Girard Point (Tidewater) Grain Elevator

December 19, 2007

The Necessity for Ruins    -    -    Phillyist    -    Digg

Just by chance, about a month ago I met Chris Daugherty of The Necessity for Ruins through Brad Maule ( Chris writes an fascinating blog about the forgotten and decaying parts of Philadelphia, and having heard about the impending implosion of the Tidewater Grain Elevator, was in the process of researching a way to get inside for some final photos.

Originally built in 1914 as the Girard Point Grain Elevator, the structure served the city during the decline of Philadelphia's days as a grain-exporting power. Recently, its fate was sealed by a failure to secure the proper permits for enormous advertising banners, the last possible use for the building. Its history is discussed in detail in The Necessity for Ruins and Jessica Chiu's excellent narrative in The Philadelphia Independent.

A few days after I met Chris, he had worked out the details and set up a visit for Wednesday, December 19. Five slightly-nervous explorers met at 8:00 AM with Harry Hagin, site superintendent for Camden Iron and Metal, the site owner. A few minutes of off-road driving in decidedly non-off-road vehicles led us to the foot of the enormous 245-ft. tower. With a few safety admonitions, but the general attitude "You're big boys, don't kill yourselves," we were set free to explore. Awesome.

I was extremely anxious to get inside, and UP the tower, but savored the interesting views outdoors.

This crane later attached a wrecking ball (shown below) and began pounding on the cylindrical silos, continuing their demolition.

A truck rumbles southbound on the Girard Point Bridge

Brad looks up the main tower

Chris takes a photo on the west side

Our fascinated group split up, exploring the site in whatever way our interests led us. After walking the exterior and watching a the wrecking ball bash the silos a few times, it was time to go inside. This was the way in.

Interior, ground level. Holes in the floor showed dark pits twenty feet below, which, according to The Philadelphia Independent, are the rumored homes of "dog-sized rats."

We went back outside for some fresh air, but our attempt was a failure due to the sludge smell from the nearby wastewater treatment plant. Brad and I noticed Chris and another visitor couldn't be found. We figured they had gone upward, but we hadn't seen any stairs. We hadn't looked in the right place, a column near the entrance, on the left side of the photo below.

The stairway was covered with concrete debris from the wrecking ball striking the walls above. If the whole stairway was like that, it would have been a rough climb. But the rubble only covered the first ten stairs.

A long climb begins with a few challenges. A missing stair...

...and a broken one.

The climb was near endless, about 150 feet.

The first floor above the ground level.

Looking down a hole in the floor.

The northern wall of the building was open and gave some sweeping views of the city.

Another hole in the ground, with this view:

Looking east: a close-up of the rubble on the silos in front of the Girard Point Bridge.

Citizens Bank Park

Sunoco tanks, rubble, and a mural in front of the University City skyline

Brad takes in the views

As awesome as these views were, we had much more climbing to do. Looking down from the third level.

Looking down from the fourth level.

Ankle-high guardrails attempt to prevent a fall to the death.

Looking down from the highest level below the roof. Before climing to the roof, we had to face a ladder that scared me enough to forget to photograph it.

Finally, the roof, and its views that speak for themselves.

Platte Bridge

Walt Whitman Bridge, Lincoln Financial Field, and Interstate 95

Trucks on the Girard Point Bridge. In the distance is the Naval Yard and coast of New Jersey.

Me and the skyline. Photo by Brad Maule,


The structure was imploded on December 23, 2007.

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