A pier is a raised walkway over water, supported by widely spread piles or pillars. The lighter structure of a pier allows tides and currents to flow almost unhindered, whereas the more solid foundations of a quay or the closely-spaced piles of a wharf can act as breakwaters, and are consequently more liable to silting. Piers can range in size and complexity from a simple lightweight wooden structure to major structures extended over a mile out to sea. In American English, pier may be synonymous with dock.
Piers have been built for several different purposes, and because these different purposes have distinct regional variances, the term pier tends to have different nuances of meaning in different parts of the world. Thus in North America and Australia, where many ports were, until recently, built on the multiple pier model, the term tends to imply a current or former cargo-handling facility. In Europe however, where ports have tended to use basins and river-side quays rather than piers, the term is principally associated with the image of a Victorian cast iron pleasure pier.
The other form of working pier, often called the finger pier, was built at ports with smaller tidal ranges. Here the principal advantage was to give a greater available quay length for ships to berth against compared to a linear littoral quayside, and such piers are usually much shorter. Typically each pier would carry a single transit shed the length of the pier, with ships berthing bow or stern in to the shore. Some major ports consisted of large numbers of such piers lining the foreshore, classic examples being the Hudson River frontage of New York, or the Embarcadero in San Francisco.
The advent of container shipping, with its need for large container handling spaces adjacent to the shipping berths, has made working piers obsolete for the handling of general cargo, although some still survive for the handling of passenger ships or bulk cargos. Many working piers have been demolished, or remain derelict, but others have been recycled as pleasure piers. The best known example of this is Pier 39 in San Francisco.
Pleasure piers often include other amusements and theatres as part of the attraction. Such a pier may be open air, closed, or partly open, partly closed. Sometimes a pier has two decks.
Early pleasure piers were of wooden construction, with iron structures being introduced with the construction in 1855 of Margate Jetty, in Margate, England. One of the oldest iron piers still remaining is in Southport, also in England and dates from 1860.
In their heyday, there were many pleasure piers across England and Wales. These were found in most fashionable seaside resorts during the Victorian era. There are still a significant number of piers of architectural merit still standing, although some have been lost. The most well known piers are perhaps the two at Brighton in East Sussex and the three at Blackpool in Lancashire. Two piers, Brighton's now derelict West Pier and Clevedon Pier, are Grade 1 listed. The Birnbeck Pier in Weston-super-Mare is the only pier in the world that is linked to an island. The National Piers Society gives a figure of 55 surviving seaside piers in England and Wales.
Scheveningen, the coastal resort town of The Hague, boasts the largest pier in the Netherlands, it was completed in 1961. A crane, built on top of the pier's panorama tower, provides the opportunity to make a 60 m. high bungee jump over the North Sea waves. The present pier is a successor of an earlier pier, which was completed in 1901 but in 1943 destroyed by the German occupation forces.
State pier repair bill: $13 million ; But it would do little to fix structural deficiencies in the Maine State Pier, an engineer says.
Aug 31, 2006; KELLEY BOUCHARD Staff Writer Portland Press Herald (Maine) 08-31-2006 State pier repair bill: $13 million ; But it would do...