Delaware River Waterfront: Five Abandoned Places of Interest

The Cruise Ship Terminal was decommissioned in 2011. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines previously ran ships out of Philadelphia.

The Delaware River waterfront is in the midst of a complete restoration. Powered in large part by the efforts of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, old piers and vacant lots have been (and are being) transformed into beautiful public spaces for Philadelphians to enjoy. However, some abandoned relics of days gone-by still remain and spark the interest of those who pass by them. The following is a list of five places at the waterfront that have, despite rich histories, been abandoned:

Cruise Ship Terminal 
Location: South Broad Street in the Navy Yard

The Port of Philadelphia operated a cruise ship terminal until 2011. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines operated ships from the port. The port was far from the ocean and thus travel to international waters took longer than it did from other ports. Cruises out of Philadelphia were ended and the former space has been used for various other projects.

The USS John F. Kennedy was christened in Norfolk, VA in 1967 by Jacqueline and Caroline Kennedy. The ship was decommissioned on August 1, 2007 and brought to the Inactive Ships On-site Maintenance facility in Philadelphia.
The USS John F. Kennedy was christened in Norfolk, VA in 1967 by Jacqueline and Caroline Kennedy. The ship was decommissioned on August 1, 2007 and brought to the Inactive Ships On-site Maintenance facility in Philadelphia.

USS John F. Kennedy
Location: Inactive Ships On-Site Maintenance facility in the Navy Yard

Construction of the USS John F. Kennedy began in 1964 at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. The aircraft carrier, built for the United States Navy, was christened by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and her daughter, Caroline, on May 27, 1967.

The ship spent most of its service time in the Mediterranean Sea and near the Middle East, where political tensions were high during the Cold War. Budget constraints and the growing need for repairs caused the Navy to officially decommission the ship in 2007. The Kennedy’s future was uncertain, as the Navy was planning to convert her into a museum. The Philadelphia location of the Inactive Ships On-Site Maintenance was the closest one to Norfolk, so the Kennedy was tugged there in 2008 until further plans could be made.

The Delaware Power Station was built in 1917. A relic from Philadelphia's industrial glory days, the plant ceased full-time operations in 1984.
The Delaware Power Station was built in 1917. A relic from Philadelphia’s industrial glory days, the plant ceased full-time operations in 1984.

Delaware Power Station
Location: Adjacent to Penn Treaty Park

The Delaware Power Station was built in 1917 in the midst of Philadelphia’s industrial revolution. Located near Kensington, which was the center of the city’s industrial activity in the first half of the 20th century, the Delaware Power Station was relied on by thousands of businesses and homes. Although the station ceased operations in 1984 and was abandoned as a power plant, it has been used for movie sets in recent years. Transformers 2, The Last Airbender and 12 Monkeys filmed scenes in the power station.

The Philadelphia Belt Line Railroad built tracks on Delaware Avenue (now Christopher Columbus Boulevard) in 1889. The tracks still divide the major roadway today.
The Philadelphia Belt Line Railroad built tracks on Delaware Avenue (now Christopher Columbus Boulevard) in 1889. The tracks still divide the major roadway today.

Philadelphia Belt Line Railroad Tracks
Location: Columbus Boulevard, South Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Belt Line Railroad operated tracks and facilities all over the United States. In 1889, the company completed the tracks for a rail line along the Delaware River waterfront that would connect the Port of Philadelphia with any railroad in the city. The 2.5 mile span of railroad along the river essentially connected the Port of Philadelphia to the rest of the country and Canada.

From 1982 until 1995, commercial trolley cars used the tracks between Penn’s Landing and Washington Avenue. The tracks are still visible on Columbus Boulevard in South Philadelphia.

 

 

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SS United States
Location: Columbus Boulevard, near Snyder Avenue

The SS United States was funded through a joint effort between the United States Navy and United States Lines, a shipping company. Construction was completed on the massive ship in 1952 by Newport News Shipbuilding.

She set the world record, and continues to hold the record, for fastest trans-Atlantic voyage. On her maiden voyage, she left New York and arrived in England 3 days, 10 hours and 40 minutes later. The demand for trans-Atlantic travel quickly dwindled, and she was put out of service in 1969 and brought to Philadelphia in 1996. Conservation efforts have been ongoing to save the ship from decay.  

– Text and photos by Hayley Condon and Madeline Bates