Author Archives: Christopher Dougherty

From Shipways to Runways: the Transformation of Hog Island, Part Two

Whether it was the poor conditions of the site or a tough winter or contractors’ graft, preparatory construction began to drag on interminably, leading Congress to investigate the goings on at Hog Island. By February of 1918, seven months after the issuance of Hog Island’s contract, a New York Times reporter touring the site was surprised […]
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From Shipways to Runways: the Transformation of Hog Island, Part One

  Soon after America declared war on Germany in April 1917, songwriter George M. Cohan released his jaunty, rousing call to arms “Over There”. But despite the popular fervor to take the fight to Europe, the U.S. did not possess the merchant fleet to make war “over there.” With only 430 cargo and passenger ships in its […]
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Creativity in Cast Iron: Strickland Kneass’s Chestnut Street Bridge

  For Strickland Kneass (1821-1884) engineering was not about letting tradition dictate uninspired designs nor did the profession thrive in clannish fiefdoms of expertise. Trained in the era before formal engineering curricula, Kneass saw engineering as an organic profession whose rules, though important, were always secondary to imaginative solutions. In his nearly half century of […]
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The Olmsted Brothers’ Artificial Nature: South Philadelphia’s League Island (F.D.R) Park

  When author Christopher Morley sauntered around “the Neck” one hot summer evening in the early 20th century, to his surprise he found Philadelphians living an almost rural existence amid the marshes, ash heaps and junk yards. But Morley saw that the boggy land where the Delaware met the Schuylkill – “the canal country of […]
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The Schuylkill Expressway: Modern Highway or "Worst Mistake"?

Though he later regretted his steadfast support for the intrusive road, mayor Richardson Dilworth saw the construction of the Schuylkill Expressway as a necessary component of the region’s postwar transportation overhaul. To Dilworth and other transit planners, the specter of gridlocked colonial streets loomed large. As early as 1931, a regional planner had derided Philadelphia’s […]
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The Department of Docks, Wharfs and Ferries: Making Philadelphia’s Modern Waterfront

  Arguably Philadelphia’s most progressive mayor of the early 20th century, Rudolph Blankenburg (1912-1916) the “Old Dutch Cleanser” – sought to reform and modernize many of the city’s graft-ridden and inefficient departments. Blankenburg, realizing that Philadelphia was locked in competition with New York, Boston and Baltimore for international maritime trade, spurred the recently created Department […]
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