Philadelphia is steeped in the rusted history of the Industrial Revolution; a city where abandoned factories and warehouses line former rail corridors that once served as the lifeblood of the 19th century American economy.
As modern Philadelphia shapes its future, some of its citizens have turned to the artifacts of its former prowess for inspiration. Much as the High Line in New York is widely believed to have been partially responsible for the reinvigoration of not only a derelict site but also its surrounding neighborhood, a portion of elevated rail track in central Philly known as the Reading Viaduct has been hoisted into public view as a potential catalyst for urban transformation.
The late Paul VanMeter – landscape gardener by trade, local rail history enthusiast by passion – led a regular tour of the Viaduct that whisked brave and curious volunteers above and below the main avenues of downtown Philly onto rail tracks that had been abandoned decades earlier. His deep knowledge of the local rail history was only surpassed by his unequivocal, positively electric motivation to increase awareness for the potential urban value of these unique and beautiful abandoned corridors.
Paul passed away earlier this year, not long after the filming of this episode. Although he had parted ways with the organization currently leading the development of the Reading Viaduct, Paul is recognized as one of the early leading voices in the movement to garner attention for this truly unusual space.
For more information about the redevelopment of the Reading Viaduct, visit therailpark.org.
Paul’s blog about the history of the site: viaductgreene.org/blog/
Special thanks to Liz Maillie and Rick Darke.
Music: "Grasshopper Morning" | Mons Jacet | freemusicarchive.org
Series Produced by: Raymond Schillinger
UNUSUAL SPACES is part of the PBS Digital Studios network. For more from Digital Studios, visit pbs.org/digitalstudios and follow us here on VIMEO!
Check out Episode No. 1: "The Mother of All Airports" vimeo.com/88765672
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