Fairmount Water Works, Philadelphia

4.8
The Fairmount Water Works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was Philadelphia's second municipal waterworks. Designed in 1812 by Frederick Graff and built between 1812 and 1872, it operated until 1909, winning praise for its design and becoming a popular tourist attraction. It now houses a restaurant and an interpretive center that explains the waterworks' purpose and local watershed history. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976 for its architecture and its engineering innovations. It was the nation's first water supply to use paddle wheels to move water.HistoryFollowing a series of yellow fever epidemics in the late 18th century (which was at the time thought to be caused by unclean water or by rotting matter in the streets) city leaders appointed a "Watering Committee". The initial water system was designed by Benjamin Latrobe and accepted by the committee in 1799. His system utilized two steam engines (in series) to pump water from the Schuylkill River, into the city, then into two wooden tanks that held a total of just 57,000USgal. From the wooden tanks, the water was gravity fed into a series of wooden water mains. The system was plagued with problems. If either of the steam engines failed, the water supply to the city was cut off.The committee began searching for another solution and eventually picked John Davis and Frederick Graff (Latrobe's apprentice and successor as chief engineer) to design a new waterworks, in order to meet the demand of the increasing numbers of city residents and to solve the problem of inadequate storage capacity.
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Fairmount Water Works Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
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4.6
TripAdvisor
  • We didn’t walk too far around the area because of the snow, but viewed from above the waterworks and river views were great. Interesting to read all the signs to get a feel for its development.  more »
  • How do you bring water to households and businesses before they even had electricity? At the Philadelphia Water Works, we discovered they used the natural forces of gravity and water itself to distrib...  more »
  • The water works structures are easy to see, but the interpretive center takes a little searching out. The day we visited there was a large party in the outdoor pavilion and they were not happy about o...  more »
Google
  • Nice place to relax on the grass after roaming around Philly. In summer these places are so breezy and calming to peacefully sit around.
  • Historic Phila land. Go sit on the grass. Breath it in. Two different gazebo's overlooking all kinds of beauty. Hike up to the art museum. One of my favorite locations on the drives. Sunset is crazy here.. right at the falls.
  • An interesting place to visit and the best part is free to the public. The history or use of the building is more interesting for me. Since Waterworks closed in 1909, it was converted to Philadelphia Aquarium for many years. Later, it was converted to a public swimming pool until mid 1970's. Now, Fairmount Water Works is "a hands-on science and environmental education center" Fairmount Water Works is only few steps from Philadelphia Museum of Art so, make a quick stop to see the display of gears and machines that supplied the water to the city. It will only take about 20 to 30 minutes. UPDATE: A new installation of Freshwater Mussel Hatchery is on display for visitors, and scientists are there to answer any question.
  • My son came here for summer camp. He loved it!!!!
  • One of America's first public water works, this was an original pumping station with a reservoir where the art museum now sits. The pumping station is a museum as a look back in time. Visit this first and then move into the art museum.

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Where to stay in Philadelphia

Most of Philadelphia's hotels cluster around the compact city center, ensuring quick and easy access to major tourist sights and activities. The only drawback to staying in this area is the lack of free parking, so if you're exploring by car, considering booking into a bed and breakfast in one of the city's residential blocks. Visitors planning on longer stays can also consider several apartment hotels, offering spacious furnished units with complimentary Wi-Fi, free bike rentals, and access to rooftop terraces.
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