Lectures and Tours

General Descriptions
From Creek to Sewer Lecture and
Wingohocking Watershed Tour

Held ocassionally or by request

LECTURE: As you walk on many of Philadelphia’s sidewalks, beneath your feet is a hidden world of streams that once crisscrossed the city. Join us on Wednesday, August 18 for a fascinating illustrated lecture that will uncover part of Philadelphia’s history that few people ever think about – the drastic changes made in Philadelphia’s landscape since its founding in 1682. Historian and archivist Adam Levine has been digging into the history of the city’s sewers and drainage systems since 1998, and his talk will focus on the systematic obliteration of hundreds of miles of surface streams. Buried deep underground in pipes as large as 20 feet in diameter, these former streams – some of which had watersheds that covered thousands of acres – became main drainage arteries in the city’s 3,000 mile sewer system. These massive alterations to the landscape, undertaken over two centuries, have environmental repercussions that are still being felt today. This lecture is guaranteed to reveal a side of the Philadelphia you have never seen, and change the way you think about cities in general.

TOUR: Like any natural area in this well-watered part of the country, Philadelphia was once laced with a complex system of streams and their tributaries, many of which are now hidden underground. To provide level land for new homes, protect the health of our citizens, and provide drainage for expanding neighborhoods, city engineers in the 19th and 20th centuries re-channeled most of these waterways into massive sewers that now run far beneath the streets. Join me on this fascinating bus tour that will follow the winding course of the Wingohocking Creek. Once a major tributary to Frankford Creek that provided power for many factories, the Wingohocking now runs in a sewer that drains several neighborhoods, including Mt. Airy, Germantown, Olney, Feltonville, and Juniata. We will stop at points of interest along the way, including the Awbury Arboretum and Belfield, home of Charles Wilson Peale, on the LaSalle University campus. You’ll also learn more about watersheds and how you can help protect the streams in your neighborhoods.

For more information, contact me.


The History of Philadelphia's Watersheds and Sewers

Compiled by Adam Levine
Historical Consultant
Philadelphia Water Department
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