Water Works: Philadelphia’s clean water legacy

Philadelphia has always thought big when it came to water.

Ours was the first American big city to develop a municipal water system, driven largely by public health concerns. In 1812, the Philadelphia began construction on Frederick Graff’s water works, which would continue to over 6 decades. The idea was so modern that the Water Works was a big tourist attraction in the 1800s, so much so that a restaurant opened in the Engine House in the 1830s.

Fairmount Water Works, c. 1874 | Library of Congress
(Fairmount Water Works, c. 1874 | Library of Congress)

This year the Fairmount Water Works celebrates its bicentennial, and there is much to celebrate in its legacy. The Water Works not only filtered and delivered water to the growing city, but led to the protection of the pieces of the Schuylkill’s watershed, and with that effort came the birth of Fairmount Park.

To help kick off the celebration this year, join the Philadelphia Water Department’s Adam Levine and C. Drew Brown at the Water Works Interpretive Center tonight (January 19) at 5:30 to learn how the Water Works made it possible to filter the polluted Schuylkill so it was safe to drink for 18th century Philadelphians.



Want more?:
  • Designing Water, MetropolisMag.com, P/O/V Blog, Joseph G. Brin, January 6, 2012.

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