FWWIC – the once second most visited site in the country


As soon as I step into the building, I had a feeling of how important this building is in American History. No I am not talking about the Oval office or the new york stock exchange. I am talking about the once second most visited site in the US, I am talking about Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center.

Most of you must be going like…come again? what? wait… you must be kidding…

No I am not. The innovations and the importance that was once housed in this building is no joke. The building was constructed in the early 1800’s following a series of yellow fever in which saw the population of Philadelphia (largest in the nation at that time) diminish by 1/5. Many experts thought that the epidemic was caused by the unclean water and wastewater that lined the streets and were determined to make a change and in comes the water work building at fairmount.

Designed by Mr. Frederick Graff, the water work was initially powered by steam engines and pump water from the Schuykill into a holding tank that was later distributed across to the citizens of Philadelphia. The water work went through a series of changes from using steam to pure water power. From wooden water wheels to turbines. From simple pumping to including treatment. A dam that was the largest in the world at that time was even constructed.

Of course today, the site is a museum but while being in the water work and visualizing what it would have been like 100 or 200 years ago brings joy and admiration for this very building that still stands today. Check out the website and visit it when your in Philly!


About t5huang

Masters in Environmental Science at UPenn Candidate
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