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The Fairmount Water Works, a National Historic Landmark served as a pumping station providing water to the residents and businesses in Philadelphia from 1815 to 1909. Since its opening in 2003, the Center's mission has been to promote stewardship of water resources by helping people make responsible decisions about their use of land and water.
The Fairmount Water Works is a National Historic Landmark, a Civil Engineering Landmark, and a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark, and was designed and constructed to provide safe, clean drinking water to a city on the cusp of remarkable growth. Situated on the east bank of the Schuylkill River between historic Boat House Row and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Fairmount Water Works opened its doors in 1815 as the sole water pumping station for the City of Philadelphia. Almost a century later, in 1909, the Water Works was decommissioned as a pumping station when the City moved to sand filtration for purification in response to industrial development and the resulting detrimental impact on the region’s water quality. In 1911, most of the once technologically revered water pumping equipment was removed to make way for the opening of the Philadelphia Aquarium, which operated until 1962. For the next ten years the site was home to the John B. Kelly Pool, a practice pool for competitive swimmers and for School District of Philadelphia students. In the 1970s, the Junior League of Philadelphia, appalled at the neglect of such a historical treasure, began a fundraising effort to preserve the site and restore it to its former beauty and status as an unrivaled destination. Since 1972, spurred by the passage of the Clean Water Act, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) has been a national leader in educating the public about the value of clean water and the need for public stewardship of our regional and local watersheds. After several years of conducting tours and classes at the Fairmount Water Works, PWD recognized the need for a permanent educational facility focused on urban water education. When the FWW opened its doors October 2003, this achievement was the culmination of a 40-year effort, originally spearheaded by Susan Meyers and the Junior League, to save and restore this National Historic Landmark. Many individuals, organizations and civic leaders played a part in creating and nurturing an adaptive reuse of the iconic structure, and made reality out of the vision of an interpretive center that would bring together citizens and water resources.