The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

centuries came

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned last week, a humble narrator boarded an Amtrak train for a day trip to Philadelphia with an ambitiously drawn up shot list. My plan for the day involved a granular series of photos of several of the Schuylkill River bridges, with an eventual sunset destination at the Benjamin Franklin Bridge along the Delaware River.

My usual habit of remote scouting, using Google Maps to plan my shot list, was utilized and I found myself acuttling around in the City of Brotherly Love on the 7th of March, in 2022. The weather was warm (middle 60’s – low 70’s) and somewhat humid. The forecast for the day was a bit ominous, with a line of rain and storms meant to impact the area in the late afternoon or early evening. I was glad that I had worn a cotton sweatshirt rather than the fleece one that the calendar normally indicates, and had left the filthy black raincoat back in Queens. I had my full kit with me, including an umbrella, and arrived in Philadelphia just after 7:30 a.m. I got to work early.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After visiting the power plant discussed in last Friday’s post, my next stop was at the South Street Bridge over the Schuylkill River.

Pictured is the 2010 version of the span, which replaced a 1920 bridge that was coming apart at its seams. As mentioned in earlier posts, my plan was to exploit the Schuylkill River Trail for photographic pursuit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As part of the South Street Bridge reconstruction, the City of Philadelphia also created a “boardwalk” connected to the bridge project. Apparently, some sort of Federal Economic Stimulus money was applied to the creation of this pathway. Long ramps carry pedestrians and bicyclists from the streets above down to the waterfront.

I was shooting this series of photos all “artsy fartsy” with a filter that acts in the manner of sunglasses and cuts the light down to nocturnal levels. That’s why you’re not seeing the multitudes of people that I saw with my eyes, as they’d have to be standing stick still for at least thirty seconds to appear as anything other than misty ghosts and blurred shadows.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The boardwalk continued northwards – or at least I think it was north. Also as mentioned in a prior post, I really had no sense of direction regarding the cardinal meridians here. In NYC, I can tell you exactly which direction is which, based on a few landmarks – the Empire State Building and the like – but geospatial awareness is something that develops with experience and this was a day trip, after all.

I can tell you, however, that this boardwalk was an absolute magnet for the population of the surrounding neighborhoods. Moms with kids, dog walkers, people eating breakfast or just having a stroll. There was a cool vibe in the air, no doubt due to this being a warm and bright – if somewhat overcast – day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Philadelphia seems to have several sections which would qualify as “downtown,” although for some dopey reason they call their downtown “Center City.” They should really bring in consultants from New York City when they’re naming things hereabouts. This shot is looking up the Schuylkill River in a direction I’d posit as being north, towards 30th street station.

I’m told that this “zone” is where the gentrification forges are constantly billowing locally grown fire and artisanal smoke. Nearby, and to the left/presumptive west, in the shot above, is a section of the city referred to as “University City.” You’ll find the campus of the University of Pennsylvania there. The high speed road on the left side of the shot is the Schuylkill Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My next subject was the Walnut Street Bridge. The masonry piers are original to an 1883 crossing which was demolished in 1988. The three modern day truss bridge segments carry two motor vehicle, two pedestrian, and a singular bike travel lanes (bike was added during a retrofit of the span in 2012). The modern bridge opened in 1990. It’s 60 feet wide and with its approaches some 2,408.3 feet long.

More tomorrow…

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 25, 2022 at 11:00 am

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