Bartram’s Mile, a stretch of trail running through the historic Bartram’s Garden, opened fittingly on Earth Day this past weekend, becoming the first segment of the Schuylkill Banks located along the west side of the river.
The grand opening comes more than two years after its groundbreaking in November 2015, where then-Mayor Michael Nutter noted the trail’s significance: “It will showcase and highlight a part of the city that, quite honestly, many life-long Philadelphians have not had the opportunity to see or experience.”
Bartram’s Garden is located in southwest Philly, just across the river from Grays Ferry. The historic, 45-acre botanic garden is a National Historic Landmark and dates back to 1728, when botanist John Bartram purchased 102 acres of land along the Schuylkill and started collecting North American plants from all over the country and bring them to his home in Philadelphia.
But for years, while Center City residents have had easy riverfront access via the $18 million Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, getting to Bartram’s or even acknowledging its existence has proven difficult for residents, even for those who live right next to it.
That’s changed now, with the opening of the $6 million Bartram’s Mile, which runs from the new 56th Street Plaza and ends, a bit abruptly, at the edge of the future Schuylkill Crossing swing bridge. Here, in a dozen photos, are some of the sights you’ll see along the trail.
Bartram’s Mile was designed by Andropogon Associates. The easiest starting point is the new 56th Street Plaza, which is located at 56th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard. There’s parking available, and plenty of seating with views that look straight toward the Center City skyline.
The trail continues up through Bartram’s orchard, which is the largest community orchard in the city. You’ll also pass the restored Ann Bartram Carr Garden and the main Visitor’s Center at the top of the hill.
The trail continues past the main Bartram’s Garden parking area and winds down toward the river, under rail bridge toward Botanic Avenue. Here, a new crosswalk greets you at Botanic Avenue.
Botanic Avenue is lined with new street lighting and a rain garden for stormwater management. It leads to the last stretch of Bartram’s Mile before reaching the end.
Much of the landscaping along this stretch of trail is still in the works, but there are some benches along the way and even some carved out nooks among the trees to sit and hang out.
Grays Ferry Crescent across the river and the Center City skyline can be seen from nearly every point on this stretch of Bartram’s Mile.
The historic Newkirk Monument, a 20-ton marble structure designed by architect Thomas Ustick Walter, sits near the end of the mile. Once laden with graffiti and somewhat left for abandonment along the Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, it was relocated to the west banks of the Schuylkill in 2016.
The trail will eventually connect to the Schuylkill Crossing swing bridge, seen above, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to cross the river over to the Grays Ferry Crescent. That project is anticipated to begin construction sometime this year.
- Bartram’s Mile to open on Earth Day [Curbed Philly]
- Bartram's Mile Link to Schuylkill Banks Breaks Ground [Curbed Philly]
- Bartram’s Garden Gets Makeover with Restoration of 19th-Century Flower Garden [Curbed Philly]