Latest Updates

This page provides links to the newest material on Philly H2O.
If you have any suggestions regarding material I might want to add to the site, please contact me.

Philadelphia Water Department Historical Collection
Online Catalogue
which includes thousands of photographs and publications
documenting the more than 200 year history of PWD.

April 25, 2015
Water and Sewer History Course
Seven-part course developed by Adam Levine, Ellen Freedman Schultz and Drew Brown of PWD, focused on the development of Philadelphia sewer and water systems.

December 20-22, 2014
The Water Works of the City of Philadelphia: The Story of their Development and Engineering Specifications
A history of pumping engines used in the Philadelphia water system from its beginnings in 1801 up to 1931. Includes a remarkable chart summarizing the entire history, and numerous illustrations. Compiled by Walter A. Graf, Staff Engineer with the assistance of Sidney H. Vought and Clarence E. Robson, of the Budd Company, Philadelphia. Created from original volume housed at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, HSP Catalogue No. WZ 23591 (4th Fl. Folio).

Encyclopedia of Philadelphia by Joseph Jackson
Volume 1 of 4, covering Abattoir to Bonnafon. Harrisburg: The National Historical Association, 1931. A facsimile PDF, with all text recognized, of the first volume of this informative encyclopedia. If I get even a little encouragement I might digitize the other three volumes.

Watering Committee Report, 1816
This facsimile PDF, with all text recognized, documents the start of the Fairmount Water Works and other aspects of the city's water supply system. Full title: "Report of the Watering Committee to the Select and Common Councils, read January 25, 1816. Philadelphia: Printed by William Fry, Walnut, near Fifth Street, 1816."

Three updates to Schuylkill River page

Two items in one PDF (9 mb): "Reports on coal-dust pollution", and "Report of visit [to collieries in Schuylkill County and adjacent areas] of June 22-25, 1896", by John C. Trautwine, Jr., Chief of the Bureau of Water, City of Philadelphia AND "Conclusions reached respecting sand filtration in Philadelphia, by Allen Hazen, C.E. with accompanying "Map of Philadelphia showing present intakes, pumping stations and reservoirs together with proposed filters and connections"

18 maps and plans [6 mb] Schuylkill River. Wissahickon Creek, Phila., Pa. to Norristown, Pa. Surveyed by J. W. Thompson, Junior Engineer, Aug. to Dec. 1913. L. D. Shuman, Assistant Engineer. In 18 sheets. [Includes Index map (Sheet 14), descriptions of triangulation stations (Sheets 15, 16 and 17) and Freshet Data (Sheet 18) listing all the major floods affecting this section of the river to 1913. Maps show topography of shoreline, soundings, footprints of riverfront buildings, railroads, canal, locks, dams, tributary streams, and many other details.

A River Again: The Story of the Schuylkill River Project, by Chari Towne of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. Link to a free PDF download page of this book, which documents the state and federal project in the 1940s and 1950s to remove millions of tons of coal waste that was choking the Schuylkill River.

January 29, 2011

Philadelphia: A periodical published by the City Government, 1909-1911
While in some ways simply a public relations organ for the City, this magazine also includes some valuable information not easily found elsewhere, as well as many photographs, maps and other illustrations of the topics presented. Each issue generally focuses on a single aspect of the city. Three facsimile PDFs cover the water supply and sewer system, and I have also included a list of all volumes I was able to locate.

Brief Summer Rambles Near Philadelphia (1881).
Described in a series of letters written for The Public Ledger during the summer of 1881. By Joel Cook. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1882. Most of these rambles were outside the city; the first four, which are reproduced here, describe the scenery in Fairmount Park, Laurel Hill Cemetery, along Wissahickon Creek, and along the Delaware River from Philadelphia to Trenton, as seen from a steamboat.

The Upper Perkiomen Valley as a Source of the Water Supply for Philadelphia (1894) by Jonathan Faust, M.D. A critique of the Philadelphia Water Department plans to dam the Perkiomen (a Schuylkill River tributary) to supply water via aqueduct to Philadelphia. Page also includes information about the Green Lane Dam, which was built on the Perkiomen between 1955 and 1957 by the Philadelphia Suburban Water Company.

December 28, 2010

Newspaper Clipping Scrapbook (Part 1) of Frederic Graff Jr., 1854-1857
This is the first part of a two part collection of clippings collected by Frederick Graff Jr., Chief Engineer of the Philadelphia Water Department during the middle of the 19th century. Conserved, mounted and bound, the scrapbook contains 130 pages of clippings on a wide variety of topics, reflecting Graff's wide interests and activities. PDF images of each scrapbook page are attached.
The second volume can also be accessed from this page.

Torresdale: The Push-Button Water Treatment Plant
Well-illustrated and large-format 1959 brochure from the Philadelphia Water Department touting the automation of the Torresdale Water Treatment Plant, the largest of three plants in the city.

Scrapbook of Survey Notices, 1871-1886, Compiled by the Dept. of Surveys, City of Phila.
Scrapbook of broadside notices posted in affected neighborhoods to inform residents of meetings of the Board of Surveyors of the City of Philadelphia at which would be discussed proposed additions or changes to the official city plans created by the city's Department (or Bureau) of Surveys. Changes could include the lines of streets and the grade regulations. Includes index to the surveys by official City Plan number. Reads part of a typical broadside (p. 12): "At the said meeting the board will hear the objections of any freeholders to the final confirmation of said plans, and in the meantime they may be seen at the Survey Department, No. 224 South Fifth Street."

Philadelphia: A periodical published by the City Government, 1909-1911
This monthly periodical, while in some ways simply a public relations organ for the City, also includes some valuable information not easily found elsewhere, as well as many photographs, maps and other illustrations of the topics presented. Three of the issues covered water and sewer, and they are reproduced as PDFs. Also included is a lists of all the copies of Philadelphia I found, with a brief
description of the subject of each volume.

December 7, 2010

Philadelphia's Willow Street: The Curious Curvaceous Chronicle of Cohoquinoque Creek (a.k.a. Pegg's Run) By Harry Kyriakodis
Harry Kyriakodis is a self-proclaimed "unfulfilled lawyer and bibliophile" who is also a historian of Philadelphia, especially the section just north of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. This article is just one of many Harry has written, all of which can be found at his website,

In Memory of Patrolman Joseph A. Reiss, by George J. Shotzbarger
Patrolman Reiss died in the line of duty while investigating a Gunner's Run Sewer sewer collapse on August 1, 1959. More than 50 years later Shotzbarger, who at the time of the collapse was seven years old and lived nearby, gave this eloquent speech at the dedication of a Hero Plaque for Reiss, which talks about the sewer in the context of the social history of the neighborhood. If anything on this site is a MUST READ, this is it!

Drawing Dock Creek: An Art Installation by Winifred Lutz (2008)
and APS Water Walk Weekend 2008
Winifred Lutz's installation, in Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. was one of several water-related projects commissioned by the American Philosophical Society Museum in 2008, culminating in a "Water Walk Weekend" on September 20 and 21. This page links to an excellent historic map of Dock Creek and vicinity created for the Lutz installation; and performance artist Brett Keyser, who created a fascinating piece,"TANN, HORNS, & DEAD DOGS: Tales of Civic Effluvia," related to Dock Creek, which used Winifred's installation as his outdoor stage and set.

Dobson's Run Relief Sewer: Photos from the Underground, 1912 and June 15, 2010
As the Dobson's Run Storm Relief Sewer was nearing completion, I had the chance to walk in the pipe as it neared completion. This project was built completely in tunnel, with the outlet section running underneath Laurel Hill Cemetery into an outfall at the Schuylkill River. Also on this page are 1912 photographs of the original Dobson's Run Sewer construction.

July 21, 2010

Holmesburg Library Scrapbook Collection 1911-1948
The Holmesburg Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia recently scanned these newspaper clipping scrapbooks. Subjects cover a wide range of neighborhood activities, which are covered in a detailed table of contents. Thanks to Bruce Conner and Fred Moore of the Northeast Philadelphia History Network for alerting me to this valuable resource, and allowing me to post it here.

Special Report on the City Plan by the City Parks Association of Philadelphia.
by J. Rodman Paul and Andrew Wright Crawford. The City Parks Association, an advocacy group founded in 1889 which supported the creation of public parks and playgrounds in Philadelphia, published this Special Report in 1902. The authors severely criticized what they call the city's "gridiron" system of streets, especially the effect of such a rigid plan on the natural landscape and topography. The many illustrations show how destructive such a system tends to be, and how even slight deviations from the grid can be a great improvement.

Scenes on 300 block of South 44th Street, West Philadelphia, 1914-1916.
From photograph album of Minetta Baker, 322 S. 44th Street. Thanks to Charlotte Elsner for rescuing these photographs and passing them on to me.

Wingohocking Sewer Outfall, Videos & Photos.
Some of these were taken by participants of PWD's annual Wingohocking Creek Watershed Tour. For more information about the Thanks to Chris Dougherty, Dave Tavani, and Youtube's Yashea for the content on this page.

Stormwater Song Lyrics by John and Jan Haigis.
John and Jan are Darby, PA residents who have a great interest in history, music, and, the environment. As co-presidents of the Darby Creek Valley Association, they have a great concern for various issues affecting water quality in the creek, which flows from Chester County into the Delaware River at Tinicum, south of the Philadelphia International Airport. They wrote these songs to promote the preservation of the watersheds they love.

Report on Drainage and Sewerage made to the Select and Common Councils of the City of Philadelphia, May 9, 1853, by Samuel H. [Honeyman] Kneass, City Surveyor and Regulator. Philadelphia: Crissy & Markley, Printers, Goldsmiths Hall, Library Street. 1853
This report was the first attempt to systematize the disparate sewers and sewerage systems in place in various municipalities around the time of Philadelphia's consolidation. It serves as both a critique of the sewers as they existed at that time, and a general outline of how the system might be better constructed and expanded in the future. Kneass was the younger brother of Strickland Kneass, who was the first surveyor and engineer of the consolidated Philadelphia, serving from 1854 to 1873, and it was up to him to implement the proposals outlined in his older brother's report.

Song of the Sewer, performed by Art Carney.
(aka Ed Norton, the sewer worker in the 1950s TV Show, "The Honeymooners"). This song was first brought to my attention by Joe Shapiro, volunteer in the PWD Archives, who loves good music but also loves oddities like this. Now, thanks to YouTube, I can legally share this gem with you, my fellow sewer aficionados. I consider it my unofficial theme song.

Philadelphia Farms, Newspaper Reports, 1929-1980.
Text of four newspaper clippings from the Bulletin Collection, Temple University Libraries Urban Archives.

Cobbs Creek Watershed History: An Online Slideshow and other Information.
One of the first projects I undertook for the PWD Office of Watersheds in 2002 was a history of the Cobbs Creek Watershed in Philadelphia. This page links to an online slideshow of the watershed history, and other Cobbs-related material on Phillyh2o.

Cobbs Creek Watershed: A collection of newspaper clippings
Several dozen clippings from the Bulletin Collection, Temple University Libraries Urban Archives.

Frankford Creek Watershed: A historical overview of the Philadelphia section.
by Adam Levine, Historical Consultant, Philadelphia Water Department Office of Watersheds, May 2003 (Revised October 2009). For some reason I never posted this before, so here it is now; better late than never!

Geological map of Delaware County [Pennsylvania]…1882. [Part of] Second Geological Survey of Pennsylvania. Report of progress C5. Part 1. Field Notes in Delaware County, by C. [Charles] E. Hall, with a colored geological map of the county, and thirty-nine photographic pictures of the granite quarries, the kaolin mines, the serpentine outcrops, and the castle rocks, published in advance of the Geological Report on Delaware County, part 2, by J. P. Lesley."

Sewers, Pollution, and Public Health in 19th Century Philadelphia by Adam Levine
This article first appeared in the May 2010 issue of Pennsylvania Legacies, published by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

March 18, 2010

Kensington Water Supply (1883) By William W. Van Baun, M.D.
Located on the Deleware River just below where the Aramingo Canal emptied into the river, the Kensington Water Works served up a disgusting brew of polluted drinking water for decades after it was opened in 1851. Health records from the period show a higher death rate from typhoid fever and other water-borne diseases in the areas served by this water works. The Board of Health advocated its closure many times, as did independent physicians such as the author of this article. Unfortunately, the works were not completely abandoned until 1890.

1889 Report on Philadelphia's Water Supply by the Board of Health
This Board of Health Report focuses on typhoid fever and tries to carefully prove that the pollution of the water supply with sewage is causing this disease. This is an accepted fact today, but many people still needed to be convinced of this in 1889. This was one of many reports that led to the ultimate filtration of the water supply in the early 20th century.

March 2, 2010

Online Exhibit celebrating 100th Anniversary of Water Filtration in Philadelphia 1909-2009
The industrial revolution and indoor plumbing brought polluted water and disease to 19th-century Philadelphia. Accustomed to utilizing the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers as the city's water supply, the Philadelphia Water Department undertook a building project of previously unknown proportions to create filtration plants that would make the polluted waters safe to drink. In 2009, Philadelphia celebrates 100 years of delivering filtered drinking water to all residents of the city.

December 9, 2009

1931 Report on Water Supply and Sanitation (including sewers and sewerage)
The full citation of this report: "Semi-final draft of report on the water supply and sanitation problem in the Philadelphia Tri-State District. Supplement to chapter X of the regional plan report approved by the Committee on Water Supply and Sanitation, June 30, 1931. Prepared for submission to the Water Supply and Sanitation Committee, August 1931. The Regional Planning Federation of the Philadelphia Tri-State District, 1700 Fox Building, Philadelphia." This was among the final scanning projects undertaken by long-time PWD Archives volunteers, Dan and Pauline Greene.

News clippings related to a new water supply for Philadelphia, 1944-1946
This series of clippings documents the city's last search for a new water supply to replace the grossly polluted Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers. While the 194-page PDF is a bit unwieldy (and clocks in at 22 mb), it is a wealth of information for anyone interested in public works in this region at that time. This was among the final scanning projects undertaken by long-time PWD Archives volunteers, Dan and Pauline Greene.

Dobson's Run: A brief history of this Schuylkill River tributary.
Now part of the city's sewer system, Dobson's Run once drained an area from Germantown down to Laurel Hill Cemetery, and ran through a large textile mill complex owned by the Dobson brothers. This report was prepared for the PWD Public Relations Division in 2005, to provide background for a sewer construction project in the Dobson's Run watershed.

Wise's Mill Run: A brief overview of this Wissahickon Creek tributary.
I wrote this report for the PWD Office of Watersheds in 2008. The aerial photographs shown at the end of the report are courtesy of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. DVRPC has scanned these historic photos and is now offering them for sale at a very reasonable price. Contact DVRPC for more information.

June 21, 2009

Geology of Pennsylvania: A Government Survey (1858).
Excerpts and images including geological and pictorial representations of Schuylkill River and Wissahickon Creek, descriptions of the Potomac, Susquehanna, Delaware, and Allegheny watersheds in Pennsylvania, and locations of quarries in Philadelphia and vicinity.

Fairmount Dam Fishway on the Schuylkill.
Information on the new fishway, opened in May 2009 to replace the Fairmount Dam Fish Ladder, and Includes photographs and videos of fish (and one otter) passing through the fishway. Also many links to other fish- and fishing-related pages. Among the links:
2008 presentation on Fish Passage at Fairmount by Lance Butler and Joe Perillo (PDF, 23 mb)
2005-2006 Fish Counts by Species at Fairmount Fish Ladder (PDF, 826 kb)

Fishing in Philadelphia: Photographs from the Philadelphia Anglers Club.
Includes photos of huge fish being taken out of the Schuylkill River and elsewhere in Philadelphia. A second page of photos, Catch and Release, documents big fish that took the bait more than once, and discusses the safety of eating fish caught in urban environments. Thanks to Louis Cook of the Philadelphia Anglers Club for providing information and gathering the photos for these pages, from fellow Philly anglers Matt Coll, Tan Bui, Aki Mori, Chris McIntee, Dan Coghlin, Dennis Cook, Enoch Lee, and Jude Becker.

Fred D. Borrelli, Dedicated Philadelphia Water Department employee, 1938-1963.
A remembrance by Bob Borrelli, who provided several anecdotes and vintage photographs of his father as a child in West Philadelphia and at work for the city.

New photographs of the Aramingo Canal Excavation. (PDF, 23 mb)
Thanks to A. Leonard Pundt of PennDOT for providing the images in this PDF. To see the full collection of photographs, visit the Aramingo Canal main page.

New reports and indexes of reports from the Bureau of Surveys.
Manuscript reports from 1927 to 1950 (in PDF format) have been added to the existing collection, as well as indexes of reports from 1883 to 1923.

History of East Park Reservoir 1869-1889.
Jane Mork Gibson, historical consultant for PWD, compiled this report on the reservoir (in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia) from its conception through construction and finally its opening in 1889.

January 11, 2009
The Pauline and Daniel Greene Glass Plate Negative Collection.
In honor of these two long-time PWD volunteers we have renamed this collection for them. See listing below September 12, 2008 for full description.

December 30, 2008
Aramingo Canal: Then and Now.
Photos of the Aramingo Canal (Gunner's Run) being converted into a combined sewer, 1900-1902, along with modern photos showing an excavation of a section of the canal, December 2008. Thanks to Doug Mooney of URS Corp., for inspiring this page and providing the modern photos.

December 21, 2008
"The Water Supply of the City of Philadelphia by a proposed Aqueduct from Norristown Dam, and the Acquisition of the Works of the Schuylkill Navigation Co. 1891."
This plan was never implemented, but left behind a series of sixteen beautifully rendered plans and maps showing details of the Schuylkill River watershed; the canals, locks, dams of the Schuylkill Navigation company; and gate-houses and other buildings designed by Philadelphia architect Frank Furness.

October 29, 2008
PWD Annual Report Indexes 1898-1913
Thanks to PWD Archives Volunteer Christiane Metz, for compiling these indexes for the years covering the construction of PWD's filtration system. Reports for these years are literally crammed with charts, graphs and other illustrations, all of which are described.

1947 Knappen Report on Frankford Creek (LARGE FILE: PDF, 50mb)
Officially called the "Report on Flood Control, Frankford Creek, City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania," by the Knappen Engineering Company, 280 Madison Avenue, New York 16, N.Y. October 1947. This report, excerpted elsewhere on PhillyH2O, gives an excellent historical overview of the creek, and includes large-scale engineering drawings for the flood control channel completed in 1956.

October 24, 2008
A Day in the Ma'sh by Maurice F. Egan
An interesting portrait of a section of South Philadelphia, called The Neck, once an area of marshland, canals, pig-farms, and wide-open vistas. Illustrations by J.W.Pennell, H.R. Poore, and Thomas Eakins. From Scribner's Monthly, Volume 22, Issue 3, July 1881, pages 343-352.

October 1, 2008
Glossary of Drainage Terms by C. Drew Brown
C. Drew Brown, Manager of Public Education for PWD, created this glossary for our annual Wingohocking Mystery Tour. I think it's too valuable to simply let lie on some computer hard drive, so I got his permission to post it here.The terms are not in alphabetical
order, but rather follow a logical hierarchy, beginning with the proper definition of a watershed and working to smaller elements of both natural and man-made drainage systems.

September 22, 2008
Down Under II: Photos from my Second Sewer Walk
These pictures, taken during a walk in a sewer on the University of Pennsylvania campus September 15, 2008, include a running description of the experience. The visual aspect that has always been missing from my first "Down Under" experience; now I finally have it. The tour was part of publicity for the American Philosophical Society's "Water Walk Weekend" Sept. 20-21, 2008, and these pictures (combined with those taken by a Phila. Inquirer photographer who accompanied the tour) made a great hit during the 12 twenty-minute talks I gave throughout the weekend.

State of the Delaware River Estuary 2008
This Summer 2008 report, from the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (in which the Philadelphia Water Department is an important participant), details the health of the estuary or tidal portion of the Delaware River, below the falls at Trenton, NJ. The estuary includes all of the Schuylkill River Basin, and this report makes a great companion to A Report on the State of the Schuylkill River Watershed: 2002 recently added to PhillyH20. For more information on the Delaware Estuary, visit

September 12, 2008
1,580 PWD Photographs (1895-1909), on The Pauline and Daniel Greene Glass Plate Negative Collection
These photographs, created from 8"x10" glass plate negatives, mostly document the construction of the city's then-new drinking water filtration system. The small images presented on PhillyHistory give only a glimpse of the information recorded in these pictures, which show everything from landscapes and streetscapes that are long gone, turn-of-the-century construction methods that straddled the transition period between horsepower and automotive machinery, down to the hand tools, clothing, and hair styles of the foreman and workmen. In some images, labels on equipment such as cranes, steam engines, and wheelbarrows are clearly discernible. This link will take you to a web page that includes sample high-resolution images; background about the discovery of the negatives and the 20-year process of cleaning, cataloguing, scanning, and getting them online; and a tribute to long-time PWD volunteers Pauline and Dan Greene.

A Report on the State of the Schuylkill River Watershed: 2002
A comprehensive overview of the state of the river. Includes informative maps, tables, and other illustrations. Prepared by the Conservation Fund for the Schuylkill River Watershed Initiative, a consortium of most of the groups interested in the health of the river, including PWD.

July 15, 2008
Complete 19th & 20th Century Atlases of Philadelphia Neighborhoods
1887 Bromley Atlas of the 18, 19th, and 31st Wards (including Kensington and other neighborhoods)
1927 Bromley Atlas of West Philadelphia (including all neighborhoods west of the Schuylkill River)

March 4, 2008
Army Corps of Engineers and US Geological Service (USGS) Sinking Homes Studies
Fascinating surveys of several Philadelphia neighborhoods that grew up around two buried streams, Wingohocking Creek and Wissinoming Creek. This report, which included many photographs of the neighborhoods in question, is no longer available on the Web, so I have posted two PDF files related to the study. Mapping Buried Stream Valleys in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
USGS Fact Sheet FS–117–00. 2000, and Geographic Information System Analysis of Topographic Change in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, During the Last Century by Peter G. Chirico and Jack B. Epstein. USGS Open File Report 00-224. 2000

December 10, 2007
Railroad Scenery of Pennsylvania, 1875
A section of the volume Philadelphia and Its Environs, and the Railroad Scenery of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1875). The text and accompanying illustrations provide a fascinating tour, via various Pennsylvania railroads, of the state's coal mining regions, as well as other sites to be seen along the way. In my talks about the Schuylkill River as it flows through Philadelphia, I often mention the so-called "culm" (small pieces of waste coal) that accumulated around the many coal mines, washed into the river with every rainfall, and eventually clogged the river upstream from the Fairmount Dam.

August 28, 2007
Maps relating to 1886 Report on a New Water Supply for Philadelphia

This collection of large-scale images includes a fascinating collection of detailed topographic maps (dated 1887) that cover portions of Bucks and Montgomery counties, including the watersheds of Perkiomen Creek and Neshaminy Creek. Other documents include maps and aqueduct profiles that summarize, in visual form, this never-implemented plan for a new upstate water source. See the "Water Supply" section of the Philly H2O Archives for more information on this proposal.

August 13, 2007
1848 Dauguerreotype View of Fairmount Water Works and Vicinity
Including Lemon Hill, Schuylkill Navigation Company locks and canal, and various buildings in the area north of the Water Works once called "the Flatiron." Images reproduced with permission of the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York.

August 6, 2007
Philadelphia Water Department Library Catalogue
A PDF (265 kb; 151 pages) listing more than 1,500 publications in the collection of the Philadelphia Water Department. Thanks to volunteer Joe Shapiro for inputting these volumes.

February 6, 2007
Memories of Belfield Avenue [Link no longer active]
An article by Lou Brownholtz about growing up on this Germantown street, which was built over Wingohocking Creek, a Frankford Creek tributary. Lou did some of his research in the PWD Archives, and is now an archives volunteer. The article was originally published in the Germantown Crier, publication of the Germantown Historical Society.

January 24, 2007
Filling Low Land: A story of ash-dumping in the Wingohocking Creek watershed
An excerpt from Utility Cars of Philadelphia (1971) by Dr. Harold E. Cox, discussing one of the reasons the once-thriving Logan neighborhood has become an abandoned wasteland.

Funeral receipts from a Philadelphia family: 1849, 1891 and 1934
and an 1897 advertisement for Laurel Hill Cemetery

Profile of Queen Village in Philadelphia
and real estate advertisements from the Philadelphia Bulletin, June 19, 1966.

Abington, Cheltenham, Darby, Horsham, Moreland and Upper Darby Townships
Plates from early 1870s atlases published by G. M. Hopkins, Philadelphia surveyor and cartographer.

April 14, 2006
1882 Report from the Army Corps of Engineers on Navigation in Frankford Creek
Report, by future PWD Chief William Ludlow, indicates the need for dredging and other work to restore the navigation channel in Frankford Creek. Includes details of employment and materials used for several manufactories along the creek.

Two bridges across Frankford Creek: 19th century photos from City Archives
Photographs showing reconstructed bridges at Bridge and Orthodox streets. Photos also show area in vicinity of Bridge Street, including Tacony or Lennig Chemical Works (now Rohm & Haas) the Frankford Arsenal, and other business.

March 23, 2006
History of Belfield, by Sarah Logan Wistar Starr
1934 booklet about this estate, now part of the LaSalle University campus, in Phildelphia's Olney section. Belfield and Little Wakefield still exist, as do remnants of the Belfield's gardens, which are on a steep hillside in the Wingohocking Creek valley, overlooking a section of Belfield Avenue (beneath which the creek now flows in a large sewer). In the early 19th century Philadelphia artist Charles Willson Peale lived on the estate.

2,000 turn out for 'Be-In' to promote 'Flower Power'
Article and photograph from the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, April 17, 1967. The event, held in Fairmount Park, was organized by Ira Einhorn and attended by "hippies, teenie-boppers, mods, psychedelics and pretenders." Thanks to Rob Armstrong of the Fairmount Park Archives for
"turning me on" to this historic gem.

The Fairmount Water Works, by Jane Mork Gibson. From Bulletin, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Volume 84, Numbers 360, 361 Summer 1988. Published for the exhibition The Fairmount Water Works, 1812-1911 (July 23-September 25, 1988). The original publication contains many illustrations and informative captions, a checklist of the exhibition, and a preface by Anne d'Harnoncourt, none of which is included here, But even without the illustrations, the following text stands as the best and most complete history of Fairmount, from Jane Mork Gibson, the site's most knowledgeable historian.

Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, as shown on Noll's New Official Guide Map of Philadelphia, 1890. Shows many creeks that other maps of the period omit, and includes elevation contour lines and a more realistic street grid.

Leverington Street Stormwater Outfall, in the context of the development of stormwater and wastewater disposal systems in Manayunk and Philadelphia.
A paper written for the Fairmount Park Commission that is, essentially, a history of drainage in Philadelphia through the 19th century.

When it rains, it pours: Understanding the importance of stormwater runoff
An article originally written for Green Scene, and reprinted as a fact sheet by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, on the problems of uncontrolled stormwater runoff, and some of the steps that PHS and PWD are taking to alleviate it.

1883 Report of William Ludlow, Chief Engineer of the Philadelphia Water Department. Ludlow is particularly astute in his discussion of the need for water conservation and the sewage pollution of the city's river-based water supply. Other related PWD reports from the mid-1880s can be found under the "Water Supply History" and "Sewer History" headings of the Philly H2O Archives.

Philadelphia's Water and Sewer History. Two virtual exhibits, based on "Clean Water For Life: Philadelphia Water Department 1801-2001," have been posted here: Drainage for the City, which replaces a previously-posted version that did not include all the exhibit images; and Water for the City, a comprehensive visual history of the Philadelphia water supply, based on a quarter-century of research by historian Jane Mork Gibson.

Pennypack Watershed in Philadelphia: Four Plans and Maps. A 1916 plan and report on Pennypack Park, a modern map created by Roland Williams that is a must for any visitor to the park, a composite map from 1927 showing Sandy Run, a mostly-obliterated Pennypack tributary, and a 1930 road map of the area.

March 9, 2006
Regulations for Sewer Inspectors, 1908. This vintage document include this caveat: "No manhole or sewer is safe to enter in which a lighted candle will not burn brightly."

Seven new maps on a new maps page, covering the Delaware River, Philadelphia's port in 1912, Mill Creek in 1852, Tacony and Frankford creeks, and an interesting Center City elevation diagram from the early 18th century.

Images from the Castner Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

These are divided into the following pages:
Delaware River: General
Delaware River: Smith and Windmill Islands
Augustus Kollner: Watercolors and Lithographs, and
Frank H. Taylor: Watercolors of West Philadelphia

Delaware River Images

From various collections, these are divided into the folowing pages:
General Views
Aerial Views from the PNI Library
Views of Smith and Windmill Islands

February 23, 2006
History of Philadelphia 1609-1884.
The preface and two chapters from this three-volume comprehensive history of early Philadelphia: Chapter 1 (Topography) and Chapter 11 (Manners and Customs of the Primitive Settlers).

Historical Society of Frankford: Photographs from the Cartledge Collection
56 photographs, mostly of Pennypack Creek, taken by photograph Lincoln Cartledge between 1890 and 1915.

Nine new maps on a new page, ranging from 1777 to 1925, including several of the Schuylkill River.

Hydrographical Survey of the Schuylkill River, 1866.
Map and accompanying text give a detailed description of the state of the river in Philadelphia, above the Fairmount Dam.

Purity of Water: The Schuylkill in 1866.
An excerpt from the 1866 PWD Annual Report on the condition of the Schuylkill River, then as now the source of much of the City's water.

Views of the Schuylkill River.
A selection of engravings and drawings from various collections.

Historical Overview of the Schuylkill River as a Water Supply.
A brief history with links to a number of illustrations.

City Job Annoucement for Sewer Crawler, 1968. [PDF, 150 kb]
Thanks for Joe and Milton Shapiro for this piece of sewer trivia, which is linked at the top of the "Down Under" page.

Upcoming Lectures.
A new page will list future lectures by Adam Levine on various topics related to sewers and watershed history.

Research Hints.
A few ideas on how to do your own hidden stream research.

November 23, 2005
Dock Creek Sewer Investigation, 1849.
A report to City Councils regarding this sewer, which was then inadequate to the growing drainage needs of the city.

Philadelphia's Waterfront, 1876.
A description from a Centennial guidebook, with illustrations, of the bustling life along the the Delaware and Schuylkill.

Delaware River Steamboats, 1876.
A description from a Centennial guidebook, with illustrations.

Philadelphia's Hidden Streams, 1889.
As early as the late 19th century the streams that had been converted to sewers, and thus hidden underground, were seen as worthy of a newspaper story.

The Neck, 1919.
An essay by Christopher Morley on this section of South Philadelphia.

The Western Commons, 1840s.
Excerpt of a section from Watson's Annals about the western rural part of the original city.

Wingohocking Creek Watershed, 1902.
Excerpts from a 1902 guidebook of Germantown concerning the Winghocking watershed and other local history.

November 2, 2005
Jones Wister's reminiscences.
Excerpts concerning Winghohocking Creek and Schuylkill River.

Sad History of Frankford Creek.
A PowerPoint slideshow converted into a Web page or PDF format, with text, maps, photographs and newspaper articles illustrating the history of pollution
and channelization of Frankford Creek.

Engravings from the Magee Guide to Philadelphia, 1876.
Engravings from Philadelphia and Its Environs, 1875.
Selections focusing on the city's streams, rivers, and parks.

List of Illustrations in History of Philadelphia: 1682-1884.
Indexes to images in all three volumes of this pre-eminent historical work, commonly known by its authors' last names, Scharf and Westcott.

Petition and Plan of Manufacturers along the Schuylkill River, 1868.
Including an editorial deriding the self-serving nature of the petition, in which the manufacturers suggested piping water to Philadelphia from upstream so they could continue polluting the river within the City limits.

August 10, 2005
Photographs of underground sewer inspections added to Down Under!, courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News library.

Philadelphia brick and cobble-stone: A vision of arctic climates
Chapter XI of Town Geology: The Lesson of the Philadelphia Rocks, an 1885 book by Angelo Helprin.

Illustrated history of Philadelphia's drainage and sewerage system
A digital version of part of an exhibit celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Philadelphia Water Department, mounted in 2001 by PWD and the City of Philadelphia Department of Records. I co-wrote the text and located most of the illustrations for this part of the exhibit. [Link updated March 23, 2006]

A map detailing "The Journey of Your Flush" along with a tribute to the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center.

July 27, 2005
1912 History of Frankford. 80-page souvenir booklet, with historical essays about this Philadelphia neighborhood, as well as many pages of advertisements that provide a portrait of Frankford at that moment in time.

May 24, 2005
Maps Page: Five early maps of Fairmount Park (1870-1893), and an 1873 engraving of Fairmount Water Works, with buildings identified by date of construction.

Lemon Hill and Fairmount Park. The papers of Charles S. Keyser and Thomas Cochran, relative to a public park for Philadelphia, published in 1856 and 1872.

Our City of Tomorrow: Twelve-part 1930 newspaper series detailing plans for Philadelphia and the surrounding region

Watersheds: A 1999 article by Adam Levine.

May 12, 2005
1844 Report on the Flood of 1843, in Delaware Co., Pennsylvania

August 11, 1843 newspaper article describing the Flood of 1843

1826 Report on Manufactories of Delaware Co., Pennsylvania

1890 Census Return: Portrait of Philadelphia

May 10, 2005


Philly H2O replaces my former site,,
and includes the best of what was on the old site and much more.


The History of Philadelphia's Watersheds and Sewers
Compiled by Adam Levine
Historical Consultant
Philadelphia Water Department
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