Category Archives: Urban Planning

Carstairs Row

Perhaps one of the things Philadelphia is famous for is its abundance of rowhouses. In fact, rowhomes are the single most numerous type of housing in the city. From small, utilitarian houses in the older sections of Philadelphia such as Queen Village to the large rows complete with porches, bay windows, and gingerbread trim in […]
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The Pennsylvania Railroads Philadelphia Improvements, Part II

Last month we looked at the Pennsylvania Railroads Philadelphia Improvements starting with the construction of Suburban Station followed by construction of the north wing of 30th Street Station, which opened September 28, 1930. Despite the Depression, construction would continue on the remaining major portion of 30th Street Station. From the outset, the Pennsylvania Railroad intended […]
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The Pennsylvania Railroads Philadelphia Improvements, Part I

During the early 1920s, the Pennsylvania Railroad began planning for major changes to its infrastructure in the busy Philadelphia area, with the goal of expediting passenger traffic. While Broad Street Station presented an ideal location for the termination of inbound commuter traffic, a major drawback was its stub-ended design, which forced through trains destined for […]
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The Reading Railroad’s Turn of the Century Big Dig, Part Two

  Last month, we discussed the Reading Railroad’s ambitious plans for placing their City Branch below ground level. One part was the construction of a tunnel beneath Pennsylvania Avenue. The tunnel was to be 2888 feet long and of sufficient width to hold four tracks, two for the main line into the city and two […]
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The Reading Railroad’s Turn of the Century Big Dig, Part I

  If one were to explore the neighborhood just north of Callowhill Street between 20th and Broad Street, the casual observer might be perplexed by what appears to be a sunken urban greenway running parallel to Callowhill Street. This trench, some 40 feet wide and 20 feet deep, is now overgrown with trees and littered […]
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Broad Street Station

While intercity travel today primarily involves the automobile or airplane, a century ago the passenger train represented the principal mode of long distance travel. The increasing volume of rail passengers in the late 1800’s required railroads to find efficient ways of delivering passengers to their destinations. In Philadelphia, the problem for the Pennsylvania Railroad was […]
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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 Broad Street Subway

    Providing around 1 million rides a day, SEPTA is an important resource in the city of Philadelphia. The man pictured in one of the accompanying photos was just one of the many involved in building a part of that transportation system, the Broad Street Subway. The photograph was taken December 14, 1925 as […]
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