Secrets of the Schuylkill & Fairmount Water Works - Atlas Obscura


Secrets of the Schuylkill & Fairmount Water Works

Experience behind-the-scenes access to a Philadelphia landmark, and learn why "We Are Drinking Coal Dust and Water."

For many, Fairmount Water Works is just a familiar part of the built landscape, unaware of the depth and stories behind its walls. This evening, gain new appreciation to our relationship to rivers and the lengths of water management over decades and decades. 

In this special evening on the Schuylkill River, we'll be joined by local historians Adam Levine and Ken Hinde to explore the history of Fairmount Water Works covering it's rich history of pollution management and the building itself - including areas restricted to public access. 

In Adam Levine's lecture "We Are Drinking Coal Dust and Water", you'll witness the history of Philadelphia through new eyes in its relationship to the Schuylkill, from the challenges of coal mining after the Civil War to the infamous pollution of the mid-1900s. 

Afterwards, journey with experienced site guide Ken Hinde behind the public barrier into the "hidden" Fairmount Water Works. You'll discover the evolution of water management and the ways Philadelphia has enjoyed this building over the years: from aquariums to swimming pools. Envision the past and learn about the future of this landmark during this after-hours experience. 


  • Parking is limited! Please consider public transportation or ride sharing.
  • Behind-the-scenes access has several steps to access the old pool.
  • Meet outside Water Works Visitor Center entrance for check-in.


Email John Pettit at

Stay connected! Subscribe to the Atlas Obscura Society Philadelphia newsletter and join our Facebook group for a first glimpse at upcoming events.

Advance tickets only. All sales final. No refunds or exchanges.