WHO owns the Reading Viaduct? Who controls what?

collected news here

WHO owns the Reading Viaduct?  Who controls what?

Here are selections from years of “reporting.”  Too bad there hasn’t been more investigative journalism. There’s a marked progression from genuine confusion through to stupidity, then subterfuge, to most recently willful blindness.

Who owns? Who controls? Answer here, on our website.

NYC High Line Inspires Philadelphia To Redevelop Viaduct  By Joann Loviglo /  AP  10/17/11… “Until the ownership and funding issues are hammered out, a more modest plan calls for development of a spur of the viaduct owned by the region’s transit agency, which has given permission for the project.” 

Reading Viaduct Project Gets More National Press, Design Study Now Underway To Transform Old Elevated Rail Line Into A Park In The Sky  Posted by Allison S / uwishnu October 18, 2011..  ”SEPTA has given permission for the development of a small spur of the Viaduct that it owns. As opposed to the majority of the Viaduct, which is owned by Reading International, an entertainment conglomerate that absorbed much of the holdings of the Reading Railroad when it closed. The City of Philadelphia is having ongoing talks with Reading International to obtain ownership of the rest of the Viaduct.

ROLLING OUT Philly’s elevated railway is struggling to become a High Line.  Tyler B. Silvestro  December 15, 2011…    “With permission from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), property owner of the viaduct ‘spur,” and a grant from the William Penn Foundation and The Poor Richards Charitable Trust, CCD has hired landscape architect Bryan Hanes Associates to conduct feasibility studies and design schematics for the viaduct. Hanes told AN that he is looking at this project not as “phase one” but as a “catalyst for enthusiasm.’”

To reclaim an old railway from above and beneath By Miriam Hill, Inquirer Staff Writer February 14, 2012  “Alan Greenberger…commerce director, and Paul Levy, chief executive of the Center City District, have been negotiating with Reading International to acquire the property.”

Urban to Lead Transformation of the Reading Viaduct in Philadelphia. by Urban Engineers.  June 2012 “The study, which focused on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA)-owned spur only, was prepared in partnership with community stakeholders and the City’s Commerce Department and Department of Parks & Recreation.”

Changing Skyline: Tempting twin visions by Inga Saffron, Inquirer Architecture Critic. November 17, 2012   ”After nine years of discussion, the city expects to…start work on the first phase of that elevated park: the short, curving spur that runs from Broad and Noble Streets to the start of the main viaduct at 11th Street….says the Center City District’s Paul Levy, who is heading the effort.”

10 Things the High Line won’t Tell You.  or previously,   N.Y.’s High Line has tips for the 606 Trail.   Ever changing titles from Market Watch-The Wall Street Journal.  September, 2013  “president of the Center City District recently said Phase 1 of the Reading Viaduct project, which would connect to the city’s convention center, won’t rival New York’s “Mercedes-Benz” version. Paul Levy says he expects the 0.6-mile Ninth Street spur (about the same length as the first phase of the High Line) to cost $7 million to $8 million, massive steel swings overlooking the city skyline included. One reason he says it is so much cheaper: no railroad ties to remove. He’s hoping money can be raised and ground broken next year.”  many inaccuracies in this messy article, commentary and corrections here 

 Saturdays Party for the viaduct-underscores progress exposes challenges by Nathaniel Popkin. September 9, 2013  ”a crown on a year of burgeoning action that began with the plan to transform a small section of the Viaduct into a green civic space, a project that will begin construction as early as next July.”

Challenges for Viaduct Project: Ownership, community and cultural implications, a large and diverse space, and civic ramifications   by Joann Greco.  March 22, 2013  “Raising the money should be achievable within the next year.”

When will construction start on Phase 1 of the rail park?  by Ashley Hahn. January 28, 2014 “One essential piece that hasn’t been finalized yet is an agreement with SEPTA to convert the Noble Street spur into a micro “rails-to-trails” project. 

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What’s Modern Now? Less is More and Too Much is Never Enough.


The recent pickle over the The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)’s Tod Williams and Billie Tsien designed former Folk Art Museum facade along Manhattan’s 53rd Street leads to wonder. What’s Modern now?  It’s sad people aren’t speaking.  Sad people believe M0MA’s move to remove designed by Diller, Scofiidio + Renfro lacks vision.  Sad.

“Architecture is different from painting and sculpture,” Mr. Lowry said. “We don’t collect buildings and we don’t collect them for a reason.”

Past, Present, Possible. Every VIADUCTgreene walking tour notes the Tod Williams and Billie Tsien designed Parkway campus of the Barnes Foundation…notes that it’s the best building in Philadelphia since the 1929 PSFS Building, cornering the grand Francis Kimball designed 1893 Reading Terminal Headhouse at 12th & Market Streets. World class.

It’s fun to put things into context.  Past, Present, Possible. Yes -on their way up into the trainshed, passenger trains slipped through the City Branch passing beneath 20th and 21st streets. Then, there was Bement Pond. Now there’s the Barnes Foundation. Yes, the same trains were seen beneath Broad Street. Pierre Du Pont, William Glackens and his good friend Albert Barnes knew this intersection well in the 1880s and ’90′s when so much was going on.

In 1926 Paul Cret designed a nice Bozart box for Jules Mastbaum’s Rodin Museum. No one was looking back. It was different, but there was still a lot going on. World class.

After Word War II not so much was going on. As in Philadelphia, “most buildings put up in New York City since World War II are dull. Two exceptions were museums: the Gallery of Modern Art at 2 Columbus Circle, designed by Edward Durell Stone, and the American Folk Art Museum on West 53rd Street, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. The former had a light quirky charm, the latter a striking dark presence. Both were unique and stood out. How odd that the death knell for both came from other museums that took them over. The Museum of Arts and Design eviscerated Stone’s building, and the Museum of Modern Art has the same fate planned for that of Mr. Williams and Ms. Tsien.”

Maybe odd, but what about it? Museums are institutions; they’re businesses with an intent to be sustainable. The American Folk Art Museum location on 53rd Street didn’t work too well. Neither did the Barnes Foundation location in Merion.  Is what it is.  Move on.

While we do move on, as we always do, it sure is interesting to mull over just what it is that makes us tick. What do we want anyhow??   When the powers that move the Barnes art collection from Merion to the Parkway look to architecture, they look to Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.    What is it they’re looking for? ?

World class.

A “modernist legacy of orthogonal, functional minimalism, but placed it in a wider context of earthen, material richness…a tactile Modernism where the form persists, but the experiential palette of sight and touch deliver the subtlest murmurs of geographic and cultural specificity. ‘Mr. Williams and Ms. Tsien practice a kinder, gentler Modernism with an enormous sensitivity to materials and textures, and a particular affinity for crafts,’ wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Ada Louise Huxtable, Hon. AIA….Their firm’s work brings forth the ideals of Modernism, yet is moderated with a contemporary sensibility and intelligence which makes their work rich, tactile, and useful.‘”  Multicultural Modernism.

From 1920′s PSFS modern to the Barnes “new” kinder gentler, multicultural modernism. High Line = High Modern. So, we want minimalist form with earthen, tactile and visual material richness, plus an affinity for craft that delivers subtle murmurs of where we are.

When New York developer Tony Goldman arrived in Philadelphia with plans to revitalize Center City’s seedy 13th Street, almost everyone here wondered whether he was crazy…Michael Nutter, a city councilman in 1999 when Mr. Goldman sought tax incentives for his project. ”We just all kind of looked at him and thought, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ ” In a 1999 Inquirer interview, Mr. Goldman lamented Philadelphia’s lack of an Armani store. He diagnosed the city as “aesthetically depressed.”

We want Luxe life. Experience. Economy. Beauty. Appropriateness.

Take these guys for instance.  This Luxe life?  What’s modern now?  They define it. Wild.

Karl Lagerfeld & Peter Marino in 2010. AP Photo/Francois Mori

Karl Lagerfeld & Peter Marino in 2010. AP Photo/Francois Mori

Karl Lagerfeld: “has devoted his existence to living as much as possible in the present, keeping himself attuned to trends, not just in fashion but in art, politics, movies, and music…“He said to me once, almost in a worried way, that he has to find out everything there is to know, read everything,” she says. “The curiosity is ceaseless…”Lagerfeld’s determination to stay current requires ruthlessness and a lack of sentimentality. He periodically rids himself of art, objects, and places that, previously, had been sources of inspiration and pleasure. People are not exempt. “He kind of passes on, because he doesn’t like the past,” one of the people who travels in Lagerfeld’s circle says. “So then he decides you’re the past and then he just puts you in the trash.” Lagerfeld says, “I have an entourage of people of today. Because people can work with me for a hundred years but they have to stay informed. And no regrets, no remove, not saying, ‘Oh, things were better then.’ ” According to his publishing partner, Gerhard Steidl, when Lagerfeld reads a thick paperback, he tears out the pages as he finishes them. -In the Now. Where Karl Lagerfeld. The New Yorker. John Colapinto.

Peter Marino: Georgi Armani? Designed his house and many stores. Celine, Fendi, Lancome, Zegna.  15+ stores for Dior. 20+ stores for Louis Vuitton!  30+ stores for Chanel!  Marino’s genius is to give each its own clear identity, creating stores that are cool and contemporary but also subtly envelop you in the brand’s heritage.   when Peter Marino walks into the Chanel show–and the Dior show, and the Céline show, and the Louis Vuitton show (all brands for which he has created stores)–flashbulbs will go off, people will call his name and photographs of him in the front row will go viral on the internet.

Catching up with Peter Marino here.

One thing about what’s modern now, at MoMa, it all about the garden!  So, imagine our delight, when press released what’s modern now – Diller, Scofidio + Renfro’s  plans for a new MOMA. Most exciting is Robin Pogrebin reporting in the New York Times, “the opening of its entire first floor, including the beloved sculpture garden, free to the public.”

Read Robin Pogrebin reporting in the New York Times here.   Read the esteemed Paul Goldberger’s lament about removal of the Tod Williams and Billie TsienWest designed former home of the American Folk Art Museum facade in his Vanity Fair Magazine piece here.




And what of the garden?

1969. Yayoi Kusama used the space as the location for an impromptu “happening” in the fountain.
1969. Yayoi Kusama used the space as the location for an impromptu “happening” in the fountain

“I could just walk down 53rd and use it for my club….They had jazz concerts in the garden. The garden had just been redone. That was interesting because I found it to be the most beautiful outdoor room in America. I thought, “God, this thing is really good, you know”.   And it was, the Bob Zion redo [of the garden] that was finished in about 1963-64, was a very good project.   Philip Johnson had done the second addition to the museum, the black steel piece with the upper raised terrace where the George Rickey sculpture was.  I just loved that garden.  I really looked at it and later I wrote an article about the rise and fall of a Modern landscape.  About how it’s been ruined and it ain’t what it was.  But it was Mies van der Rohe’s best unbuilt project.  You know, there’s the things you think of that you don’t get to do and somebody else does. [Philip] Johnson built a homage to Mies there that really goes back to all of his urban houses from the 20’s and 30’s and to a series of his writings and projects. And if you don’t know the articles, it’s a good article. I published in JDH’s journal a few years back. So anyway, I kind of memorized that garden and I memorized Central Park.  -Philadelphia’s Laurie Olin

Wow. World class.

Yoshio Taniguchi’s 2004 MoMA design ‘reintroduced’  “The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden as the heart of the Museum by preserving Philip Johnson’s original 1953 design.”   Spectacular.”  In 2014, Diller Scofidio+Renfro’s design opens MoMA’s entire first floor, including the beloved sculpture garden, free to the public!

What of gardens today? What’s Present? What’s world class?  Happily and necessarily, direction today is toward more “ecological.” More planterly.  More wild. More more. Mies said “less is more,” and Morris Lapidus said “too much is never enough.” It all meets in the garden. VIADUCTgreene creates a garden of intersecting culture and wildness.

Best exemlfying the “less is more and too much is never enough“ in gardens today is Piet Oudolf.  Try as we have, we can’t find any pics of Piet Oudolf looking anywhere near as badass as the perennially uniformed Karl Lagerfeld and Peter Marino. No matter where they go, gardeners get their hands dirty.

From Uomo Vogue.  Piet Oudolf. Roberto Baldassarre.
From Uomo Vogue. Piet Oudolf. Roberto Baldassarre.

“Minimalist form with earthen, tactile and visual material richness, plus an affinity for craft that delivers subtle murmurs of where we are.”  Sounds like a great garden to me. Todays “New World” plantastic’ gardens look their finest when powerful modernist tendencies organize their space.

The  proof of the pudding is in the eating. When Chanel gardens a poetic evocation of N°5, it does through the design of Piet Oudolf.  More about here.  Like KL and PM above, Piet’s modernism represents a variety of brands. Private gardens around the world, public places like the High Line with James Corner Field Operations and Millennium Park with Kathryn Gustafson.

Looking ahead is likely Luxe.    From the luxe haute rusty rails of the High Line, Oudolf seems to be wheeling along the world’s ribbons of steel. Powerhouse contemporary art and modern masters gallery Hauser and Wirth contrasts their spaces on Peter Marino’s Bond Street and Zurich’s former Löwenbräu brewery building with a new gallery and arts centre at a derelict farm on the outskirts of BrutonSomerset.   Hauser & Wirth Somerset opens to the public in 2014, a stone’s throw from engineering genius of VictorianEngland – Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s c.1850′s fabled Great Western main line, route of the Cornish Riviera Express.  All aboard for Bruton!

Hauser-Wirth-Somerset-Artists-impression-Aerial-ViewThe Hauser & Wirth Garden at Durslade Farm is planted.  ”Somerset does not have any significant contemporary art galleries, there’s a great arts scene in Bath and Bristol but they are a good hour away.”  The gallery and arts centre is built on what was originally a “model farm” dating back to 1760.  There is a cowshed, a piggery, stables, barns, a farmhouse and land… It could become something of a country retreat for Hauser & Wirth’s artists and the farm has already been visited by names such as Pipilotti Rist, Roni Horn, Phyllida Barlow and Paul McCarthy.

The place resonates with Past, Present PossibleIn 1776, it was sold to the Hoare family who also owned nearby Stourhead!  Great garden roots amass deeply, thickly. 

I think KL, PM and Piet too, must be pleased. Back in the golden age of steam, chocolate-and-cream liveried carriages hauled by 79-ton King Class and Castle Class locomotives painted a deep, rich Brunswick green set the stage at rural Bruton. Luxe…

Great Western
Cornish Riviera Express.

A bit further afield, Piet may be planting along the the steel rail of Thomas the Tank Engine!

A year ago it was reported that “Richmond Square Design has submitted the plans to the Isle of Man Government on behalf of billionaire businessman and philanthropist Mark Shuttleworth, who was the first South African in space.”

Mr. Shuttleworth proposes to have the nature park on land he owns in Ballavale, Santon. It would include wetlands, a glen, an orchard, a Japanese garden, as well as wildlife. He also hopes to build a sensory garden in collaboration with a number of charities including the Manx Blind Welfare Society and Rebecca House children’s hospice.  Also outlined in the plans is an amphitheater to be used as an outdoor stage for theatrical performances and educational presentations.  In the design statement it says the intention of the project is to create an estate that will contribute to the Island’s heritage and be a botanical garden of global standing.

Collaborators on the project, at Mallards Estate, Santon, include landscape architect Gross Max and Japanese garden designer Shunmyo Masuno.  Shuttleworth is also in discussions with natural swimming pool expert Peter Petrich and plans to consult perennial landscape specialist Piet Oudolf.

For a great distance, the property adjoins the Isle of Man Railway at Santon Station.  Sodor is a fictional island which is supposed to be located in England in the Irish Sea between Cumbria and the Isle of Man that is used as the setting for The Railway Series books by the Rev. W. Awdry, and later used in the Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends television series.  Inspiration came on a visit to the Diocese of Sodor and Man in 1950. Awdry noted that while there was an Isle of Man, there was no similar Island of Sodor. A large island would meet the criteria he required, giving him the isolation from changes to the British railway system while giving him somewhere that people could believe in.

Thomas the Tank Engine in Sodor


We want Luxe life. Experience. Economy. Beauty. Appropriateness. Fantasy. 

As always, possibilities intrigue.  Like Hauser and Wirth, one can suspect that a man who’s looked at the epic view of Earth from Space sees certain order in seeming chaos, much the same as so many seed heads, blades, spikelets and awns are ordered in a winter meadow.

What Piet Oudolf calls the ugly, the dead. “…the journey…discover beauty in things that on first site are not beautiful.”   It is a New World Garden!

It’s a pleasure to share a short, very beautiful, glimpse of PIET OUDOLF: FALL, WINTER, SPRING, SUMMER, FALL,  A Feature-Length Documentary, now in production by the Checkerboard Film Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation you can make a contribution to at Checkerboard Film Foundation. 1 East 53rd St, 14th Floor. New York, NY 10022.

Click below for the teaser. Listen carefully. See Beauty in the Unexpected:



Alexander McQueen Garden  2007“I think there is beauty in everything. What ‘normal’ people would perceive as ugly, I can usually see something of beauty in it.” — Alexander McQueen



Jeff the Koons, 2009 Aluminium, painted 50 boxes each 52 x 48.5 x 33 cm / 20 1/2 x 19 /18 x 13 in

Jeff the Koons, 2009
Aluminium, painted

Iwan and Manuela Wirth with Thomas Houseago's Hermaphrodite, 2011  Photographed by Norman Jean Roy

Iwan and Manuela Wirth with Thomas Houseago’s Hermaphrodite, 2011. Photographed by Norman Jean Roy

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VIADUCTgreene. Grit to Garden. Our place in public gardens.


vintage postcard. Italian Water Garden at Night.

vintage postcard. Italian Water Garden at Night.

VIADUCTgreene.  Grit to Garden. Our place in public gardens.

Not a single walking tour goes by that we don’t discuss VIADUCTgreene’s fit into the great world of gardens and horticulture. A post-industrial place, the corridor resonates with Past, Present and Possible.



Happily, our place identifies greatly with Pierre du Pont.

Pierre du Pont (1870–1954) was one of eleven children to Lammot du Pont I (1831–1884) and Mary Belin.  Lammot father, Pierre’s  Grandfather,

Éleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours  (1771–1834), known as Irénée du Pont, founded the gunpowder manufacturer, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company in 1802, along the Brandywine Creek, at Hagley.



The then remote location to lessen the impact of possible industrial accidents – E. I. du Pont’s father and wife never recovered from accidental blasts; his youngest son and most gifted grandnephew was killed by one.  More about Hagley later!

“As the du Ponts grew wealthy and became more Americanized during the 19th century, they looked to their French heritage for a sense of history – full-sized paintings were copied from ancestral portrait miniatures and the names Pierre, Irénée, Eleuthera and Victorine were consistently passed down through generations. Architecturally, the du Ponts also favored French-styled casement windows, tiled roofs and stuccoed walls. Many American-born du Ponts visited Bois-des-Fossés, a country house in France where the family’s early generations lived before emigrating. New homes were built in the Brandywine Valley, while existing houses were expanded during this time – their styles directly influenced by the du Ponts’ travels.”

Pierre’s life as an incredible capitalist will be stories here other days. Today, it’s sufficient that he created one of the most beloved gardens in the region. Make that the world. Longwood Gardens.

Henry Algernon

Henry Algernon

Henry Algernon du Pont (1838–1926) was another grandson of Irénée du Pont, who, among many things, became president and general manager of the Wilmington & Northern Railroad Company (an important line of the Philadelphia & Reading), serving from 1879 until 1899. During that time, and for the remainder of his life, he operated an experimental farm on his estate, Winterthur.

Henry Francis du Pont  (1880–1969) was the son of Henry Algernon and Louisa Gerhard du Pont. He developed Winterthur into a museum of decorative arts and a stunning garden. Another story for another day. More about Winterthur later!

In an earlier entry, we talked about the power of exposition. In another the intersections with the fine and applied arts. The beat goes on.  IN 1876, Philadelphia’s Centennial Exhibition “was immensely popular, drawing nearly 9 million visitors at a time when the population of the United States was 46 million.”  ”A total of 37 nations were officially represented at the Centennial Exhibition. Additionally, nineteen British Empire colonies participated along with the Spanish possessions of Cuba and the Philippines. It was hoped for by the Americans that all colonies, such as India, the Philippines, and Australia, would eventually become sovereign nations.” Manifest destiny+++.  Well done.

In 1876, when Pierre du Pont was six years old, he was taken to the Great Centennial Exposition held in Fairmont Park, Pierre du Pont’s love for fountains stretched back to when he was mesmerized at the age of six by the huge display of water pumps at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.”

A large body of water, especially when under cover, is in itself a great source of attraction; but when any number of streams, from an inch in diameter to a fall of water fourteen feet across, are pouring into it, many a spectator has his senses fascinated and finds it difficult to tear himself away. – reported the New York Times.

It was quite the news…


Cataract and hydraulics at machinery Hall

In 1879  Pierre du Pont experienced trouble with the muscles in one of his legs, which required him to receive massage treatments in Philadelphia. He stayed with a distant cousin, his “Uncle” Fred and Mrs. Elizabeth Graff. who lived 1337 Arch Street.  The treatments took place in the morning which left the afternoons free for walks and explorations. Pierre later described one of his favorite destinations. “Often he wondered over to the Reading railroad station at Broad and Callowhill where he thrilled with excitement‘ of watching the many steam locomotives arrive and depart.”

Broad & Callowhill Depot

Broad & Callowhill Depot

1116 Chestnut St. Hartman Kuhn estate/ purchased by Matthias Baldwin. Later, home of the Union League. Baldwin'd greenhouse turned florist.

1116 Chestnut St. Hartman Kuhn estate/ purchased by Matthias Baldwin. Later, home of the Union League. Baldwin’d greenhouse turned florist.

“Another walk took us past the old Mathias W. Baldwin Mansion, 1118 Chestnut Street.  Mr. Baldwin, founder of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, was a self made man who is said to have been a lover of flowers in his boyhood and who resented the fact that many private collections were withheld from public view. When he built the greenhouse adjoining his home on Chestnut Street, he placed it with one long side directly on the street line where it could be observed at all times. This story was told to me by my uncle as we admired the flowers. I made an inward resolve that if I built a greenhouse it would be kept open to public view from within as well as from without.”  

Sounds familiar…..From Memorial of Matthias W. Baldwin, bWolcott Calkins. 1867…at last in 1864 he made his final move. He was then abundantly able to build a marble monument to perpetuate his name in one of the aristocratic precincts of the city. But to the surprise of everyone he purchased a substantial old fashioned brick building in the busiest part of Chestnut Street. Why should I banish myself from my fellow creatures? he said.  I have tried to live for their good and why should I run away from them in my old age?  I want to see the world, and have them see the things I enjoy, if it will afford them any pleasure or instruction.

This was the secret of his selection as he confessed in private conversation afterwards. “When I was a journeyman I used to enjoy looking at the prints and paintings exposed for sale.  I think I acquired my first taste for art in this way. And sometimes, when I saw the top of a greenhouse over a high garden wall I used to wonder why men wanted to hide the beautiful things which God made to be seen. I made up my mind then that if I ever possessed any treasures of art or nature I would give the journeymen a chance to enjoy them too!“ …the crowning feature of the Chestnut Street house was a conservatory of rare flowers and tropical plants which he fitted into the space between his house and the granite front of the Sunday School Union Depository. Here on cold winter days pine apples and oranges were ripening and the richest flowers were in full bloom. The vapors were kept carefully wiped from the glass and the plants were all arranged so as to be seen to the best advantage from the sidewalk. The first opening of this unique device caused a sensation on Chestnut Street and scarcely a day passed without a crowd collected here from morning till night. The servants were annoyed a little by answering the bell for those who wanted to buy. But they were consoled when they saw how much happier their kind employer was than any of the multitude on whom he conferred this pleasure. It was more blessed to give than to receive. The thankful looks from that endless procession the letters of thanks which everybody wrote or desired to write in return for this unique work.”

Matthias Baldwin died in 1866; the locomotive works he founded was an important part of the Centennial…Assembled nearby the Corliss Engine and extending down Machinery Hall in single file was a long line of the newest U.S. locomotive engines, whose colored paint and polished metal gleamed from the sunlight that pouring through the window panels that comprised the entire second floor of the building. The most prominent of those engines was the Baldwin Locomotive of Philadelphia. Baldwin had revolutionized the idea of locomotive construction…the vanguard technology…the means of transforming the great undeveloped regions of the world, in the image of our great U.S. Transcontinental Railroad.” 

“What’s past is prologue” Views of the Centennial Exhibition certainly set up Pierre’s Longwood.  Not to mention - Disney!  We’ll explore this place again. Fine Baldwin locomotives, the mighty Corliss engine, horticulture and architecture. A garden for sure. A artful and mechanical garden. Hugely formative no doubt…

Machinery Hall and West End passenger Railway

Miss Foleys Marble Fountain Horticultural Hall-1.







Fountain Avenue from Horticultural Hall.


It never ceases to amaze. That everything connects. This place especially. We’ll explore more of this in later blogs. Stories of Grit to Garden go far and wide.

Today, the art gallery remains the only major building from the 1876 Centennial. A 2005 master plan for the area by current Deputy Mayor of Economic Development  Alan Greenberger’s MGA Partners, called for activating the 733 acre space.  Today, occupying the Art Gallery, otherwise known as Memorial Hall is the Please Touch Museum, where things haven’t gone so well since its move there in 2008. See the 2005 20-year master plan here.  Strangely enough, it seems a mystery  to many.

Today, we need more reminders that doing things well works. Today, perhaps the greatest engine for renewal is a 1907 Baldwin built over at Broad & Spring Garden.  

In 1907 Baldwin Locomotive Works is the largest locomotive plant in the world. 1906 output was 2,666 locomotives, together with duplicate parts equivalent to at least 100 more. In other words, the total output equaled over 230 locomotives a month, 53 per week, 9 per working-day. Making allowance for holidays, about one locomotive was turned out every two hours. Excellence.  Excellence we work to memorialize – VIADUCTgreene. Past, Present, Possible.

Today, perhaps the greatest engine for renewal of the Centennial Grounds would be remaking a narrow-gauge west End Passenger Railway.  GREAT EXHIBITION. MACHINERY HALL. THE HYDRAULIC ANNEX–THE WATER TANK–THE GREAT CATARACT– CENTRIFUGAL PUMPS–PUMPS OF ALL DESCRIPTIONS AND FOR EVERY PURPOSE.  Garden. Fireworks! Fountains!

Centennial District 1876

Centennial District 1876




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Reading Terminal at 121 years.


The Railway World. February 1893.

It was on 1.29.1893. “The Reading Railroad Company’s new station at Twelfth and Market streets was opened to the public and the first train out of the depot started at 4 o’clock on Sunday morning for Harrisburg, Pottsville, and Shamokin. Several hundred people were on the train and as many more were in the station and cheered as the engine drew out Superintendent Brown who has charge of the new station ran the engine as far as Girard Avenue and then relinquished the lever to engineer Michael Welsh who with his fireman William Orth ran the train through to its destination. The train was in charge of conductor Fulton Jones baggage master Daniel J Hines and brakeman Francis P Condon. The first train to enter the station was No 126, the Reading accommodation, due at 7:50 from Reading. The crew consisted of conductor Howard Richards, fireman Frank Genser baggage master Michael Gillen, and brakemen Horace Baus and George W Snyder, and engineer Patrick Cassidy. A large crowd was gathered to welcome it. In the station was a large floral horseshoe sent by an admirer of the road. During the day hundreds of excursionists came in from the country to have a look at the new station. In the afternoon President McLeod paid a visit and expressed himself pleased with all the arrangements.”


At 125 years more people will know this date, remembering mad men and their big ideas.

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de Luxe. extra fine. extra fast. extra fare.

de Luxe. extra fine. extra fast.  extra fare.

Inside the deep, atmospheric, and deeply atmospheric, Inside Llewyn Davis, written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, is a memorable scene at Abraham Lincoln ‘Oasis’ Fred Harvey restaurant on, make that over, the Tri-State Tollway in South Holland, Illinois.  Set in the ’60′s it’s a USA that left the railway for the highway, Harvey girls in prim black dresses and pinafores never-the-less.

Untitled-6-450x258DSC01402-450x337DSC01409-450x337Like the matchless Craig EllwoodDavid Haid was a protégé of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Like Elwwod’s Pasadena Art Center College of Design and like so many railroad viaducts, Haid’s Fred Harvey Oasis is muscular and protean structure aloft. At first look one wonders, is it bridge or building? It’s refined and elegant, de Luxe in every way and accessible to the masses of post-war motorists. Democratic. The beginning of fly-over territory.

We mentioned railroads and our greatest of parks in a previous taleSo much about park making! So much about Invention, advocacy, weirdness, sophisticated reimagining, design and management…. so much about VIADUCTgreene. So much about the murky waters of privately financed public places. As with all things VIADUCTgreene, the Past, Present Possible point-of-view informs and instructs.

“If we are dealing with a public park, ideally the public pays for its construction and maintains it at a high level, but we know empirically for a variety of reasons that hasn’t happened,” says Harvard University Graduate School of Design Professor Jerold Kayden, the organizer of a conference on public space at the GSD. “So we begin to rely on this model of public-private partnerships, which have risks and rewards.”

As if this is NEW?  Not at all.

President Theodore Roosevelt liberally interpreted the 1906 Antiquities Act when he established  the 1,279-square-mile Grand Canyon National Monument in 1908. The monument was carved from Grand Canyon National Forest (created by President Benjamin Harrison as a forest reserve in 1893), Grand Canyon National Game Preserve (created by T.R.in 1906), and unassigned public domain. The U.S.Forest Service managed the monument from 1908 until it became a national park in 1919, relying entirely on the Santa Fe Railroad to invest in roads, trails, and amenities to accommodate a budding tourism industry

AT&SF de Luxe trails Baldwin 4-6-2 #1271. b.1909

AT&SF de Luxe trails Baldwin 4-6-2 #1271. b.1909

31124747Philadelphian and former editor-in-chief of Philadelphia Magazine Stephen Fried joyfully expounds in his Appetite for America. Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West–One Meal at a Time,  Fred Harvey “was Ray Kroc before McDonald’s, J. W. Marriott before Marriott Hotels, Howard Johnson before Hojo’s, Joe Horn and Frank Hardart before Horn & Hardart’s, Howard Schultz before Starbucks.” Before highways, from the 1870s, Fred Harvey’s “eating houses and hotels along the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad (including historic lodges still in use at the Grand Canyon) were patronized by princes, presidents, and countless ordinary travelers looking for the best cup of coffee in the country. Harvey’s staff of carefully screened single young women—the celebrated Harvey Girls—were the country’s first female workforce and became genuine Americana, even inspiring an MGM musical starring Judy Garland.” In 1910 Santa Fe introduced dining cars and Harvey started running the service. Santa Fe bragged: THE most distinctive feature of this train is the world famous Fred Harvey dining car service which has set the standard for railway meals on wheels. It makes little difference what the season may be, Harvey’s chefs have at their command the food products of a continent. The tables are very inviting with their snowy linen silver and cut glass. Ferns and flowers adorn side alcoves. Electric lights gleam from the top and sides.

Fried’s stories recall a previous relationship infinitely worthwhile and highly remunerative to Philadelphians. From the heap of locomotive orders trusted to Baldwin at Broad & Spring Garden (built and and shipped out over the City Branch) through the revolutionary and superb commerce with the Budd Company, Philadelphia’s alliance with the Atchison Topeka & the Santa Fe Railroad has few peers. Atop Fried’s Appetite for America.. is a high stepping Baldwin ‘Pacific’ heading up AT&SF’s crack DeLuxe

Today, One in four Philadelphia jobs has been wiped out since 1970, which stands in stark contrast to the success of New York, Washington, and Boston in registering job gains over the same period. What will it be?  Mass transit or de Luxe?

As with many things de Luxe, no one illustrates with words better than the singular Lucius Beebe, here from The Trains We Rode, Vol I…


THE IDENTIFYING HALLMARKS of a true luxury train in the belle epoque o{ railroad travel were several. They included the most sumptuous cuisine imaginable with a basic dollar dinner, a ladies’ maid,    either tub, shower or both, periodicals and daily strategic points en route, a valet for gentlemen, a barber, and a bufiet whose wine schedule compared favorably with the best gentlemen’s clubs in New York and Boston (the wine card for the Boston & Albany’s Boston-Chicago Special for 1893 casually lists a Chateau La Rose 1878, an item to cause swooning among oenophiles). An all-Pullman consist harbored the amenities and brought up with a brass railed observation car whose verandah sported the train’s name in ornate heraldry with electric lights. californialimited06 All these things and more characterized the Santa Fe’s de Luxe which was placed in service between Chicago and Los Angeles for the winter season 1911-1912. de Luxe sailed once a week and space aboard its three Pullmans was limited to sixty passengers who paid a surcharge of $25.  ’They slept in brass beds instead of berths. A library of choice fiction and the established classics rode a buffet car which also harbored the barber, ladies’ maid and manicurist. Elegances included a pigskin wallet tastefully engrossed with the train name in 74 carat gold for each gentleman passenger and a corsage of orchids brought aboard at the California border by uniformed messengers for each lady. Superadded to those stupefying grandeurs was Fred Harvey cuisine in the first of all air-conditioned diners where indirect lighting shone in muted splendor over rare viands and costly vintages. Patrons of this most lordly of transcontinentals from the ranks of those who not only expected the best of everything but could afford its service in the same style they might have encountered at the Waldorf-Astoria or The Savoy in London. From the time it got its first highball out of Dearborn Station in Chicago on December 11, 1911, de Luxe was a success of gratifying dimensions. It was immediately rescheduled for the following winter season with new and more eye-popping equipment which was rushed from Pullman during the summer months, and it continued in service until 1917, when it was a victim of wartime austerities and became the stuff of legend. As a status symbol, the high iron never knew the peer of de Luxe.

de-luxe11_NEWBeebe continues: FOLLOWING THE EXAMPLE of luxury hotels and steamship companies everywhere, the Santa Fe added still another unique panache of elegance to the de Luxe and its status symbolism when it introduced the only known such luggage sticker ever to advertise its owner’s presence aboard an American name train. The three color cachet was entirely at home in the company of Brown’s of London, the Plaza in New York and Cunard and North German Lloyd on the North Atlantic sea lanes. Its appearance on the Louis Vuiton valises and half boxes of the well-to-do marked them as seasoned travelers.

Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs designed Fall 2012 launch

Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs designed Fall 2012 launch


de-Luxe. world-class. High Line.

John Stilgoe, it his Train Time  Railroads and the Imminent Reshaping of the United States Landscape marvels in a chapter titled “Threshold,” “how railroad company advertising before about 1920 jars the contemporary reader, and not just because first-class trains appear so luxurious. The passengers seem so young. How did thirty-year-old couples afford travel aboard the Santa Fe de-Luxe?  The train left Chicago every Tuesday evening at 8:00, and arrived the following Friday morning at 9:00; the eastbound de-Luxe left Los Angeles every Tuesday at 6:10 in the evening and arrived Friday morning at 11:10. The company charged a fare premium of  $25.; it had learned that young people would pay extra for a good time.

de-luxe5_NEWSince inaugurating its California Limited in 1892, the Santa Fe had discovered that first-class service involved far more than high speed. A train operating over 2,265-mile route -a longer journey, the company delighted in pointing out, than that of the slower Orient Express- had to function as a resort. As the Limited barreled over the California border, a flower boy presented every woman onboard with a bouquet of roses, lilies, violets, or other in-season blossoms, and gave every male passenger an alligator wallet. But the key to any successful resort lies in its guests, as the Santa Fe well knew. “On a long journey it is pleasant to know that no over-crowding is permitted, and one’s traveling companions are of a desirable class,” proclaimed one brochure. “Persons you like to meet-successful men of affairs, authors; musicians, joufnalists,’globe trotters,’pretty and witty women and huppy children-these constitute the patrons of the California Limited.” Collecting such passengers proved easier than the company imagined, for as word spread, the passengers selected themselves. The Limited came to be known as a stylish train indeed, and not necessarily because of the new Pullmans, dining car, and buffet-smoker. The “traveling companions. . . of a desirable class” were the real draw.

Page-11-1Creating the de-Luxe involved building on the success of the Limited but angling marketing toward younger people, especially those traveling on business but able to pay the surcharge from their own pocket. Many travelers want only comfort, announced a gold-paper, embossed 1913 brochure, dismissing ordinary first-class cuisine and fellow passengers. Others want all the comforts, plus luxuries. “They are in somewhat of a hurry. They like, too, to be a bit exclusive.” The Santa Fe understood that speed might yield precedence to luxury and to the right mix of people sharing luxury across a particular region. Anyone needing the fastest Santa Fe train between Los Angeles and Chicago could grab the Fast Mail or the mail trains operated by competing comPanies. But for those-especially the young-desiring luxury and good company on an excursion through a sun-washed region, the de-Luxe was an obvious choice. In 1913, fine train no longer meant the fastest, at least for the sixty people aboard the de-Luxe.

In one full illustration after another, the pamphlet depicted luxuries being enjoyed by people in their late twenties and early thirties. The train carried only compartment and drawing-room Pullmans: no one slept in a berth behind curtains. Each bedroom had its own bathroom, most had doors that opened on the others-making possible travel en suite-and the drawing-room units offered both double beds and foldout beds. The club car provided a smoking and reading section for men. Positioned at the head of the train where no women ever needed to walk through it, the male preserve provided a shower and tub bath, a barber and a porter assigned to clothes care, current magazines, stock market and other telegraphed news reports snatched from cranes in front of depots, and a fully stocked buffet. The train carried a manicurist, a maid to help women bathe and dress, and perhaps more importantly, care for young children, who at night slept in the foldout sofa beds provided in.bedrooms. A stenographer took dictation of important mail, typing it directly into letter and telegram format; chefs and waiters provided sumptuous meals in the dining car, and passengers congregated in the observation lounge car at the end of the train, served by stewards. If they chose, they sat or stood on the open-air platform and watched spectacular scenery, or they sat inside, enjoying a luxury newer than electric lighting: air specially cooled and cleaned. The pamphlet in the end proved almost unnecessary; word of the train spread everywhere, and young people delighted in riding it. Travel on the de-Luxe meant one had joined the beautiful young people moving across a discrete region toward a modern, sun-kissed location.

Until the end of passenger train travel, Santa Fe premiere service both created and reflected the glamour of Southern California, and especially of Hollywood. The de-Luxe stopped operating in World War I. In 1926 the Santa Fe created the Chief to relieve pressure on the ever-popular California Limited, and in time the premiere train became the Super Chief, a luxury train still associated with Hollywood stars.”  Largely built by Budd in Philadelphia and stylized by Paul Cret and John Harbeson.  “Throughout the Roaring Twenties the company upgraded the Chief, changing decor in concert with changing trends, installing indirect lighting, and otherwise integrating ultramodern design with very traditional notions of luxury. In the late 1930s the Santa Fe replaced the train with a streamlined one pulled by diesel-electric locomotives that sliced almost sixteen hours from the steam locomotive schedule. Sunlight reflected from its stainless steel exterior nearly blinded New Mexico onlookers. Inside the cars, Ceylonese satinwood, English sycamore, Makassar ebony, and other rare woods veneered surfaces to relieve eyes watching sun-drenched scenery flash past. Most of the cars carried hand-crafted ornamentation made by Navajo and Zuni artists, and turquoise motifs harmonized the decor from car to car. Passengers reveled in the totally designed environment, while farmers, ranchers, and small-town inhabitants saw the speeding silver trains as slivers of Hollywood fantasy, racing at up to 115 miles per hour.”

Fred Harvey was on it. “Dining aboard the Super Chief became a national marvel. In 1936 the dinner menu opened with ‘Romanoff Fresh Malossol Caviar,’ hearts of California artichokes, and antipasto; proceeded through swordfish steaks, salmon, and several varieties of steak, accompanied by side dishes ranging from fresh corn on the cob to fresh asparagus; and concluded with a variety of American and foreign desserts. Strawberry shortcake coexisted with English Cheshire cheese and a variety of hot drinks. In the depths of the Depression, some passengers were dining well indeed.

Obscurity nowadays masks many American class distinctions. Electronic media constantly extolling equality subtly convey the message that most people are middle-class, and that the poor and the very rich are few and far off. Yet Americans recognize that catatrophic illness and subsequent job loss almost invariably lead to poverty, and many blue-collar families compete against welfare families for housing. Despite the surfeit of advertising to the contrary, the specter of downward mobility shadows much long-term thinking, perhaps especially when stock-market downturns weak, retirement accounts. Dramatic upward mobility, outside of lottery jackpots, seems far less real as a possibility or probability. But most of the time ordinary living confronts Americans with no more evidence of class distinction than a Jaguar caught in a traffic jam next to a Ford.

The Super Chief, on the other hand, offered a blatant display of class entitlement. Its Depression-era dining car menus surpassed all but a few fine restaurants, and those mostly in New York City. Cuisine historians unravel their significance only with difficulty. The Santa Fe served better meals en route aboard the Super Chief than passengers could obtain anywhere else between Chicago and Los Angeles. 

23020_h500w820gtStilgoe tells us that while the ”ultrarich attached their (private railroad) cars to lesser trains. The Super Chief served a segment of the population nowadays very difficult to define-Broadway and Hollywood stars, radio celebrities, and politicar figures-mixing them for days and nights with wealthy people also still hard to characterize. Some of the other travelers merely wanted extremely pleasant carriage over two thousand miles. others specifically sought casual or intimate contact with the famous, the rich, and people on their way to fame and wealth. In the dining car the chief steward distributed guests among the tables, sometimes precipitating good conversation, short -and long- term love affairs, enduring friendship and business relationships, and quarrels. People mixed beyond the dining cars: in lounges over drinks, in observation cars before plate glass, in barbershops, and-after the war, when the Santa Fe replaced the trains with newer, more sumptuous, second-story glass-roofed dome cars. They had time to get to know one another.

A great many Depression-era Americans had time on their hands, but comparatively few had time and money both. In the great runup to the 1929 stock market crash, radio frequently reminded listeners that time is money. But as Douglas Rushkoff points out in Coercion: Wy We Listen to What “They’, Say, Americans unwittingly turning to media as children turn to parents soon stopped thinking logically. If time is money, then money must be time. But can money buy time? Or can money perhaps only carve one type of time from another?

Nothing offers a better portal on changes in American leisure than the marketing of Santa Fe premiere trains between 1900 and 1971. When Amtrak took over most of national long-distance passenger train service it confronted vexing issues of class. Should a democratic government provide passenger rail service in multiple classes? Should the taxpayer subsidize caviar and strawberry shortcake? Would Americans mind not having a shower before bed, or in the morning before breakfast? Avoiding and answering such questions consumed thirty years, but the Santa Fe and other companies knew the answers decades earlier.

superchiefstarar001Ostensibly, exclusivity and ostentation belong nowhere in the Republic. Exclusive suburbs, country and yacht clubs, and universities by definition exclude, sometimes by race or gender or standardized test scores, but far more frequently by class divisions media ignore. Ostentation belongs nowhere in a nation founded on equality, but ostentation drives the entire entertainment industry. Airline travelers sometimes dismiss the great center of the nation as flyover land. Immense jets land at St. Louis and Denver, but to many coastal residents, only the coasts matter. In the sparsely populated central states, especially on the High plains, airliners move so far aloft that no one sees or hears them. But the de-Luxe and the Super Chief moved in plain view at high speed but almost within touch. At a lonely Kansas or Arizona grade crossing a boy or girl might look up at the silver blur and see Kirk Douglas, Katherine Hepburn, or Marilyn Monroe gazing back.”


Jumping to Present, Stilgoe mentions those gazing kind of windows. “Most Amtrak cars feature tiny windows and other airliner-like characteristics because 1980′s industrial designers intended that trains resemble aircraft. Designers abandoned such thinking when they created Acela:the giant windows, the plate-glass partitions between cars, the wide seats and comfortable footrests, and other amenities immediately make passengers aware that Acela defines a change….Design historians-and the elderly-recognize theses features as 1950s retro despite the electric outlets for laptop commuters. As metropolitan highways clog, and shuttle-service airline passengers complain about bus-service-in-the-sky inconvenience and rudeness from airline employees and TSA guards alike, marketing firms focus on people who will pay extra for short-distance rail services prototyped by Acela…Articles in the Journal of Travel Research and other periodicals emphasize the growing attraction of amenities other than speed….Acela service amply rewards close scrutiny. Still, Acela travels over our grandpa’s railroad. It’s not about speed! As Stilgoe writes: “..the trains move only marginally faster than the Metroliners the Penn Central operated between New York and Washington in the early 1970s…most places they travel at a little over 110 mph, just as the Super Chief and so many trains did circa 1950. What proves intriguing about Acela has little to do with speed, but with exclusivity and frequency welded to comfort if not to luxury.  

de-Luxe!  Acela offers an intellectual feast to any sociology-minded passenger, especially in first class. The train is relatively expensive to ride and its food service is exorbitant, for all that food tends to be good. When the train is not full, business-class passengers drawn to each other by visual cues–similar books, Blackberries or other wireless devices, even upscale shopping bags or European newspapers-often stoke up conversations; they may change seats or walk to the snack car together for muffins or sandwiches or wine.  The alert eavesdropper discovers that seat changes often lead to the exchange of telephone numbers or business cards. Certain recurrent phrases float through conversations usually relating to the decided superiority of Acela trains over ordinary Amtrak ones or the freedoms offered by unassigned seats. Strangers remark to one another how discerning Acela passengers are, something that matters more and more as the sun goes down and windows become mirrors that reveal much about what money buys. Perhaps making connections among like-minded others matters a great deal to passengers in their twenties, not only in terms of career or business but socially. Acela rolls like a private club, its tickets the price of entry, and hosts a definable cohort of well-dresed, upwardly mobile men and women in their late twenties.


Just like Acela and other classy trains, urban entrepreneurship, economic development, and placemaking is about “the small but growing number of young people becoming wealthy and wanting something other than televised glamour.”  For Philadelphia,VIADUCTgreene seeks to create amenity and interest for just those people.  The time is now. Time to get it right. Time to move on with VIADUCTgreene’s holistic visioning, ambitious directed goals and directed action.

Today. ”One in four Philadelphia jobs has been wiped out since 1970, which stands in stark contrast to the success of New York, Washington, and Boston in registering job gains over the same period.”   What will it be? Mass transit or de Luxe?

As Stilgoe concludes chapter “Threshold,”… “Building a High-Speed Train System for California, a 2000 report by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, makes it clear that the envisioned ridership differs from that riding urban mass transit….Interested observers in other places have realized this and have begun to map the old routes the want to restore.. their counterparts in other states will discover that on the east and west costs the rich have already began abandoning highway travel for Acela and other fast trains…the triumph of Acela and the documented success of older luxury trains now come together in tightly argued scenarios. Clogged highways, straitened airline service, and economic divide combine to make fast, luxurious trains something well-to-do people begin to desire.

Today, public-private in our greatest of parks means Phillip Anshutz’s Xanterra. “Xanterra specializes in tourism in U.S. National Parks, and has a presence in Yellowstone and Grand Canyon, and a number of other national and state parks,” most recently (and controversially), Glacier Park.  The Fred Harvey legacy maintains. So does de luxe over the rails. Xanterra operates the Grand Canyon Railway in Arizona on the line originally built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Ride First-Class in Philadelphia built passenger cars from the Budd Company! Another story for another day.

de-Luxe. world-class. High Line, anybody?

below, Philadelphia built. Budd 1937 Observation lounge car Navajo (extant in 2014 at the Colorado Railroad Museum)…


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News. 2013 wrap up.

Jolly Corner.Peter Miltonabove. “The Jolly Corner,” a Henry James tale, describes the adventures of Spencer Brydon as he encounters a “sensation more complex than had ever before found itself consistent with sanity.” Peter Milton. Resist-ground etching and engraving on paper. 1971.

collected News items HERE

VIADUCTgreene. 2013 wrap up.

This week, we presented the VIADUCTgreene Prospectus for 2014.

With that, only here on the blog, a personal review of 2013.

Because I know. My background, from a lifetime of interests, invented it. My investment, in 2010, developed it. It is ambitious but it isn’t rocket science. Expand a virtually gridlocked, decade long endeavor about the making of a neighborhood park beyond one neighborhood. Do what I do as a gardenmaker, consult the genius of the place. Site analysis. Embrace and study the site for what it is  -a  3-mile opportunity like I have never before seen in any other city. Past, Present, Possible.  Then, with so many words and pictures, narrate it. Then, allow people to dream about it, talk about it, form it. Then, make it happen.

VIADUCTgreene was invented in 2010 with clearly stated directed goals and motivations.  In December 2012, I found those goals hopelessly confused and being altered by a noneffective, intransigent and increasingly compromised board of directors. Without having had an opportunity to donate the intellectual property used to create it, I was removed from the board (of myself and three other individuals) in January 2013. I brought suit against the corporation on February 26, 2013 for copyright infringement. I required the board of corporation to change its name (they did in April, to Friends of the Rail Park). I retrieved control of the domain, www.viaductgreene.org. It had been “requisitioned” by a board member, supposedly as “the organization’s property,” on February 13, 2013, the informative and widely lauded content withheld from the public. I moved on with vital supporters interested in furthering VIADUCTgreene’s founding goals with a new nonprofit incorporation, VIADUCTgreene name, goals and brand intact. Some accomplishments and a lot of opportunity relinquished to advance greater freedoms, transparency and good. Truth be told, the relationship had gone downhill fast in January 2011 when the board prevented any action that could have possibly worked to save the twenty-eight years moribund 4-track railroad traversing the 9th Street Branch. The scrapping went ahead with no one advocating for priceless authenticity. Having lost such a valuable insitu element was a major failing of the organization. There were others. “A physical world created from a combination of ideas and building materials through a frequently contentious process of politics, social interaction, financial and legal maneuvers that encompass professional practice”  Laurie Olin has described our place. Having watched Friends of the High Line stewardship maneuver not unexpectedly into court actions should have been prognostication enough that our road forward isn’t all about being agreeable. It wasn’t. 

So, you could say I founded both organizations!  What I had nothing to do with, and this by design, was the creation of a neighborhood improvement district. That was and remains another idea. Not necessarily a bad idea at all, just an especially politicized idea created out of a single neighborhood that has evolves accordingly.

I can’t comment on any other organization’s stated goals, but I will include, anyone making statements that constructions are “slated to begin,” or raising funds for maintenance of a park, with no funding in place or permissions to build is foolhardy, if not willfully blind.  SEPTA may “own” the so-called “SEPTA Spur,” but Reading International has long held rights of easement over it to their property, the North Viaduct, or 9th Street Branch, and has upheld those property rights. While VIADUCTgreene supports any movement that forwards renovation of the c.1892 steel bridges, a full buildout over contested property makes no sense whatsoever from a phasing or funding standpoint. It may make some sense if one’s interest is creating a neighborhood improvement district. The previously suggested property surtax would develop into quite a fortune and power base for those in control of it; little wonder it was roundly defeated. More about that here.

As a scholar of the site, walking and talking with an interested and engaged public over it every week of the year, I can’t help but continue to learn all about it. Over so many walks, meetings, and expansive research, many facts have come to light. First and foremost, VIADUCTgreene is great idea! A 3-mile corridor with no street-crossings for recreation, art, and interpretation of Philadelphia’s largely unremarked but vastly important role in the industrialization of the world. Compelling and Doable? YES!

Underscoring Philadelphia’s historically important place in horticulture and garden-making with the creation of a world-class, post-industrial garden. Imperative and Doable?  YES!

The hard work of many, discovery has confirmed founding ideas. Traditional transit use of the corridor is generations away (service providers have far greater priorities). While private property concerns cloud earlier and current ideas about Callowhill neighborhood concepts, what about VIADUCTgreene’s larger directed goals?  Compelling, Imperative, Doable, and FUN!  But, time is of the essence

We are planning a busy 2014. As consensus builds to create a “game-changing” 3-mile Gardenpark in Philadelphia, I offer some thoughts about how Center City District’s (CCD) “Phase 1″ plans, plans conceived merely as one ingredient in a recipe to levy a surtax on property owners in the Chinatown North-Callowhill Community, have confused our holistic visioning, Specifically, some of the challenges include:

VIADUCTgreene seeks to involve all property owners, any and all potential supporters and users in transparent process of creation. Reading International is the sole owner of 9th Street Branch component of the site, and controls easement to it over SEPTA owned property.  Full build-out of CCD’s Phase-1 annuls that easement and ready access to that property. This activity disrupts progress toward positive engagement, not only with a major stakeholder, but with so many possible supporters.

VIADUCTgreene seeks thoughtful and considered phasing of any construction.  The CCD Phase-1 build-out in full expponentially raises the cost of the project by closing the most affordable and useful access point to the larger site.

VIADUCTgreene seeks to create a 3-mile site that embraces and cultivates neighborhood diversity. The homogenizing effect of the CCD’s presence in powerfully diverse neighborhoods is unwarranted and largely unwanted.  Previously defeated CCD suggested 7% surtax on property is onerous and in no way creates a park. Lack of holistic civic visioning from the 2010 ideas about a neighborhood park cripples progress..

VIADUCTgreene seeks the support of of the public at large. Claims that donating monies now will hasten construction or contribute toward a “maintenance fund” hamper sincere efforts toward a transparent process of holistic creation and implementation.  How contributions now will hasten permissions to break-ground or change the overall questionably fundable and troublesome “Phase-1″ require explanation.  Consistent with similar cases, there needs to be an agreement in place for construction before funding (as examples…1)-the CCD’s agreement through the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation at Sister Cities Park, 2)-the CCD’s lease of Dilworth Plaza with the City of Philadelphia [a project now substantially over budget and behind schedule], 3)-the approved lease of a 50-acre property surrounding the East Park West Basin in Strawberry Mansion by the City to the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development and sublease of the property for the creation of the East Park Leadership Conservation Center, a collaborative project of the National Audubon Society and Outward Bound).

 VIADUCTgreene seeks the support of the vital corporate community in its creation and implementation. The CCD’s oft made remark of “not wanting a Mercedes Benz for Philadelphia,” in addition to flipping off a certain historically excellent international brand, reflects an attitude that mediocrity suffices for Philadelphia. It doesn’t!

VIADUCTgreene seeks to interpret the proud history of Philadelphia labor and age of the great machine with a world-class, well built project. The tattered state of affairs between the Post Brothers and Philadelphia union labor does not bode well for CCD’s Phase-1 (building to Post Brothers front stoop??)

VIADUCTgreene seeks to create a world-class Gardenpark, consistent with Philadelphia’s notable place in  the history of garden making and urbanism. With no apologies. The time is now. Time to get it right. Time to move on with VIADUCTgreene’s holistic visioning, ambitious directed goals and directed action.

Throughout 2014 we look forward to your help and consideration.

Directly and immediately, there are things YOU can do!

Happy New Year

-Paul vanMeter


City Branch railing


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