On Saturday October 10, TTF hosted a watershed history walk led by Bob Thomas of the Philadelphia Parks Alliance. This two-part walk took us through some of historic Frankford, followed by a walk up through Tacony Creek Park.

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The walk began at the Church St. stop of the Market-Frankford elevated line. From there Bob led us through the neighborhood, down blocks of buildings and houses, some of which dated back to the late 17 and 1800’s.

The Frankford Creek played a critical role in the development of the area we know today as Frankford. Many mills were built along its banks, utilizing the flowing water to power equipment. The residential blocks we walked were once homes for local mill workers. These short, two-story structures are prevalent throughout the neighborhood. Though many have since been covered in vinyl-siding or stuccoed over, some still bore their original stone facade.22468411256_5a6c94115a_z

It was intriguing seeing the contrast of old and new buildings. Different styles of architecture were evident, each representing different eras of industry and watershed history.


An interesting assemblage of architecture, this building at Adams and Wingohocking represents 4 distinct architectural styles. From the original stone walls of the old mill building, to a brick expansion (right), then a much more recent brick alteration to the stone structure (along the street), to the addition of a plywood and sheet-metal clad fix-a-flat shop.

The architecture wasn’t the only thing to have changed during the past few centuries. The creek itself has been significantly manipulated. Spurred by industrial abuse and development, the Frankford Creek was channelized in the mid 1900’s — an effort to control floodwaters and give the polluted stream a more controlled, direct route to the river.


Overlooking Frankford Creek at Wingohocking Street.



Frankford Creek channel near Castor and Wingohocking,  October 2015

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Frankford Creek channel construction near Castor and Wingohocking. July 17, 1950. City Archives of Philadelphia.

Following Frankford Creek upstream, we came to Tacony Creek Park. Consolidated as a park around 1915, this land was the site of several historic mills, including Buzby’s Grist Mill and Rowland’s Saw Mill.

The trail from I and Ramona leads northward to Fisher’s Lane Bridge, a historic stone arch bridge crossing the Tacony. Many long-time residents may recall that this stretch of the trail was a two lane road, a connector between Juniata and Northwood. Even before that, Fisher’s Lane Bridge was a crossing of the ‘Road to Germantown’, a long used connector between the towns of Frankford and Germantown. A stone marker on the bridge reads 1759, however local historians dispute that date, suggesting the bridge was actually built (or maybe restored) in 1796.22494410155_686ce26932_z


Stone in Fisher’s Lane Bridge, reads D C E 1759. Could this be the actual date of bridge construction? There is an additional symbol to the right of the E.


Our walk through Tacony Creek Park ended at the Friends Hospital campus, owned by the Scattergood Foundation. Some of the trail runs through an easement on the Scattergood property. Friends Hospital was founded in 1813, and is recognized as the first privately run psychiatric hospital in the country. The beautiful Scattergood Building, which housed the original hospital, has been in continuous use, despite the hospital expansion into additional buildings.

The Tookany/Tacony-Frankford watershed has a long and fascinating history. Special thanks to Bob Thomas and the Philadelphia Parks Alliance for arranging this history walk. To learn more we also encourage you to connect with folks like the Historical Society of Frankford, the Northeast Philadelphia History Network, the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and HiddenCity Philadelphia.  Be sure to sign up for our E-newsletter, to stay up to date on our latest events and the next TTF Trails through Time history tour.

For more historic photos of the Frankford Creek transformation take a look at this presentation from Adam Levine of the Philadelphia Water Department.

Be sure to sign up for our E-newsletter, to stay up to date on our latest events and the next TTF Trails through Time history tour.

About Robin Irizarry

Robin Irizarry, Philadelphia Watershed Coordinator Robin leads TTF’s community watershed engagement and improvement efforts in Philadelphia, working with key stakeholders to engage and educate residents about watershed and stormwater issues. Robin has a background in ecological landscape design and woodworking. He grew up in Olney, exploring Tacony Creek. He and his family now live near the (Tookany) creek in Cheltenham. Contact Robin at 215.744.1853 or robin@ttfwatershed.org


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