The River and the City: Archaeology of the Delaware Riverfront (video)
This short film (approx. 20 mins.) documents the archaeological investigations of the Meadows Site (36PH35), in South Philadelphia, and provides a glimpse of some of the extraordinary historic resources that are likely to be uncovered during the future re-development of the city’s Central Delaware Waterfront area. These excavations were performed by the Cultural Resources Group of Louis Berger & Associates, Inc. in the fall and winter of 1988-89, prior to the construction of new access ramps for I-95. At the time, this dig represented the largest archaeological investigation of the city’s historic waterfront. The project itself was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and funded by monies from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
The Meadows Site extended across some 1,600 feet of the city’s historic riverfront, and was bounded by Columbus Avenue (then Delaware Avenue) on the east, I-95 on the west, South Street on the north, and Catherine Street on the south. Archaeological excavations sought to study the development of the waterfront over time, including its gradual extension east into the Delaware River, as well as to recover evidence of the residential, commercial, and industrial properties that occupied the waterfront during the 17th through 20th centuries. In the end, site excavations succeeded in unearthing several intact, and extraordinarily well-preserved sections of mid-late 18th century wooden wharves and other waterfront features (ca. 1760-1790), the remains of long-demolished 19th century domestic and commercial structures, and large numbers of artifacts dating to the period 1800-1870. All together, these discoveries allowed archaeologists to develop a much clearer idea about what life was like for the people who lived along the city’s bustling docks and piers at various points in our shared history.
This documentary, like the overall project, was sponsored and produced by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. The film was shot by Richard Robinson of Silverwood Studios, and edited at NFL Films in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. Though finished and intended for public dissemination in 1991, this film was never publicly broadcast or previously distributed to members of the general community. Permission to make this movie available through this website was generously granted to the PAF by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Engineering District 6-0, in July 2010.