It’s been an age since we featured a vintage view of Philly from above, but here’s an especially apt one in advance of the Rally for the Rail Park on Saturday. This is a photograph taken in March of 1927 looking north from Center City showing off a great view of Reading Terminal, the railroad tracks leading from the station, industrial Callowhill, and beyond.
Front and center (at bottom of frame), we see a very sooty Reading Terminal, with its long train shed and wide tracks extending northward. (You can even see the white plume from a coal-fired engine, chugging into the station.)
Where the tracks fork – a familiar site for any Reading Viaduct / Rail Park enthusiast – you can see the Goldtex building just to the left and Alco building to the right. Both still there, and reused. Places of production are everywhere. Look carefully and you can see signs on buildings for Wolf Bros. Envelopes, Edward Shoes, Fischer Machine Co, and signs for storage, structural steel, and after dinner mints.
See if you can spot the twin spires of Church of the Assumption on Spring Garden Street, still defiing the neighborhood's skyline though no one knows for how long. Then follow the diagonal cut of Ridge Avenue, you can see two twin buildings with zigzagging gabled rooflines. That’s the Philadelphia Traction Company powerhouse – used to power trolley lines – part of which could be converted to housing soon.
What’s missing? The PSFS building, which wouldn’t be built until five years later. And of course the Vine Street Expressway hasn’t cut through the urban fabric of Callowhill/Chinatown yet.
Look closer. What do you notice?
The aerial image above is part of the Free Library’s Print and Picture Collection, and is used by PlanPhilly/Eyes on the Street with the express permission of Aerial Viewpoint, which owns these aerial images. For reproductions or permissions inquiries contact Aerial Viewpoint.
To learn more background about these aerial photographs, head over here.
Ashley Hahn is an independent writer with a background in historic preservation and city planning. She started Eyes on the Street for PlanPhilly in 2011 and was PlanPhilly's managing editor from 2015-2017. Ashley has lived in 12 zip codes that she can think of, including neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and New York. She is a Philadelphian by choice.