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In 2004, Susan McAninley, a South Philadelphia story collector, first realized both her immigrant Irish and German grandfathers arrived in the U.S. at the Immigration Station, Pier 53 (now Washington Avenue Pier). 

Later, she discovered many other local Philly residents also were descended from grandparents and great-grandparents who entered the U.S. at Washington Avenue and Columbus Blvd.

Her program about what she’s learned, “Pier 53: They Came. They Stayed,” begins 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 4, at Historic Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Church, 916 S. Swanson (Columbus Blvd. and Christian Street) in the Queen Village section of Philadelphia.

Admission is $10, which includes a drink ticket for a beverage of your choice (alcoholic or non-alcoholic). 

Part of “Great Talks at Gloria Dei,” this program will take place inside the church sanctuary. A reception will follow in nearby Riverside Hall. For a modest donation, you can taste delicious gourmet desserts paired with wine, coffee or tea. 

McAninley, a graphic artist, started the Pier 53 Project in 2004, gathering stories of immigrants as told by their descendants. 

If you have the name of an immigrant ancestor, she’ll try to help you find them. Those descendants fortunate enough to have had ancestors who arrived at the Pier 53 Immigration Station can become members of what she calls “The Pier Group.” 

As such, they’re encouraged to share their family stories and receive a T-shirt. These stories make up an ever-changing mosaic of Philadelphia history, she says.

From 1870 to the mid-1920’s, about one million immigrants entered the U.S. near Washington Avenue and Columbus Blvd. 

This program is hosted by the Historic Gloria Dei Preservation Corporation. One hundred percent of the funds raised from this event will go toward the preservation of Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Church and its graveyard. 


The illustration: Engraving of landing place of European Steamers, and Pennsylvania Railroad Station, Philadelphia, c. 1887. Reproduced from Tariff of Immigrant Fares from Philadelphia Issued by the Immigrant Clearing House Committee, in Effect April 1st, 1887.

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