Vine Street. Hearing that, nine out of ten modern day Philadelphians immediately think "Expressway." And, well, rightfully so, I guess. But let's go back -- say 323 years. William Penn's greene country towne, the original Center City, ran River to River, Vine to Cedar (South). By today's "popular city" standards, Center City is still River to River (though University City is trying hard to eliminate boundaries), but its north and south borders are anywhere from Poplar/Girard/Master to Christian/Washington, depending on which realtor you ask.

But for all intents and purposes, we'll say it's still Vine to South. And with 20/20 hindsight, we'll also ask just what in the hell happened to Vine. Even the eldest of the elderly barely remember a Philadelphia without the Ben Franklin Parkway. The Parkway began in 1917, lopping off a chunk of Vine Street at 19th all the way to 22nd. (This is not to say philly skyline dot com does not like the Parkway -- we love it.) What was left from there to the Schuylkill was reclaimed by Park Towne Place in the 1950s. On the other River in the 1920s, Paul Cret, who was instrumental in the design of the Parkway, had designed the Delaware River Bridge (which of course was later renamed for the same guy the Parkway was named for), and its traffic needed somewhere to discharge on the Philly side of the River. Make it Vine Street (incidentally, at Franklin Square -- see, we don't need a "Ben Franklin Station," people).

In the late 1970s, over twenty years since President Eisenhower signed interstate highway funding into law, I-95 finally made its way through Center City, the link from Miami to Maine and the megalopolis in between. Where was its exit into the city? Vine Street. And 676?

The Vine Street Expressway was -- thank GOD -- the only half built of a proposed beltway around Center City that was also to include an I-695 South Street Expressway. You can read all about the Vine Street Expressway here, but the gist is that it was first proposed in the 1940s (Robert Moses style, with stone arches and fancy exit ramps), had tons and tons of revisions over several decades, was approved for funding in the 1980s by PA Governor Bob Casey, and finally opened in 1991. The most expensive expansive piece of interstate they ever made, indeed. (Side note: G-Love is no relation to B-Love, but the latter is a fan of the former.)

Make sure you check out that phillyroads link. It's pretty fascinating to see the history of 676 (and all of Philly's roads for that matter) in their chronological context. But for now, have a looksee at these here contemporary photos. The photos were taken on three days: January 10th, 12th & 13th. The first two were beautiful, unseasonably warm sunny days, the last was an ethereal foggy day.

This is Vine Street in 2006. You'll begin with a before-n-after map of Vine Street's Center City context. Oh -- and as an aside, Vine Street does pick back up at 53rd St in West Philly. We'll probably make it out there one of these days, but this look at Vine is its Center City residence. Click the image to launch tour.