Not too far from the heart of Center City Philadelphia is a place called Graffiti Pier (also known as Pier 124). For decades, this collection of urban art has been organically growing in relative obscurity. Gritty and off the beaten path, it used to be a landing pier owned by Conrail for ships transporting coal for distribution along the Eastern Seaboard and on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Abandoned in 1991, the concrete walls and passageways have become the perfect canvases for graffiti artists.
You get a sense of how beautiful and special (if illicit) a spot Graffiti Pier is as you walk along rows of concrete pillars full of tags, stencils, paintings, lettering, stickers, artistic expressions, and explosions of geometric forms and bright colors. It also has a fantastic view of the city and the Delaware River.
Graffiti Pier will be a protected public park in a few years. Until then, it remains unmarked and hard to find for those unfamiliar with the place (we had to ask a small group of teenagers who pointed at an obscure opening). Take caution when visiting – it’s best to go during daylight and with a group. Also, take care as you walk along the banks – there are no safeguards along the river and some ground erosion with open ditches that one could easily fall into.