Then and Now: The historic photo at top, taken is Oct. 15, 1897, shows workers lining the Upper Roxborogh Reservoir with brick. The lower Google Maps image shows the site today, outlined in yellow. Credit: Phillyh2o.org

Then and Now: The historic photo at top, taken is Oct. 15, 1897, shows workers lining the Upper Roxborough Reservoir with brick. The lower Google Maps image shows the site today, outlined in yellow. Credit: Phillyh2o.org

Philadelphia Water Department historian Adam Levine and PWD staff members are hosting a walking tour of the long-ago retired Upper Roxborough Reservoir--a place whose past illuminates both the roots of its Northwest Philly neighborhood and the evolution of Philadelphia's modern-day water infrastructure.

The tour takes place at the Upper Roxborough Reservoir, 601 Port Royal Ave., on May 17 and will last from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. This event is being held as a part of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation's Love Your Park Week 2017.

Please RSVP here.

Once a functional reservoir and filtration site for drinking water, this area is now home to a nearly mile-long walking trail and birding area that also boasts Green City, Clean Waters tools that are protecting the nearby Schuylkill River. PWD and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation are currently working together to preserve this natural urban gem.

Understanding the story of how the reservoir came to be will transport you back to a time in the mid-19th century when, as PWD put it in 1859, Roxborough “manufactories…of great value” were “almost entirely without protection against fire” and local drinking water wells were “so contaminated” that few were “fit for culinary purposes.”

In a 2011 blog about the reservoir and other nearby public water works, Levine showed how understanding the origins and functional demise of the site can provide insight into the creation of the water infrastructure network that's currently providing our city with hundreds of millions of gallons of top quality water daily.

Tour participants will also meet local groups caring for the site, in part through a PWD Soak It Up Adoption mini-grant, and learn about how reservoir is once again a working cog in our vast infrastructure network--even if its job is a very different one.

Bring a friend (but please make sure they register), and we hope to see you on the evening of May 17th!

Note: this tour will not involve strenuous hiking. A rain date is set for Thursday, May 18th, same place-same time.

For questions please email Daniel.Schupsky@phila.gov.

MORE: Want to get involved with the Upper Roxborough Reservoir Preserve community? Head out to the park on May 13 for a Love Your Park Upper Roxborough Reservoir Preserve Day of Service!