Hog Island

Around a year ago, Andrew Evans – of Reinterred City fame – sent me this image of a place called Hog Island, Philadelphia.

Hog Island was a shipbuilding yard – in fact, we read, it was "the largest shipyard in the world" during WWI.
    The yard covered 846 acres and comprised 250 buildings. It had 80 miles of railroad track; 3,000,000 feet of underground wiring; a hospital; YMCA, hotel, cafeteria, trade school, 12 service restaurants and 5 mess halls. Twenty locomotives, 465 freight cars and 165 motor trucks hauled material within the yard. Hog Island's telephone traffic was equivalent to that of a city of 140,000 inhabitants.
And though Hog Island is now barely known outside of war historical circles, it was a true industrial behemoth:
    There never before had been conceived or executed a plan for the fabrication of ships on such an enormous scale. Every steel fabricating plant in America, 88 of them in all, from Montreal to Kansas City, funneled steel plate into Hog Island and machinery and gear from hundreds of manufacturing plants all over the country poured into the mammoth assembly plant.
It was "a sizable piece of land – about a thousand acres – between Philadelphia and Chester, south of what was known then as League island," but it was also something of a manmade artifact, an artificial terrain.
Partially constructed from dredged fill in a "glorified bog," the industrialized earthworks were then turned – as you can see in the image, above – into a kind of machine-island, built to order.
And while this has nothing to do with architecture, I was fascinated to learn, as a former resident of Philadelphia who never knew this, that Philadelphia's hoagie sandwiches are actually named after the lunches once eaten by workers on Hog Island.
In any case, this island of ship-assembly machines is now lost to the muck, bogs, and marshes – and entombed beneath the concrete runways of Philadelphia International Airport.
Perhaps this could even kick off a new series of architectural guidebooks, written to explore that little-known terrestrial subcategory: manmade islands lost beneath airports...

(Thanks, Andrew!)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, the very best bit is that the "largest shipyard in the world during WW1" actually produced a grand total of zero ships during the war, and was in fact a titanic boondoggle (although Hog Island did manage to launch a million-odd tons of shipping after the war was over).

October 02, 2007 2:23 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

They should have converted it into a enormous hoagie factory capable of producing millions of hoagies a day. Rail cars would funnel in roast beef from Kansas City, bacon from Montreal, capicola from Chicago, and Amoroso's rolls all the way from Upper Chichester, PA.

October 02, 2007 6:13 PM  
Blogger sevensixfive said...

Hoagies have nothing to do with architecture??!! Geoff, aren't you violating the terms of your own manifesto?

October 02, 2007 8:13 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

There was an unpublished sub-clause to that manifesto, that thou shalt violate one's own manifesto, always...

October 03, 2007 10:49 PM  

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