The Rail Park brings Callowhill a Place for All to Play
Come out and play! Philly's old Reading Viaduct has transformed into a vibrant new park!
The Reading Viaduct was abandoned more than 30 years ago when its rail line shut down, but today it houses a vibrant new space for people to come together, relax, and play above the city streets. Phase One of the elevated Rail Park has opened at Broad and Noble streets in Callowhill, and for families in a part of the city that lacks greenspace and recreational facilities, this is a wonderful development eight years in the making that mirrors the neighborhood’s ascendancy and shows what a community can do when it works together.
“It’s been a priority of ours to bring recreational areas and greenspace to every area of the city,” said Mayor Jim Kenney at the park’s opening last Thursday.
The Callowhill neighborhood has no libraries, no rec centers, and no public parks, so this means the world to families who live here. As the former industrial area—that has a more recent history of blight—is converting into a vibrant neighborhood, and its old industrial buildings are being reused, this Reading Viaduct is also being repurposed for the community.
On opening day, kids and their parents excitedly toured the park, which is filled with trees, stroller friendly paths, lots of multilevel platforms to climb and jump (and perfect for new walkers who need something to grab onto while they creep), and the clear favorite: the giant swings! Toward the end of Phase One, there is a row of bench-sized swings that adults and kids alike could not resist. People of all ages also enjoyed the unique aerial views of the city, and the public art included throughout the park.
As you reach the entrance at Broad and Noble streets, you first see an abandoned rail car—which hopefully will be transformed into a visitor center as development continues—and the park’s design also honors the site’s history. There are repurposed train rails (that kids like to use as balance beams) and a large copper stylized 1895 land use map that shows the railway’s past and all the industries that came into our city through this site.
The park connects Callowhill to Chinatown North, but the goal is for the park to eventually be three miles long, connecting many Philadelphia neighborhoods through greenspace. The completed park will be twice as long as New York’s High Line, and will even go underground at one point, using the old rail tunnel! The city also hopes this will spur the neighborhood’s continued growth, attracting even more businesses and residents.
The Rail Park has entrances at Broad and Noble streets (this entrance is stroller friendly), and up the stairs at Callowhill Street between 11th and 12th streets. The park is completely free and open to the public 24 hours. If you don’t live in the neighborhood, but you’d like to check out this incredible new space, the park is conveniently located a block away from Race-Vine Station on SEPTA’s Broad Street Line.
Photographs by Laura Swartz.