History of Philadelphia's Watersheds and Sewers
Philadelphia Water Department
It has been my pleasurable challenge, as a consultant to
the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) since 1998, to try to piece together the
fascinating history of the city's many lost streams. PWD has preserved its own
collection of historical material, which is a rich source of information, and
I have supplemented that base with research in local libraries, historical societies,
archives and relevant departments of the city government.
Besides many useful written records, I
have uncovered a wide range of graphic material including paintings and
drawings, maps and plans, photographs and surveys. This material stretches
across the breadth of the city's long history, since changes were made
in the landscape almost as soon as William Penn began building his new
city along the Delaware River in 1682. The bottom line is that, over the
course of several centuries, most of the city's surface streams have been
channeled underground and incorporated into the city's 3,000 mile sewer
Enter keywords in box below to search
NOTE: Search works only when you are online, and results
may not include most recent updates.
PLEASE HELP US OUT!
We are in the process of updating PhillyH2O,
with a new look and, more importantly, with additional content that
better reflects what you're looking for when you come here. Please take
a minute to fill out a survey for us, which will help us create an improved
site that better serves your needs and interests. The survey is completely
anonymous. You can find it at this
Besides the main site links, here are a few highlights:
Water and Sewer History Course: Seven lessons online
***Online Exhibit: 100th Anniversary
of Water Filtration in Philadelphia***
main theme of Philly H2O can be found at
where I explore the many ways that the topography of the city has
been transformed over the years to facilitate drainage,
to improve public
health, and to promote real estate development.
|Many interesting reports, articles and images
can be found at
including some of the earliest reports of the Philadelphia Water Department,
dating to 1799, and a collection of 19th century documents on the pollution of
the Schuylkill River, then as now a major water source.
A growing collection of graphic documents can
be found at
including maps of the past and present water and sewer system, maps
and plans of Philadelphia, and other material that will reveal some of the aspects
of the City that have been transformed over the past 300 years.
|Information about me, Webmaster and Sewermeister,
can be found at
where I also describe in an informal resume some of my related activities,
including a variety of lectures, archives management, historical consulting and
research, and guided tours of PWD facilities.
|The story that got me started down the drain,
so to speak, is told at
I hope you take time to read this story and explore the entire site, to delve
deep under its surface as I once delved under the surface of the city when I suited
up and took an hour-long walk in a Philadelphia sewer.
SEARCHING THE SITE:
The Google search box above is the best way to find specific things
The "Archives" link provides detailed descriptions of all
material on the site.
At the "Maps" link, thumbnails and brief descriptions of the
maps can be found.
And as on any Web site, all pages are searchable with the "Find"
tool under the "Edit" toolbar in your browser.
LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF PhillyH2O
Part of what makes this my work on this
site worthwhile is knowing that
people out there are using it. Please contact
me with any ideas about ways
to improve the site, material I might want to add, suggestions for links
to other sites, or any dead links.
PHOTO CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Click links for larger versions
LEFT: Construction of Rock Run Sewer, 1922. This pipe
obliterated Rock Run,
once a tributary of Tacony Creek. (City Archives) [101
CENTER: Mill Creek Sewer, West Philadelphia, ca. 1883.
This large sewer, built over a 25-year period, ran for five
miles and obliterated the West Philadelphia stream for which it is named.
(PWD) [244 kb]
RIGHT: Sandy Run Sewer, 1942. Once finished, this pipe
obliterated most of Sandy Run,
a Pennypack Creek tributary. (City Archives)
Website by Panacea
Design and Adam Levine
Page last updated May 16, 2018