Editor’s Note: A version of this story was published in the Fall 2022 issue of Extant, a publication of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.
Unlisted Philadelphia highlights interesting and significant Philadelphia buildings not yet listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. To learn more about the local designation process and how you can participate in nominating a building to the Philadelphia Register, visit the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia’s website for more information.
Market Street Bridge
Location: 30th and Market Streets
Architect: Charles H. Stevens
Each day, 15,000 vehicles and 6,000 pedestrians cross the Market Street Bridge connecting Center City and West Philadelphia. But at street level, it’s easy to overlook this vital link in the city’s infrastructure.
Early Schuylkill River crossings were by ferry or floating bridges, and the first covered, wooden “permanent bridge” was designed by Timothy Palmer in 1806. Damaged by fire, it was remodeled with a railroad track in 1850. That bridge also burned, replaced by another wooden structure in 1875. An iron, cantilevered bridge followed in 1888.
Our current arched span of granite and iron, by Charles H. Stevens, the Department of City Transit’s engineer of design, was completed in 1932. Best appreciated looking up from the Schuylkill River Trail, the bridge is adorned with Art Deco faces and large lanterns. Victorian-style lamps with clusters of globes glow at street level. Four granite eagles perch at the ends–gifts from New York’s Penn Station, which was infamously demolished in 1963 and kick-started the modern preservation movement. In 1993, Philadelphia illuminated the underside of the bridge. We can honor it further by listing it on the City’s historic register.