Monday, February 15, 2010

A History of Fairmount Park

By Nicole Sugerman

In the last several newsletters, you may have seen the articles describing the institutions that comprise the Henry Got Crops! partnership; edition #6 explained the history of Saul High School, and #8 described Weavers Way Co-op. The last institution that has worked to make this project possible is Fairmount Park. Fairmount Park owns all the land that Saul High School uses on our side of the street; our lease to use the land is directly through them.

Fairmount Park is one of the county’s oldest and largest municipal park systems. Its conceptual origins date all the way back to the 1790s, when Philadelphia yellow fever epidemics spurred local government to secure safe, clean, drinking water for city residents. Throughout the first part of the 19th century, water sources were continually threatened by industrial pollution, and in 1854, the Consolidation Act gave Philadelphia City and County governments the power to acquire area within the city as open public space. Fairmount Park was officially incepted in 1855 with the acquisition of the Lemon Hill estate and its renaming as Fairmount Park for public use. Continuing concerns over drinking water supplies spurred additional land acquisitions, expanding Fairmount Park’s acreage.

The Fairmount Park Commission was officially created in 1867 with a mission to oversee the creation of a park along the Schuylkill River and to “maintain [the Park] forever, as an open public place and park, for the health and enjoyment of the citizens [of Philadelphia], and the preservation of the purity of the water supply to the City of Philadelphia."

Today, the park system includes 9,200 acres in 63 neighborhood parks. Philadelphians enjoy the park system for biking, walking, rollerblading, horseback riding, picnicking, and more. Most of the farm crew rides through the Wissahickon portion of Fairmount Park each day to and from Saul.

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