We were fortunate enough to be invited to partake in a guided tour of the Camden Anchorages of the Ben Franklin Bridge a week ago Thursday provided by the Delaware River Port Authority. This 1920s suspension bridge was an early example of multimodalism; it was designed by Paul Phillipe Cret to carry pedestrians (the north and south walkway), automobiles (roadway), trains (PATCO line) and trolleys (they would have been on the cartway).
That’s right: trolleys! However, during the four years in the early 1920s that the bridge was under construction, the bus industry put the trolley industry out of business and consequently, the infrastructure built for the trolley system (stairs, elevators, platform concourse and beautiful tiles in the elevator waiting areas) was for naught.
When first built, the pedestrian walkway sloped down all the way to Broadway Avenue in Camden. It was cut off to add two additional travel lanes in the 1940s. That’s when the dreaded stairs were installed on both sides of the Bridge.
Sixty years later, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia successfully advocated for a new ramp to replace those stairs, which will open Spring 2019, to make the bridge truly multimodal again and become part of the Circuit Trails network!
We were treated to an indepth presentation of old photographs of the Bridge’s design and construction. Afterwards, we walked up the north walkway to the Camden Anchorage.
We entered the anchorage at north tile room, where there are three elevator shafts that would have taken people down to the roadway level to catch a trolley over to Philadelphia. We walked the concourse between the two anchorages and then descended down to the cable room to see the amazing engineering feat of wires holding up the bridge. (no pictures allowed!). We ended the tour by visiting the south side anchorage tile room, which had better light. The tiles throughout the bridge were made by Neff Ceramic Tile Inc. (still in existence) and the artistic tiles in the two “tile rooms” depict the history of transportation up to 1925.
If other pier visits are planned keep me in the loop.
Thanks for sharing this history of the Ben Franklin bridge and its walkways. And go Bicycle Coalition for getting that ramp built!
Thanks for sharing. Were there to be 3 elevators on each side, or just 3 total per anchorage?