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The City

The Manayunk Canal

is the oldest anthracite canal in the country.

The history of Manayunk, a neighborhood within the city of Philadelphia, turns on the development of the canal. In the early 1800s, the Schuylkill Navigation Company began construction of the anthracite canal which would provide a waterway for industry. Soon, textile and paper mills rose up along the banks of the canal, stimulating the growth and development of the community.

The word "Manayunk," which has its origins in the language of the Lenni Lenape, means "where we go to drink." For the native Americans, the water of the canal satisfied their thirst. During the 1800s, the water of the manmade waterway satisfied their industrial ambitions. Today, the oldest anthracite canal in the country satisfies the community's recreational needs.

This collection of images, captured in October of 1997, shows the Manayunk Canal today. Notice the color of the water and the industry alongside the canal.

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Some Inquiry Starters...

  • Why does the water seem so still?
  • Why do the trash and leaves gather and float on the surface?
  • Which industry today could use the canal and towpaths?
  • Why does the water look green?
  • How could the water be cleaned?

To understand the present, take a field trip to the Canal and walk along its towpath, or, at the very least, spend some time browsing through the collection of images above.

Manayunk is undergoing a rebirth. The neighborhood is thriving and the the City of Philadelphia, the Manayunk Development Corporation, and the Manayunk Neighborhood Council are looking toward the future.

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