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The City

The Schuylkill River Water Works

The Water Works

In the shadow of the Philadelphia Museum of Art stands an old building that once stood magnificently tall along the banks of the Schuylkill River. In the early 1800s, the Fairmount Water Works was an engineering masterpiece. The Water Works was vital in the evolution of the city. Before the water treatment facility was created, the city of Philadelphia was diseased. Even William Penn himself wrote of his desire to raise his children outside of the city. A water purification process was desperately needed.

This collection of images, captured in October of 1997, shows how the Water Works building and the spillway look today. There are also images of the Schuylkill River intended to inspire ideas about the beauty of nature and science of water.

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Some Inquiry Starters...

  • How is the manmade spillway like a natural waterfall?
  • How can water from the Schuylkill River be purified for drinking?
  • Where does the Schuylkill River begin? End?
  • Why was the Water Works so important to the survival of the city?

To appreciate the history of the Water Works, browse this outstanding resource: Clean, Green, Machine: Philadelphia Water Works, 1800-1860. It's an excellent way to learn about the past.

To understand the present, take a field trip to the Water Works, or, at the very least, spend some time browsing through the collection of images above.

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