As we walk around the city of Philadelphia, few of us think about the hidden world of streams that once meandered across the city. Adam Levine will present a fascinating illustrated lecture that will uncover part of the city’s history that few people ever think about – the drastic changes made in the urban landscape since the city’s founding in 1682. Levine has been digging into the history of the city’s sewers and drainage systems since 1998. His talk will focus on the systematic obliteration of hundreds of miles of city streams—including Cohocksink Creek in the Wagner’s vicinity, Mill Creek in West Philadelphia, and Wingohocking Creek in Germantown. These streams, with watersheds that covered thousands of acres, were wiped off the city’s map, buried deep underground in pipes as large as 20 feet in diameter to serve as main drainage arteries in the city’s 3,000 mile sewer system. The combined flow of sewage and stormwater in these pipes, which periodically overflow, has environmental repercussions that are still being dealt with today—not only in Philadelphia, but in any older city with a similar sewer system. This lecture is guaranteed to reveal a side of urban infrastructure you have never seen, and change the way you think about cities in general.
Museum open until the talk begins at 6 p.m. Registration is free, but donations ($5 suggested) are welcomed at the door!
Adam Levine, a historical consultant for the Philadelphia Water Department and webmaster of PhillyH2o.org, is the expert on all things water (or sewer) related in Philadelphia. Levine has been digging into the history of the city’s sewers and drainage systems since 1998. He is also editor in chief of PHS Grow, the magazine of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and author of five books on gardening.
Image: Mill Creek Sewer between 47th St. and Haverford Ave. Looking northwest, 1887. Source: Philadelphia Water Department Historical Collection