Flashing back to the late 1990s, an unknown enterprising nightclub operator saw promise in an untapped market. While most of the city no longer earned their living from the docks and wharfs of the city’s rivers, this operator heard the silent clamoring of the city’s youth for a sexy yet salty nighttime party experience. The records shed no light on whether the S.S. Philadelphia nee Sandria was docked at pier 40 north or was brought to this slip, the ex-ferry S.S. Philadelphia came into being to convey yearning partygoers to all the romance of Philadelphia’s waterfront.
Though there’s a bit of buyer beware not heeded here, in the defense of whomever tried to breath life into this nautical Frankenstein, there are structural obstacles to adaptive reuse of former working river craft. The S.S. United States, arguably the apotheosis of the transatlantic liner, has not attracted the attention of developers. The Schuylkill has had more success in appearing more coastal than the heavily industrialized Delaware. The disaster at Heat in 2000 also probably weighs heavily on investors. The fact is that while the impulse for reinvention of our riverfronts is strong, the reality of sunken tugboats leeching oil and burned out ferries mars the image of our rivers as a Jimmy Buffetized chill zone.
Ther may have been something to partyting on the S.S. Philadelphia and all things have their time and place but who can deny the dubiousness of packing an old ferry with crowds pulsing to “All I Have to Give” while the rank odors of the oily Delaware waft over the party patios? The hot tub situated at the stern of the S.S. Philadelphia is just as perplexing. Alcohol has an ability to take you away but perhaps not far enough.
Philadelphia’s only ferry boat nightclub, the S.S. Philadelphia, is not long for this world. On August 28, 2008 the Army Corps of Engineers authorized a plan by West Highland Holdings, L.P. to construct a 43 story, 264 unit high rise on the 40N pier. What’s standing in the way of this move is the poor S.S. Philadelphia, which caught fire in 1999 and whose being strangled by her own mooring. Highland proposes to scrap the ferry and demolish the whole of the pier 40N structure to build a new public park and the high rise on new pier on 949 steel pilings.
Until then, the S.S. Philadelphia lies a moulderin’ in its grave.