Running alongside Broad Street and adjacent to Buildings 100 and 101 is the 8-acre, grassy Marine Parade Grounds, which holds an interesting piece of Naval history. Many historians say that the Marine Parade Grounds is the birthplace of naval aviation. Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham first developed a keen affinity for aeronautics when he was a child, and witnessed a balloon ascend through the air. He never acted on his interests until his second stint in the military, when he was stationed at the Navy Yard. Here, Lt. Cunningham became friends with a group of men with similar interests. With permission from the Commandant to attempt to fly, Lt. Cunningham rented a plane, and for about a year, he used the Parade Grounds as a runway. Although Lt. Cunningham never got his plane airborne, the Navy was impressed by his accomplishments, and transferred him to the Naval Academy in Annapolis. He then received his actual training in Marblehead, MA, and completed his first solo mission on August 20, 1912. Lt. Cunningham is often considered the father of Naval aviation, and he first attempted to fly right here on the Marine Parade Grounds.
Today, the Marine Parade Grounds is still used for leisurely activities, but not flying planes! Throughout the year, the Marine Parade Grounds is the host for many events at The Navy Yard, including Lunch Truck Lineup, which features a rotation of gourmet food trucks from around the city; Philadelphia Sport and Social Club’s intramural sports leagues; the PHS Fall Garden Festival; the International Great Beer Expo for Philly Beer Week; the Greensgrow Farms CSA pickup and produce stand, and much more. The Navy Yard also hosts many charitable runs. Most famously the Broad Street Run, the country’s largest 10-mile race, finishes on South Broad Street just in front of the Marine Parade Grounds, with fun festivities for the runners and spectators on the field.
The Marine Parade Grounds is located at The Navy Yard on South Broad Street, between Intrepid Ave and Constitution Ave.
Source: Millett, Allan Reed. Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps. New York: Free, 1991. Print