Southwark Meets the World

From Harry K’s Philadelphia Encyclopedia

Cross section of the Southwark Group piers. Most early 20th century piers in Philadelphia were built like this. Southwark Group, 1915 | Philadelphia City Archives.

Two huge warehouse piers, 38 and 40 South, jut 551 feet into the Delaware River at the bottom of Christian Street. Jointly known as the “Southwark Group,” the brightly painted piers date from 1915 and are each 357,000 square feet in size. They were once the city’s busiest docks. For instance, international shipper Norton, Lilly & Company operated an around-the-world cargo service from Pier 40 in the 1920s. Vessels would travel twenty-seven thousand miles between visits to homeport Philadelphia.

In the 1950s, the space between Piers 38 and 40 was filled in and paved to accommodate tractor-trailers. The buildings are used for warehousing these days, including a self-storage business. Few boats ever tie up to the Southwark Group Piers anymore.

How ships docked at the Southwark Group. Philadelphia City Archives

About the author

Harry Kyriakodis, author of Philadelphia's Lost Waterfront (2011), Northern Liberties: The Story of a Philadelphia River Ward (2012), and The Benjamin Franklin Parkway (2014), regularly gives walking tours and presentations on unique yet unappreciated parts of the city. A founding/certified member of the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides, he is a graduate of La Salle University and Temple University School of Law, and was once an officer in the U.S. Army Field Artillery. He has collected what is likely the largest private collection of books about the City of Brotherly Love: over 2700 titles new and old.

Send a message!



Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
With A Little Help From Frank Furness, We Evaluate 10 New Projects

With A Little Help From Frank Furness, We Evaluate 10 New Projects

June 23, 2017  |  Vantage

Hidden City architecture critic Jason Lempieri summons the spirit of Frank Furness in this appraisal of Philly's newest urban forms > more

Row House: Past And Its Future

Row House: Past And Its Future

June 20, 2017  |  Vantage

Contributor Hilary Jay dives deep into the evolution and politics of contemporary row house design with Interface Studio Architects > more

An Artful Adaptation In Bella Vista

An Artful Adaptation In Bella Vista

June 15, 2017  |  News

A contemporary art gallery and residence on Bainbridge Street goes green with reuse and sustainable renovation. John Henry Scott has the story > more

Behind The Bar At Dirty Frank's

Behind The Bar At Dirty Frank’s

June 13, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

The Shadow saddles up to the bar at Dirty Frank's with the backstory on one of Philadelphia's most beloved dives > more

With New Penn's Landing Plan, A Central Park

With New Penn’s Landing Plan, A Central Park

June 12, 2017  |  News

Lost in the intense news cycle: major news about the at-long-last redevelopment of Penn's Landing. Nathaniel Popkin has a look > more

With Bloomsday Near, Remembering The Rosenbach Brothers

With Bloomsday Near, Remembering The Rosenbach Brothers

June 9, 2017  |  Vantage

Every year in June a crowd gathers outside of the Rosenbach Museum & Library to celebrate James Joyce's seminal literary masterpiece "Ulysses" with a block party and day full of public readings. Karen Chernick gives us the backstory on the Rosenbach Company and two rare book dealers whose legacy is enshrined on Delancey Place > more