When the Reading Viaduct opened in 1893, Philadelphia was a booming industrial city; the elevated railway quickly became an essential artery in the beating heart of manufacturing on the East Coast. Now, advocates want to turn it into a park that will wind its way through the city.
But as a short documentary from PBS illustrates, transforming the industrial icon into a usable public space will be a serious challenge. In the video, landscape gardner Paul VanMeter, who passed away this spring, gives us a tour of the rail line, which is at turns covered in weeds, debris, or homeless encampments. But VanMeter's enthusiasm is infectious: He describes a plan that would breathe new life into "one of the greatest architectural spaces ever," resurrecting the icon for pedestrians, gardeners, and cyclists alike.
Though VanMeter passed away a few months ago unexpectedly, the nonprofit he founded is leading the charge to see his vision through to completion—following in the footsteps of cities like New York and Chicago, which are also working on their own respective post-industrial parks. Head over to Friends of the Rail Yard to find out more.