Watershed History

The Tookany/Tacony-Frankford watershed, like the rest of the Philadelphia area, is the traditional territory of the Indigenous people, the Lenape. We recognize and honor the Lenape as the original and enduring stewards of our watershed.

In the 1600s, Swedes and Finns traveling up the Delaware River were the first European inhabitants of the Tacony Creek Valley, while Germans fleeing religious persecution settled in the western portion of the watershed in what is now Germantown. In 1664, the land that is now southeastern Pennsylvania was surrendered to the English by the Dutch. In 1681, King Charles II of England granted William Penn 40,000 acres of land in the Delaware Valley as repayment for a debt owed to Penn’s father. The entire TTF watershed lies within the area of this land grant. With the establishment of Penn’s colony, English settlers flocked to the region, establishing homesteads and towns.

The Tacony Creek and valley was primarily developed for agriculture and milling operations, becoming a center of industry during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Expansion of the city in the late 1800s led to the conversion of farmland into residential neighborhoods, though active agriculture persisted in the upper watershed until the early 1900s. High-density housing characterizes the area’s development after the 1940s. Today, over 400,000 people call our watershed home.


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