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 in the midst of a public land planning process. The oral history project is a close collaboration between the Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition (EFNC) and the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities. We are also grateful for the support of the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum.

Participants' oral histories are being archived as part of the public River Archive, currently under construction and to be hosted by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. (Contributors choose their histories' privacy settings.) A mobile archive – an installation in which art marries science – about the project has been shown three times and will be installed in January 2018 at the Heinz NWR.

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 efforts to determine its community’s future.

Work samples from early project stages, stories collected by Jess Holler and Jeff Nagle:

Past and Present Participants: 

Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition, Faculty and Students in the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities,  Carolyn Finney (transcriber), Phil Flynn (photographer)