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Fifties Style Gridlock on the Streets of Philadelphia

We are back in Philadelphia once again, and this time it is for a traffic jam on one of the City’s thoroughfares. Surveyor General Thomas Holme began laying out a grid of streets in 1682 in a rectangular pattern according to William Penn’s plan that consisted of four distinct sections each centered on a public park and a square. Later in 1917, the mile-long Benjamin Franklin Parkway was constructed which cuts across a part of the city diagonally northwest beginning at City Hall.

This image taken some thirty years later shows the congestion that results from thousands of cars and trucks that overload the City’s grid during morning and evening rush hours. Some sixty-five-years after this photo was taken it gives us an excellent opportunity to observe a representative slice of vehicles on the streets at the time which are led by a “Bathtub” Nash four-door sedan. Tell us what you find of interest in this image courtesy of PhillyHistory.

12 responses to “Fifties Style Gridlock on the Streets of Philadelphia

  1. The bathtub Nash, as good a car as it was ,was all wrong for the postwar market, while the stepdown Hudson got it all right, as did GM with it’s beautiful postwar offerings. Beautify is in the eye of the beholder but few eyes wanted to buy a Nash, as my home town Nash dealer learned. The 1951 Chevrolet convertible, identical to the second car in line, was my college car. A fine car except for its powerglide transmission.

  2. Behind the Nash is a 1951 Chevy and a 1954 Ford.
    On the left is a 1954 Dodge wagon, a 1953 Plymouth taxi, and a 1952 Plymouth.
    I’m working on the name of the Taxi company. The name appears to be “Penn xxx Cab”
    CH8-2020. I had no luck with a reverse phone number lookup of 248-2020.

  3. An incredibly narrow street plus there appear to be (trolley?) tracks running down the very middle. Wonder how that worked?

  4. That “B.F. Parkway“ has no park (like a center median) or parkway greenery! The generous near sidewalk has no pedestrians using it. Paving stones in 1950s? Maybe necessary when it snows? El cheapo city fathers also left out or cut down any trees along the generous sidewalks. Looks like there is no street parking allowed. It would be even worse even with parking on one side. But no-one is going anywhere in this parking lot.

    Part of the crazy design includes a set of streetcar rails (never removed) or perhaps the Parkway leads another life at night becoming a freight train line (say it isn`t so!). I don`t see any overhead wires for electric streetcar, so why are the track rails still there?

    The one-way street crammed during rush hour or something ahead like construction crews have managed to tangle the entire length of the street in the photo. There must be a reverse direction version of the so-called Parkway nearby. One only hopes it flows better and is not as nasty as this mess. I can only imagine the exhaust fumes for everybody including the people on the street in the buildings, stores, and such.

    Sitting in the luxurious Nash Ambassador with its Weather Eye ventillation/heating (not A/C) “system“, the driver looks upset and frustrated, wishing he was anywhere except there. OMG.

    Don`t see any pre-war vehicles present. They were probably scrapped long ago in Philly due to rough winters and rust out.

  5. Seeing that ’50 Nash Ambassador brings back fond memories of my dad’s Nash. I learned how to drive in that car and took my driving test in it (passed the test). When I needed to parallel park the Nash, couldn’t believe that I made it on the first try. Not easy in a Nash. That car had the most beautiful ride. Smooth as silk. Thanks for the memories.

  6. Streetcar tracks in narrow streets like this one are/were common in Philadelphia, right up into the 70’s. There may be overhead wire on this track, as the angle of the camera is just slightly low enough to miss it, and the focus is a bit soft rather down the street. There certainly are enough poles to support wire.

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