Philadelphia in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The steam engine originally used to pump river water up to the Reservoir were dangerous and expensive to operate. Because of this, the Watering Committee decided to convert the Water Works to water power. The Fairmount Dam was built to achieve this goal.
Located to your right, the dam crosses the Schuylkill River at an angle. It diverted the river from its natural channel into the Forebay, now filled-in. At 2,008 feet, this innovative dam was the longest in the United States when completed in 1821. It was designed by Massachusetts engineer Ariel Cooley.
In addition to providing water power, the dam created a pool of calm, pond-like water stretching five miles upriver. The "Fairmount Pool" has been popularly used for boating and recreation from the 1820s to the present.
Erected by Fairmount Park Conservancy.
Location. 39° 58.015′ N, 75° 11.077′ W. Marker is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia County. Marker can be reached from Waterworks Drive, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. The interpretive is located on metal railing attached to the top of a wooden balustrade which extends the length of the walkway. The marker is just to the left of the pavilion if
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Fairmount Water Works (about 600 feet away); Paths & Pavilions (about 700 feet away); a different marker also named Fairmount Water Works (about 800 feet away); Schuylkill Navy of Philadelphia (approx. 0.2 miles away); Julian Francis Abele (approx. 0.3 miles away); Parkway Museums District (approx. 0.3 miles away); From Reservoir to Art Museum (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Philadelphia.
More about this marker. A hand drawn, black & white map of Fair Mount is in the upper left corner illustrating the river, dam and reservoir as it appeared in 1851. Underneath the map, the caption reads: This 1851 map of the Water Works by Frederick Graff, Jr. shows, from right to left: the locks, dam, mill race (Forebay), Old Mill House (labeled 'mills') and Reservoirs. The dam was built with a sharp angle to permit the breaking-up of sheets of ice when they reached the dam's overfall.
There is a painting in the lower left hand corner with the following caption: In this 1821 painting by Thomas Birch, a steamboat heads towards the canal and lock to pass around the dam.
To the right of this painting, at the bottom middle of the interpretive, is an engineer's rendering of a section of the dam in shallow water with the following caption: The dam was built of cribs of hickory logs filled with stone. These were sunk into the river and fastened to each other and the rock bed of the river.
The third picture on the bottom row is located on the bottom right of the interpretive and features a vintage photo, which caption reads: Workers re-build portions of the dam in 1907.
Image Credits: The "Map of Fairmount" and "Section of Dam": The Historical and Interpretive Collections of the Franklin Institute. Thomas Birch Painting: Pennsylvania of the Fine Arts, Fairmount Park Historic Resource Archive.
Categories. • Man-Made Features • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 9, 2013, by Eric Milask of Cherry Hill, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 334 times since then and 28 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on August 9, 2013, by Eric Milask of Cherry Hill, New Jersey. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.