Attendees at Northeast Philadelphia History Network’s December meeting learned some history about Pennypack Park and some surrounding areas.
The speaker was Peter Kurtz, who has been with the Pennypack Environmental Center since 1985. The center, established in 1969, is celebrating 50 years.
When the city of Philadelphia decided to establish Pennypack Park in 1905, one of the main functions was intended to put a sewer to bring waste water to the water treatment facility of the Delaware River, which is why you can still find sewer outlets in the park, Kurtz said. The park was also intended to include tennis courts, ball fields and picnic areas before becoming the forest area that it is today.
In 1918, the city acquired 100 acres from the Verree house and surrounding properties for a transfer of one dollar. To this day, the Verree house is leased to the school district for one dollar a year, Kurtz said.
At the end of the Great Depression, Works Progress Administration created a few projects to clean up the park. Bridle paths were built from Axe Factory Road at Roosevelt Boulevard to Susquehanna Road, and about 25,000 poison ivy plants were removed and replaced by Japanese honeysuckle.
From the 1930s to the 1950s, the Pennypack Creek was famous as a place to go swimming. Seven designated swimming holes had lifeguards along the creek, and were even advertised as a destination by the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company.
NEPHN is also selling a 2020 stone arch bridges calendar. The calendar showcases arch bridges in Northeast Philadelphia and surrounding areas that are still standing from the 18th and 19th centuries. The calendars are available online for $10 each, or $25 for three. http://www.nephillyhistory.net/2020StoneArchBridgeCalendar.htm.
Books about Northeast Philadelphia history are available at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FriendsOfNortheastPhiladelphiaHistory.
NEPHN usually meets the first Wednesday of the month at Pennepack Baptist Church. Due to New Year’s, the next meeting will be held Jan. 8.