Eastwick Oral History Project

The Eastwick Oral History Project documents the rich history and complex cultural life of Eastwick — a vibrant community in Southwest Philadelphia. Via oral history and related documentation including photography walking/driving interviews, we ask participants to tell their life stories through the lens of place, and to reflect on the cultural life and cultural landscape of their own Eastwick and to trace the history of the community through their own life and family narratives.

Working in close collaboration with the Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition (EFNC), the project seeks to establish community narratives and memories about the longer history of the role of the environment, spaces, places, and related negotiations in community life. Members of EFNC are community activists and leaders who advocate for environmental, economic, and social sustainability for Eastwick. From the early 1950s, Eastwick was the site of attempted urban renewal-as-spectacle on the part of Philadelphia’s city hall. Following the flooding of Hurricanes Connie and Diane in 1955 shaped by the industrial landscapes surrounding the marshy, semi-rural neighborhood, the community was designated a blight, with thousands of acres turned over to public-private redevelopment projects that displaced thousands of residents from what was once Philadelphia’s most integrated neighborhood. Neighboring wedges of the mouth of the Schuylkill have been cut off to expand Philadelphia’s airport and the massive oil refinery complex, while runoff from unlicensed dumps led to an EPA Superfund designation on neighborhood’s western edge. Since 2012, EFNC's community-leadership has organized to support community empowerment in decisions of the neighborhood’s future.

Together with members of EFNC, the Eastwick Oral History Project takes up several themes:

  • The complex and changing environmental and social history of the Eastwick neighborhood.
  • The memory and ongoing use of spaces and places in the Eastwick community to community members’ lives.
  • The impact of neighborhood sites — from EPA superfund sites to parks to the John Heinz NWR to sites of cultural significance — on personal and community life and organizing.
  • The role of place in Eastwick’s organizing efforts and ongoing fight for Eastwick residents to determine the community’s future.

Throughout, we hope the oral histories documented as a part of this project will help to showcase the power of cultural and community memory and the rich and un-ignorable cultural landscape already thriving in — and vitally connected to the power of place— in Eastwick.

Past and Present Participants: 

Phil Flynn (photographer), Jess Holler (Penn), Patricia Kim (Penn), Paul Mitchell (Penn), Jeff Nagle (Penn), Bethany Wiggin (Penn)