Up on the Viaduct

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"White Light White Heat" - The Velvet UndergroundBehold, the great Reading Viaduct. For years, I have heard about this spot, that has been deemed “Philly’s High Line”, and still looks like New York’s High Line did back in the pre-development days. Lined with abandoned industrial buildings, some new developments here and there, and covered in plants and graffiti, the Reading Viaduct is a serene oasis in the heart of Philly’s Callowhill neighborhood, with beautiful views of Center City’s skyscrapers and vistas extending over the streets it soars above. The buildings that line the Viaduct ooze with residential conversion potential and this area could easily become a revitalized area like Manhattan’s Chelsea or Meatpacking District. However, I kind of hope that level of development never happens, since Chelsea and the Meatpacking district are arguably a bit too posh. I hope the development around the Viaduct in what some like to call the “Loft District” remains more true to the industrial nature of the neighborhood. (although most of the new buildings in the Meatpacking District are designed by the preservation-minded, context-oriented firm of Morris Adjmi Architects).

The plans for the Reading Viaduct, like those of the High Line, are complex and need to jump through a series of governmental hurdles before they can begin to come to fruition. Needless to say, it will be awhile before anything happens up on the ol’ viaduct. For that reason, I contacted the Friends of the Rail Park, the group working on the bridge’s conversion into a park, and volunteered to take some publicity photos to help them in their crusade. This is the first wave of photos I’ve taken, but certainly not the last. This first wave was a bit more art-focused and more for my own purposes, and I used Joel Sternfeld’s photos of the High Line pre-development as my main source of inspiration. My next task is to return and get some photos that are more marketable to the general public. I also need to get into the tunnel that is part of the proposed park to take some pictures down there. Hopefully I’ll have all of that done next weekend.

Also, there is one building specifically in the Callowhill neighborhood that I’d like to point out – the Lasher Printing Building (5th photo). This Art Deco masterpiece is quite the hidden gem, and seeing as I love Art Deco architecture, I was really happy to be able to photograph this building; albeit, not in the best light. I guess I’ll have to return to capture it under less severe lighting conditions.

Stay tuned for more photos from Port Richmond, Kenzo, and Fishtown coming up later in the week!



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