History of the Park

Friends of Pleasant Hill Park


Some history of Pleasant Hill Park

History of the Fish Hatchery at Pleasant Hill Park

Adapted from text researched and written by former PPR Recreation History Researcher Laura Proctor

To celebrate the rich history of Philadelphia’s parks and recreational facilities, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) is highlighting historic structures located at parks and recreation sites throughout the city. The first structure to be highlighted in this new monthly series is the Fish Hatchery at Pleasant Hill Park, a 35-acre park along the Delaware River in the Torresdale section of Northeast Philadelphia. The history of the hatchery extends back to the early twentieth century, when a section of the park property was part of the Pennsylvania’s Department of Fisheries’ Torresdale Fish Hatchery. While the hatchery is no longer in operation today, visitors to Pleasant Hill Park can still participate in a variety of fishing programs at the park’s stocked hatchery ponds. 

During the first quarter of the twentieth century, the southwestern section of Pleasant Hill Park served as the Torresdale Fish Hatchery. In 1904, the Pennsylvania Department of Fisheries relocated its hatchery building from the Bristol Hatchery in Bucks County and began to lease ten acres of City-owned land in Torresdale along the Delaware River for $1 per year. With its natural springs and two ponds, the new site allowed the Department of Fisheries to expand its focus from exclusively cultivating shad to also cultivating other species of fish such as trout, black bass, catfish, and pickerel. [1]

During its first ten years in operation, the Torresdale Fish Hatchery used the former Bristol Hatchery building that had been moved from Bucks County. [2] Within a few years, it became evident that the old building could not meet the demands of an increasingly complicated and high-yield hatchery operation, which led the Department of Fisheries to replace the dilapidated building with a permanent, fireproof structure. [3]

In 1914, the new hatchery building was opened. The two-story brick structure was designed by Philadelphia architect James Carson Marshall Shirk and featured a tower adjacent to the entranceway, Spanish red roof tiles, and terracotta decorative details. The hatchery’s interior housed state of the art equipment, including three large hatching tanks. [4]

While the facility no longer functions as a hatchery, the hatchery ponds have been a popular spot for children to learn how to fish since the former Department of Recreation (now Philadelphia Parks & Recreation) assumed control of the hatchery in 1956. [5] In the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of children were bused to the ponds each year to fish in the ponds. [6]

(Recreation - Fish Ponds at Linden Avenue and the Delaware River, 06.18.1963. Collection: Philadelphia Office of the City Representative. From www.phillyhistory.org.)

In recent years, extensive improvements were made to Pleasant Hill Park through the Pleasant Hill Development Project, a Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources-funded effort. Improvements included addressing stormwater and flooding issues, installing a riverfront pedestrian path, installing bioswales to prevent pollution from entering the river, rehabilitating the site’s fish ponds, adding new walkways, improving site fencing, and creating a new picnic area and shade pavilion.

PPR offers a variety of free programs at this historic riverfront site through which children can try out their fishing skills, participate in fun activities, and learn about watersheds and the importance of healthy waterways. These programs include Community Fishing Days throughout spring, summer, and early fall which are open to the public as well as summer programs where children from PPR day camps fish, do arts and crafts, play field games, learn how to canoe, and learn about watersheds.

To learn more about fishing programs at Pleasant Hill Park, and follow the Friends of Pleasant Hill Park on Facebook for updates on fishing programs and events.


[1] Report of the Department of Fisheries of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, from December 1, 1905 to November 30, 1906, Harrisburg: Harrisburg Publishing Co., State Printer, 1907, p. 11.

[2] Report of the Department of Fisheries of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, from December 1, 1904 to November 30, 1905, Harrisburg: Harrisburg Publishing Co., State Printer, 1906, pp. 47-48.

[3] Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Report of the Department of Fisheries, from December 1, 1913 to November 30, 1914, Harrisburg: Wm. Stanley Ray, State Printer, 1915, p. 41.

[4] “Plan of the New Torresdale Hatchery: Large Hatchery Will Be Power in Conservation,” Philadelphia Inquirer.  Volume 170, Issue 88, page 1. 29 March 1914.

[5] “Annual Report: 1956,” Department of Recreation, City of Philadelphia, 1 Apr 1957, p. 5.

[6] “Pleasant Hill Park, cleaned up and ready for fishing,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 10, 2010.

Tags: PleasantHillPark TorresdaleFishHatchery FishingPrograms FairmountArchives HistoricPhilly PhillyHistory

Pleasant Hill Beach, a Sunday afternoon August 8, 1921. During the summer season, Pleasant Hill was an early recreation area in Northeast Philadelphia. Today it is the Linden Avenue boat launching area. Photo courtesy Urban Archives, Temple University

Delaware River at Delaware Avenue and Linden Avenue, 1920. Photo courtesy of William English.