollution and filth. Eventually, the city legislature took action, and Dock Creek became the first of the city's many streams to be converted to a sewer. By 1784, most of its winding route had been paved over and replaced by the new Dock Street.

Dock Street remained at the heart of Philadelphia's working riverfront throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Thanks to its easy access to the Delaware river, and a generously wide roadbed, it became home to the city's primary wholesale food market and distribution center. By the post-war era, however, the aging and dilapidated Dock Street Market was long past its prime, just as planners had begun to assemble massive urban renewal schemes for the city's depressed historic core. In the mid-50s, the food distributors had been relocated to a new facility in South Philadelphia, and the street's warehouses between Front and Third Streets were completely razed several years later. The original photograph was taken between the market's closing and its demolition - note the many cars parked in spaces once used as loading docks.

An amazing view of Dock Street in its heyday [Shorpy]

1. Garvin, Alexander. "The Architect of Society Hill." Next American City. Apr. 2005. 24 Feb. 2010.
2. Levine, Adam. "Dock Creek Sewer in 1849." Philly H2O. 24 Feb. 2010.

Original image: Cuneo. "Department of Public Property-38861-0." 1959. Philadelphia City Archives. Philadelphia Department of Records. 24 Feb. 2010.

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