Newkirk Viaduct Monument – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura

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Newkirk Viaduct Monument

This 15-foot tall obelisk commemorating the Philadelphia-Baltimore railroad connection sat neglected for over a century. 


The Newkirk Viaduct Monument is all that remains of the Newkirk Viaduct, a bridge that completed the first railroad between Baltimore and Philadelphia in 1838.

To celebrate the bridge, the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad commissioned a memorial designed by Thomas Ustick Walter, a future Architect of the Capitol. The viaduct replaced a floating pontoon bridge that linked the opposing sides of the Schuylkill River. 

One of the earliest jobs of the bridge may have been to transport the seven blocks of white marble used to construct the obelisk. The monument weighs around 12,000 pounds and includes the names of 51 significant people responsible for the creation of the bridge. The monument itself is named after Matthew Newkirk, the company’s director, and was completed in 1839. 

After 1840, the obelisk was rarely mentioned after the original 800-foot bridge was carried away by a flood two years after it opened. The replacement bridge burned down in 1863 and after various alterations, it was eventually destroyed in 1900. The train line itself is notable for having transported Union soldiers out of Philadelphia to the frontlines of the Civil War. 

The monument was moved from its original location sometime after 1927, and spent the next eight-plus decades next to the tracks that became Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. Surrounded by foliage, almost unreachable, it was most easily glimpsed from a train window. In 2016, the base and its obelisk were moved back toward the river’s edge, along a new extension of the Schuylkill River Trail. 

Know Before You Go

Watch for bikers or anyone moving around the bend quickly when visiting the site as it's around somewhat of a blind curve. 

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