Never Parched

Pre-Erie Canal, the Philadelphia Water Works was American know-how sine qua non. No other city in North America could furnish clean water to its citizens, and as a result it was one of the greatest tourist attractions in the US. As you might imagine, it was also expensive to operate, and Philadelphia charged Spring Garden, Southwark, and the Northern Liberties, and the other small cities and districts in Philadelphia County a high fee to tap into the system.

Photo courtesy The Library Company of Philadelphia

In the mid-1840s, after unsuccessfully bargaining with the City of Philadelphia to lower the cost of water, officials in the Northern Liberties and Spring Garden, growing districts that were also rapidly industrializing, decided to face down the ten-ton gorilla that was Philly and build their own system. The new Spring Garden Water Works, at the present site of the Glendinning Rock Garden, just below the Girard Avenue Bridge along Kelly Drive, would be a mile upriver from the city’s Water Works at Fair Mount. Construction began in 1844 and was completed in 1845. Philadelphia officials, meanwhile, paid careful attention to the Spring Garden Water Works because they feared a depletion of the water supply. They also worried about contamination.

But for nine years until the city and county consolidated in 1854, the Spring Garden Water Works kept Northern Liberties and Spring Garden satiated, despite the occasional outbreak of cholera. After consolidation, the city acquired Lemon Hill, and bit by bit, the factories and estates along the Schuylkill as a means to protect the city’s water supply. This would become Fairmount Park. It was a visionary environmental act by what was now one of the largest cities in the world. The Spring Garden Water Works, in turn, came under the city’s Water Department, part of a network of pumping stations that provided water to the vastly expanding city.


2 Comments


  1. Been by that spot a hundred times and had no inkling that was ever there. Beautiful photo, fascinating history. Aerial oblique photography reveals vestiges still in place:

    http://tinyurl.com/3fdja4d

    Mike Szilagyi

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

 

Recent Posts
<em>A Million Faces</em> Celebrates The Photography Of John Mosley

A Million Faces Celebrates The Photography Of John Mosley

September 30, 2016  |  Vantage

Philadelphia photojournalist John Mosley captured positive, empowering images of African American culture in the years between segregation and the Civil Rights Movement. A retrospective honoring his work is now on view at the Woodmere Museum in Chestnut Hill. Michael Bixler has the review. > more

Preservation Alliance Calls Out Toll Bros’. Obscurantism; Toll Bros. Call Out Alliance’s Obstructionism

Preservation Alliance Calls Out Toll Bros’. Obscurantism; Toll Bros. Call Out Alliance’s Obstructionism

September 29, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Lawyers spar over Jewelers’ Row case, PMA Asian Collection returning Sunday, and Penn Treaty Park getting some TLC > more

Germantown Neighbors Wary But Hopeful Over Plans For Abandoned St. Francis Of Assisi

Germantown Neighbors Wary But Hopeful Over Plans For Abandoned St. Francis Of Assisi

September 29, 2016  |  News

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Germantown has suffered theft, fire and blight since it closed in the summer of 2012, transforming a 113-year-old neighborhood anchor into a pressure point of crime and neglect. But redemption may be close at hand. John Henry Scott has the story. > more

PennDOT Announces Plan To Unclog Schuylkill Expressway

PennDOT Announces Plan To Unclog Schuylkill Expressway

September 28, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Alleviating the daily traffic troubles of I-76, an ode to the SEPTA token, Northeast district plans commence, and Five-Below commits to Center City > more

Developers Continue To Distrust Central Delaware Master Plan

Developers Continue To Distrust Central Delaware Master Plan

September 27, 2016  |  Morning Blend

The imperative of collaboration in reaching a critical mass on the Delaware, proposed regional rail power plant draws residents’ ire, L&I releases more data sets, and Walnut Lane Bridge reopens > more

The Crisis On Jewelers Row: Mayor Kenney We Need You

The Crisis On Jewelers Row: Mayor Kenney We Need You

September 27, 2016  |  Soapbox

The tools are in hand to stop Toll Brothers' tower (and get it built somewhere else), architectural historian and preservation professor Aaron Wunsch argues. Can Jim Kenney deliver? > more