Philadelphia. Department of Wharves, Docks and Ferries.

Municipal Pier Construction Photographs, 1917-1921

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The collection contains eighty-seven progress photographs documenting the construction of municipal piers on the Delaware River waterfront under the auspices of the Philadelphia Department of Wharves, Docks and Ferries. The construction was part of a progressive-era project to upgrade Philadelphia’s severely neglected port infrastructure. Before the creation of the Department of Wharves, Docks and Ferries in 1907, Philadelphia had just over twenty piers, most of which were owned by private companies - principally railroad companies. Few could accommodate larger cargo ships. In the early decades of the 20th century, the Department oversaw the construction of dozens of new piers designed to accommodate ships with much greater draw, enable the loading and unloading of more than one ship simultaneously, and the facilitate the transfer of cargo to railroads, trucks and wagons. The piers depicted in this collection served as marine-railroad terminals linking the river and the Pennsylvania, B&O and Reading railroad yards. Considerably larger than any piers previously constructed by the city, Pier 9 North measured 100 feet in width and was 536 feet long while piers in the Moyamensing Group ranged from 250 to 336 feet in width and from 900 to 1,000 feet in length.

Images primarily depict construction of Municipal Pier 9 North, also known as the Cherry Street Pier, but some also document the construction of Municipal Piers 78 (McKean Street), 80 (Jackson Street), 82 (Wolf Street) and 84 (Porter Street) South which were collectively known as the Moyamensing Group. Images show bulkheads, pilings, forms, portions of the concrete decks, retaining walls, framing, and interior and exteriors of partially and fully completed pier buildings. Some images include construction workers and a few include the temporary offices for general contractors working on the project, Arthur McMullen Company and Snare & Triest Company. The photographs incidentally capture adjoining piers, businesses lining Delaware Avenue, and ships at dock.

Jennifer Ambrose, Former Associate Curator of Prints and Photographs

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