100 Years in the Middle: Stories of Eastwick, Phila.

2018: Mouth of Mingo Creek with main refinery complex in the distance.

Courtesy of Penn Program in Environmental Humanities

The Problem
The Roots
The Solutions

Atop six thousand acres of historic wetlands, between the International Airport and the oldest oil refinery in the US, lies Eastwick—Philadelphia’s lowest-elevation neighborhood. In an era of climate change and sea level rise, Eastwick is increasingly prone to storm surge and nuisance flooding.

Encroachment on Eastwick began in the 1920s, when the Philadelphia International Airport was constructed on the outskirts of the neighborhood. In the 1950s, under the banner of urban renewal, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission displaced nearly half of Eastwick’s residents and radically reduced the extent of flood-mitigating tidal marshland.

Today Eastwick is poised for a new chapter in its history—one in which neighbors collaborate to plan public land use in a climate of increasingly heavy rain events and surging seas. This chapter has already begun. In 2015, Eastwick neighbors stopped unwanted development and won a pledge from the City to include residents in future planning efforts.

2014: The refinery complex sprawls across the Schuylkill’s banks for 150 years.
2018: View of the refinery on the Schuylkill’s east bank.
2019: The John Heinz Wildlife Refuge protects the remaining 200 acres of Eastwick’s marshland.
2018: Community member Earl Wilson meets with participants of Schuylkill Corps’ On-Water Intensive.
2013: Pepper Middle School was closed due to low enrollment and flooding.
2019: The Folcroft and Clearview Superfund sites are located in Eastwick.
2007: The airport is a source of noise and air pollution in Eastwick.
1901 map first drawn to further drain shrinking wetlands. Most of these creeks are “hidden” today.
Eastwick neighborhood
Airplane taking off from nearby Philadelphia International Airport.
Flare stack at oil refinery tank farm.
2014: The refinery complex sprawls across the Schuylkill’s banks for 150 years.
1

2014: The refinery complex has sprawled across the Schuylkill’s banks for 150 years.

Courtesy of Getty Images.

2018: View of the refinery on the Schuylkill’s east bank.
2

2018: View of the refinery on the Schuylkill’s east bank.

Courtesy of Phil Flynn and The Schuylkill Corps.

2019: The John Heinz Wildlife Refuge protects the remaining 200 acres of Eastwick’s marshland.
3

2019: The John Heinz Wildlife Refuge protects the remaining 200 acres of Eastwick’s marshland.

Courtesy of Alliance for Watershed Education of the Delaware River.

2018: Community member Earl Wilson meets with participants of Schuylkill Corps’ On-Water Intensive.
4

2018: Community member Earl Wilson meets with participants of Schuylkill Corps’ On-Water Intensive.

Courtesy of Martin Premoli and The Schuylkill Corps.

2013: Pepper Middle School was closed due to low enrollment and flooding.
5

2007: The airport is a source of noise and air pollution in Eastwick.

Courtesy of Andreas Praefcke.

2019: The Folcroft and Clearview Superfund sites are located in Eastwick.
6

2013: Pepper Middle School was closed due to low enrollment and flooding.

Courtesy of Jacob Hershman and the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities.

2007: The airport is a source of noise and air pollution in Eastwick.
7

2019: The Folcroft and Clearview Superfund sites are located in Eastwick.

Courtesy of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

1901 map first drawn to further drain shrinking wetlands. Most of these creeks are “hidden” today.
Additional Media

 1901 map first drawn to further drain shrinking wetlands. Most of these creeks are “hidden” today.

Courtesy of PhillyH20 and Lucy Corlett.

Additional Media

Residential Eastwick

Courtesy of Penn Program in Environmental Humanities.

Eastwick neighborhood
Additional Media

Eastwick neighborhood

Courtesy of Penn Program in Environmental Humanities.

Weeds and wildflowers reclaiming grounds of former Pepper Middle School.
Additional Media

Weeds and wildflowers reclaiming grounds of former Pepper Middle School.

Courtesy of Penn Program in Environmental Humanities.

Illegal dumping of hundreds of tires.
Additional Media

Illegal dumping of hundreds of tires.

Courtesy of Penn Program in Environmental Humanities.

Additional Media

 John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

Courtesy of Penn Program in Environmental Humanities.

Airplane taking off from nearby Philadelphia International Airport.
Additional Media

Airplane taking off from nearby Philadelphia International Airport.

Courtesy of Penn Program in Environmental Humanities.

Heron in marsh.
Additional Media

Heron in marsh.

Courtesy of Penn Program in Environmental Humanities.

Additional Media

Philadelphia Energy Solutions Oil Refinery

Courtesy of Penn Program in Environmental Humanities.

Flare stack at oil refinery tank farm.
Additional Media

Flare stack at oil refinery tank farm.

Courtesy of Penn Program in Environmental Humanities.

Mouth of Mingo Creek with main refinery complex in the distance.
Additional Media

Mouth of Mingo Creek with main refinery complex in the distance.

Courtesy of Penn Program in Environmental Humanities.

Our Point of View

University Partners
Community Partners

The Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH) explores the past, present, and future of urban ecologies and local impacts of the global climate crisis. For the past two years, students and faculty have been working with residents in Eastwick, a self-identified environmental justice community built on historic wetlands. We have learned how easily both corporate and governmental organizations can neglect community interests—and we have also witnessed the capacity of organized neighbors to support one another and nurture the social and built environments they need and want. With this exhibit, we hope to share Eastwick’s living histories with audiences across the country and perhaps even inspire more genuinely collaborative community planning efforts.

—University of Pennsylvania

“It’s unbelievable when you get a group of about 30–40 people in a room and you find that we’re all on the same wavelength. I’m hoping that we have something worthwhile in the end. As far as I know, no one has ever done any research on Eastwick, you know, the real kind, like you’re doing.” —Margie Cobb, EFNC member, contributor to the Eastwick Living History Project

—Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition

—John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

Contributors

University Partners

University of Pennsylvania

Community Partners

Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge