Graffiti Pier (Pier 18) – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura

Graffiti Pier (Pier 18)

The abandoned coal loading dock is a canvas for unsanctioned art.  


On the banks of the Central Delaware River, the eerie remains of a coal loading dock that’s been transformed into a street art hotspot sit on a vacant pier, covered with years of graffiti. After its previous owner, Conrail, officially closed the pier in 1991, graffiti artists took over, using the site’s concrete pillars as canvases and creating an illegal outdoor art gallery filled with some of Philadelphia’s finest street art.

However, after two decades of illegal art-making and trespassing, the Philadelphia Police Department eventually began enforcing the no-trespassing rule, leaving the location nearly undisturbed for a year. In July 2019, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation signed a Memorandum of Understanding to purchase the property and adjacent land from current owner, Conrail, for development, revealing a plan for a park that would incorporate the pier. 

Initial plans for the park, which is slated for completion in 2024, have been developed. It remains open for visiting during the daytime.

The pier structure itself is concrete, consisting of two colonnades supporting a roof, thus creating what is architecturally considered an arcade. There are other concrete forms on the pier, which are also decorated.

A range of graffiti is present, most notably tags, but also stencils, stickers, artistic representations, painting, general lettering, and geometric forms. Most of the pieces are at eye level or slightly above; however, some are in hard-to-see places.

Know Before You Go

The Graffiti Pier is private property (as of July 2019) but is open to visitors during daylight hours and is easily accessible through an open gate.

It is currently in the process of being turned into a park, which will retain much of its current character while adding important features like restrooms, trash cans, and seating areas. The park is scheduled for completion in 2024.

Also: several violent crimes have been reported at this location, so it's best to go with a group and during daylight. The structure is eroding and is not the most structurally sound place in the city.

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