City - Philadelphia PA - At the foot of Market St 1908
Photograph - Colorized Photo
Colorized photo from 1908
Original title: Delaware Ave., foot of Market St
Photographer: Detroit Publishing
Location: 3 N Christopher Columbus Blvd (approx), Philadelphia, Pa
This is Delaware ave, as seen in 1908. It has a long history. It all started as an irregular footpath built atop a filled up dock, but it outlived its usefulness. A wealthy merchant (at the time the richest man in America) Stephen Girard (1750-1831), he envisioned a grand avenue along the central waterfront.
In his death, he left the city $500,000 to build this street. It was 25ft made of Belgian block. He knew that by placing a road by the river, businesses would grow. A city doesn't grow larger unless there are ports to bring in goods. He wanted the street to be named Delaware Av. His bequest allowed them to extend the street eastward into the Delaware River. It connected existing docks while using landfill to create the roadbed.
It took a while to build this street, it was constructed between 1834-1845, it was located between Vine and South streets. The money also allowed them to construct bulkheads and the first lighting by the river. The started with gas lamps then moved on to arc lamps.
As Girard envisioned, the commerce rapidly increased. But with all this new trade, the roads became congested, and it had to be widened. From 1857-1867, they increased it to 50ft wide, and it became longer. Still again from 1897-1900 they increased the width to 150ft wide, which is what we see here. This was the most expensive civic project they have ever done.
This road became the main transportation corridor for handing food and general cargo. Dock Street near Delaware Ave was the city's primary food distribution center for more than a century. In the 1890's they set up that train system, and it was called the belt line.
By 1990, this road was still around, they said it was so bad and bumpy that they could induce a woman into labor. Around 1992, they renamed this road to Columbus Blvd and repaved it. Today all these buildings are gone, as is the upper tracks, you would never recognize it. The only thing you might recognize is that very distant tower in the background, the cold storage company. Clyde's Steamship company on pier 3 is currently a condo. Despite that it looks closer to how Girard envisioned it, with tree's lining the street.
November 22nd, 2019
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