Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lost Bridge of the Week-- November 9th

The Great Arch

Crossing over Mulberry (Arch) Street at Front Street

Not impressed? If this was 1690 you'd be eating your own ass out with excitement over this thing!
                       Sometimes a bridge is so badass that an entire long-ass street gets named after it FOREVER. This is that bridge... the reason we call Arch Street "Arch Street" and not "Fucktograph Lane". The drawing above is conjectural, of course. The real bridge was probably much thinner.
                     Back in the primordial village/city of Philadelphia of the 17th Century, it was a pain in the ass to walk/ride up Front Street because there was this massive dip in it right at the corner of Mulberry Street. In 1690, some guys named Benjamin Chambers, Thomas Pearl, and Francis Rawle presented a petition to build a massive stone arch there so that travelers on Front Street could just walk over Mulberry instead. The little dinky 66-foot long pile of stones that ended up being built was the most high-tech piece of engineering in Colonial Proto-America.
                     The first written record of the bridge after it was built was written in 1698. In it, some dude named Gabriel Thomas describes how people often carted shit off huge ships docked at the Mulberry Street Wharf and brought the stuff down Mulberry Street under a huge arch. In 1704, there's an account of the city/village coming down on some dickhead for blocking the underside of the arch with his lumber.
                     The arch was apparently a piece of shit that didn't last very long because in the same year, plans were discussed on how to repair it. The whole next decade, accounts about how dangerous the arch was for "man and beast" pop up just about every year. It wasn't until 1712 that the arch had fences on either side to prevent people from falling off.  By 1713 the underside of the arch was becoming all fucked up and by 1718 the bridge itself was considered "impassible". In 1720, the arch had become a public nuisance and probably one of the city's first major pieces of blight. It was finally pulled down in 1721.
                    In April 1723, orders came down the line to level out Front Street so that it would meet Mulberry at the corner and there wouldn't be a dip there anymore. In 1727, Six years after the arch was completely removed, the first written account referring to Mulberry as Arch Street appears. Somehow, people loved this dangerous-ass pile of rocks so much that the street going under it carries that name to this day. That shit's fucked up, yo. Mulberry Street was officially renamed Arch Street in 1853.
                    Buildings that showed evidence of the previous height of Front Street stood long afterward, and became the clue that later historians used to start researching the ravings of old people that claimed that there used to be an arch over Arch Street. The site of the Great Arch is half covered with I-95 South, but if you go there you will see how Front Street gradually dips down to meet Mulberry... err... Arch Street.


1 comment:

  1. Here's a Philadelphia Whiskey ad (not actually made in Philly I believe) depicting the arch for some bizarre reason: