The 1683 plan for Philadelphia was designed in a grid pattern from river to river. This c. 1796 map shows that the city grew instead from east to west along the Delaware River and expanded north to south along the riverfront. The large brownringed, rounded rectangle in the upper left corner is a high flat landform called the Faire Mount, the future sight of the reservoir and Water Works. Natural streams are delineated by winding black lines; many streams were eventually covered over and used as sewers and the infilled land became the foundation for building development, particularly of row home (Source: P. C. Varle, artist, and Scott, engraver)
Fairmount Water Works and its Water Stories


  • Joanne Dahme Trustee, Fund for the Water Works
  • Claire Donato Mark B. Thompson Associates, Architecture and Planning
  • Victoria Prizzia Habithèque Inc.
  • Ellen Freedman Schultz Fairmount Water Works
  • Theresa R. Stuhlman Philadelphia Parks and Recreation
  • Karen Young Fairmount Water Works




The Fairmount Water Works of Philadelphia has many stories to tell that span its rich 200-year history. It speaks to the history of technology in America, urban water systems, public health and civic architecture. Although struggling with the increasing impact of climate change, it still has a significant role to play today as a heritage site and as an iconic expression of architectural beauty, civic pride, environmental education and protection and the stewardship of water for all.

How to Cite

Dahme, J., Donato, C., Prizzia, V., Freedman Schultz, E., Stuhlman, T. R., & Young, K. (2022). Fairmount Water Works and its Water Stories. Blue Papers, 1(1), 161–171.





methodologies and case studies

Author Biographies

Joanne Dahme, Trustee, Fund for the Water Works

Former Deputy Commissioner for Communications and Engagement at the Philadelphia Water Department. She is currently a Senior Advisor at the the Water Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the owner of Mayfly Communications. She is a trustee of the Fund for the Water Works in addition to serving on a number of other environmental and community-based non-profit boards.

Claire Donato, Mark B. Thompson Associates, Architecture and Planning

Senior Associate with Mark B Thompson Associates, PC. She is a registered architect and LEED™ accredited professional with more than 30 years’ experience with programming, planning and developing complex projects for both non-profit and public institutions. Claire has developed an expertise with projects requiring rigorous technical solutions through the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of existing structures, including historic and National Historic Landmark properties.

Victoria Prizzia, Habithèque Inc.

Founder and Principal of Habithèque Inc. (, an award-winning WBENC Certified interpretive planning and design studio headquartered in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Victoria’s work connects organizations, firms and individuals in the creation of dynamic spaces for education, community engagement and social change. Since 2010, Prizzia has directed high-profile projects at museums and environmental centers, nature preserves, parks and universities, and has overseen public-facing initiatives for state and municipal agencies.

Ellen Freedman Schultz, Fairmount Water Works

Developed and managed environmental education programs related to water quality, watershed management and the history of Philadelphia’s municipal water system. In 2014, she spearheaded the watershed curriculum design project which resulted in the “Understanding the Urban Watershed” Curriculum. Since 2019, it is being implemented in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia, along with professional development training and coaching for teachers. She is the Co-chair of the Education for Sustainability Committee of the School District of Philadelphia’s GreenFutures Plan and is currently a steering committee member of the Alliance for Watershed Education.

Theresa R. Stuhlman, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation

Served as the Historic Preservation Administrator for Philadelphia Parks & Recreation for over 25 years. She guides the maintenance, preservation, adaptive reuse and management of Philadelphia’s world-class landmarks contained within the 10,000+ acre park system. In addition, she manages the department’s architectural archival collection. She holds a BA in History from Creighton University and a master’s degree in historic preservation from George Washington University.

Karen Young, Fairmount Water Works

More than 20 years of experience developing and implementing urban environmental programs with an emphasis on informal/experiential learning. She has worked with city agencies, non-profits and museums to develop programs, lessons and materials focused on urban water supply systems and resource management for students in grades 4–12 that engage both teachers and students in interactive, engaging experiences and take participants outside to explore the natural environment. She has been the executive director of the Fairmount Water Works since 2007.


Bass Warner, Sam Jr. 1987. The Private City: Philadelphia in Three Periods of its Growth. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Dawson, Kevin. 2018. Undercurrents of Power: Aquatic Culture in the African Diaspora. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Gibson, Jane M., and Robert Wolterstorff. 1998. “The Fairmount Waterworks.” Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 84, no. 360/361: 1–49.

Prizzia, Victoria. 2016. Mussels in the Wild Highland. New York: A. T. Publishing.

Smith, Carl. 2013. City Water, City Life: Water and the Infrastructure of Ideas in an Urbanizing Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.