Long before we were born, and surely before you were born as well, the Delaware River was the commercial engine of Philadelphia. Even into the 20th century, factories operated along the waterfront and ships ran cargo to and from piers up and down the river. In 1919, the City of Philadelphia built Municipal Pier No. 9 just south of the yet unbuilt Ben Franklin Bridge, in an effort to goose the local economy that was still recovering from the Great War. For years, according to Plan Philly, United Fruit Company used this pier to bring fruits and vegetables into town. This ended several decades ago, and in recent years the building was sitting largely empty, used only for storage.
Immediately to the north of Pier No. 9 is the Race Street Pier, a public outdoor space that opened in 2011. Formerly the overgrown and unused Municipal Pier 11, the Race Street Pier is now a popular park which provides outdoor space along the river and great views of the water. The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation has done many cool and exciting things over the years (Winterfest 2018 is coming soon!), and Race Street Pier stands as one of the crowning achievements. Surely, the success of Race Street Pier led DRWC to consider what could be done with Pier No. 9, ultimately leading them down the path to renovating the pier and transforming it into an indoor/outdoor space called Cherry Street Pier.
Cherry Street Pier opened to the public recently, so we took it upon ourselves to go check it out with our eyeballs. We came away quite impressed. Check out these photos:
Unlike Race Street Pier, the Cherry Street Pier started off with a large building on the site, which presented some challenges and also some opportunities. DRWC renovated the building, maintaining its facade on Delaware Avenue and repairing its roof. They transformed the northern wall, creating roll up glass doors that will be shut during the cold months (and after hours) and open when it’s nice outside. On the southern side of the building is a collection of 14 studio spaces, crafted out of old shipping containers. The artists in those studios will have access to other space in the pier for exhibition space, and in addition there will be significant arts events occurring all the time at the pier. The initial installation is called Festival for the People, and the seesaws in the images above are a part of that exhibition.
The highlight of Cherry Street Pier is the easternmost section, where DRWC stripped off the roof and the walls of the old pier building, leaving the metal support structure in place. That area is landscaped with planters, and features one of the best views we’ve ever seen of the Ben Franklin Bridge. Also, there are a couple food vendors and a bar, where you can get booze that’s brewed or distilled locally.
Cherry Street Pier is open daily at 11am, closing at 10pm Sunday-Thursday and closing at 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s open year round, but we suggest you get over there soon, before the weather gets too chilly. We imagine it’ll be a fun place to visit over the next few months, but when spring comes along it’ll really blow up as a sister space for Race Street Pier. When you do happen to check it out, you should feel a keen sense of pride in Philadelphia’s newest public space- it’s a welcome addition and one more reason to go to the Delaware waterfront. And when you’re there, you can think about just how much has changed there over the last hundred years.