Articles transcribed by Rich Wagner, Pennsylvania Brewery Historian.


Fairmount Park Archives and Online Sources

Brewery Sewer” and “Elevating a Street”


Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Friday June 9, 1882


Our Drinking Water


The Powers of the Park Commission to Make Improvements


will tomorrow take up the question of the best methods for the purification of Schuylkill water. …former Mayor Stokey said he has spoken to Mr. Lex of the necessity of building a sewer on the east side of the river …beginning at a point below the dam to as far north as Manayunk. …Dobson Mill mentioned as having to move to a new location then sited for polluting the river.


Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Thursday June 15, 1882


The Schuyulkill Water


How Its Purity Can be Effectively Preserved


To the Select and Common Councils of the City of Phila.: Your Committee on Surveys to whom was referred the matter of the drainage into the river Schuylkill at Girard avenue bridge beg leave to report that they have visited the locality and examined the drainage emptying into the river at that point.


The stream …draining several hundred acres (except 200 feet in the Park), has been arched over for a long distance, diagonally throught the blocks and under the streets at Thirty-first and Thompson and Thirtieth and Jefferson streets, and is now in most places from 20 to 30 feet under the surface.


A sewer in Pennsylvania avenue, emptying below the dam, was extended along Pennsylvania avenue as long ago as 1859, from Thirtieth to Thirty-second street, at Thompson street, thence along to Thirty –first and Jefferson streets. The sewer on acouont of its outlet, could not be laid deep enough to intercept all the houses and breweries in that vicinity, on account of the great depth of the beer vaults, and for want of inspection it was built so irregularly in the bottom that it was continually choking up.


In 1878 a large sewer was built on Thirtieth street from Pennsylvania avenue to Jefferson street, where it intercepted the stream and diverted all the sewage and storm water of the greater part of the basin lying east of Thirtieth and north of Thompson streets.


$5,000 dollars was appropriated the same year to cut out the bottom and fill up the irregularities in the bottom of the old sewer in Pennsylvania avenue.


This was done, and from what your committee saw the sewage was flowing freely through it. This sewer has been extended to Thirty-third street. The drainage of this territory is now diverted so as to pass into the river below the dam, except from the vaults of several breweries and the surface drainage of the block between Thirty-second and Thirty-third streets.


The committee were accompanied by the chief Engineer and Surveyor, who pointed out the several sewers in the vicinity and explained that until the Pennsylvania avenue sewer and Thirty-third street were paved, it was unsafe to put inlets to the sewer, because the spent hops, straw, mud and debris would certainly choke in the light grade sewer, as had been formerly the case, rendering it comparatively useless. He stated that he had heretofore recommended that the paving should be done, but that it had never been acted upon.


After making a thorough examination of the whole subject they are of the opinion that the nuisance complained of can be avoided by paving Pennsylvania avenue from Thirty-second to the west line of Thirty-third street, and the east side of Thirty-third street, and the east side of Thirty-third street from Pennsylvania avenue to Master street, and then inlets can be built that will carry into the sewer now laid on Pennsylvania avenue and thence below the dam, discharging at Wood street, all the surface drainage in that locality which now runs into the sewer complained of.


The breweries which now use the last-named sewer can then be compelled to use the Pennsylvania avenue sewer by pumping the refuse water from their sub-cellars into the said Pennsylvania avenue sewer, as they have no right to pollute the waters of a public stream. Your Committee are not prepared, for want of time to fix the responsibility for this evil, but would say that the amount appropriated by the ordinance approved Dec. 24, 1878, has been judiciously expended by the Survey Department in leveling the Pennsylvania avenue sewer, built in 1859, so as to carry off the surface drainage from a certain territory until it was claimed that expenditure accomplished all that was expected of it. The committee are of the opinion that the Pennsylvania avenue sewer will carry off all the sewage that will be thrown into it by diverting it from the Girard avenue sewer.


The committee therefore recommended the passage of the ordinance providing for the paving.


The Western Brewer April 15, 1885

 Corks- Phila. Board of Health ordered the so-called "brewery sewer" to be closed alleging it was detrimental to the Schuylkill River in the vicinity of Spring Garden Water Works. Rothacker Bros, and Theis, Bergner & Engel, Arnholt & Schaefer, Baltz are energetically protesting this action.

Elevating a Street.” The Philadelphia Times Dec. 1, 1895

Work is being pushed rapidly on the piers and abutments of the new elevated roadway which U ultimately to make Thirty-third street continuous from Girard avenue to Jefferson street. The Bureau of Surveys of the Department of Public Works commenced the stupendous undertaking of building three squares of elevated street on the 7th of last August under an appropriation of $95,000 by Councils for the year ending that date in 1896.

The line of Thirty-third street running northward from Girard avenue is between the standpipe of the Spring Garden Water Works and three large breweries which front on It for' a single square between the Reading Hail road's tracks and Master street. Immediately above Master street Is the New York-division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which' occupies four main tracks and five sidings at this point. Thirty-third street above the Pennsylvania Railroad runs north along the, edge of East Park Reservoir. It is a wide and well-kept thorough-fare, one side being owned by the Park and the other built tip with new houses. almost to the edge of the Pennsy's line. It ends here in a bank of earth which is a continuation of the original level of the reservoir bottom. The undertaking on foot is to bring this bank of clay into communication with a similar bank back of the Spring Garden Pumping Station and the Heading trucks. In order to do this, it will be necessary to bridge the tracks of the two railroads and erect between them for a square a solid enclosure of stone sixty-three feet high, filled in with earth.

The original Idea was to preserve the line of the old street, but before the plans were drawn It was discovered that by so doing the retaining or side wall of the elevated street would cut the faces of the three breweries [Eble & Herter/Bergner &Engel Plant #3, Burg & Pfaender and George Keller] so closely as to exclude their light and altogether prohibit their further Intercourse with the railroads on either side, to which they had built private tracks. As far back as 1882 the brewery people urged on the city the advisability of connecting the two broken ends of Thirty-third street If it could be done without Interfering with their light and traffic. It was suggested that instead of bringing the blank wall of the street up to within a few feet of their own property It should be made to deviate from a straight line and take a wide sweep to the west. There has been no disposition on the part of the city to trample on the rights of the breweries, and, in fact, it could not have done so, as the latter were legally entitled to the use of Thirty-third streets as a public thoroughfare. To have cut off their communication by a sheer wall placed within six or eight feet of the brewery fronts was out of the question and the city never entertained the Idea for a moment. The plan of the work n It is now being carried out Is practically the suggestion of the brewery owners themselves. In front of the breweries Thirty-third street is fifty feet in width and they face west on open Park property. The 1'ark Commissioners have agreed to add. fifty feet of their land to the same width occupied by the street, or more properly speaking, a width of one hundred feet total Is to be carried out over Park ground in a great circle in front of the breweries. The ends of this crescent will join with their respective railroad bridges entirely clear of the street below, and the nearest point of the wall midway between the ends will be eighty-four feet from the breweries. By this method not 'only Is an Improved elevated thorough-fare created, but the original street is preserved, thus making as it were an upper and a lower Thirty-third street.

The bank or bluff between Girard avenue and the Reading's lines Is all made ground and has been used as a dump for the last twenty years. It Is said to be none the worse on that account, as three years is sufficient to make the poorest dump almost equal to a gravel, bed. An abutment twenty-two feet thick, with two L's or side wings, sustains the bank. The foundations for this piece of masonry are buried twenty feet below the surface and rest on a hard stratus of natural, sandstone rook. The inside work of the abutment is red sandstone and concrete, and the facing is of Holmesburg granite. About one-third of the abutment has already been built and a large gang of men Is constantly at work unloading and setting the huge blocks of stone that are shipped at a special siding. Some of the blocks weigh as heavy as three tons and the larger of the two derricks swings the biggest boom of any derrick in Philadelphia.

At the Pennsylvania tracks two long abutments have been put up and coped ready to receive the steel girder work that is to span the nine tracks. As the distance is considered too great for a single span, two smaller piers holding steel-supporting columns are to be placed outside of the four central tracks. When this has been done and a small pier erected at the side of the Reading tracks for the same purpose, the first contract will have been completed. The amount already expended is $35,000, and It is expected to bring the pier work contract to a finish before the end of winter: The street itself occupies the intermediate space between the two railroads. The elevation when completed will resemble a section of a circular fort without windows, and the ends of the-retaining walls will be joined by solid abutments, making the enclosure a perfect hollow. Lengthwise the retaining walls will conform to the grade of the street below, which at a height of sixty-three feet is at the correct slant to bring the upper bridge into grade with the Reading abutment; Master street will be carried through the upper end of the enclosure by n brick archway of sufficient height and width to allow wagons to pass. The space inside the walls will then he filled in and tamped down with earth and the top regularly paved with Belgian block or asphalt. a drive sixty feet in width will be laid out in the center, of each side of which is to be a twenty-foot sidewalk enclosed by Iron guard rails. It has been proposed to make the walls opposite the breweries slanting Instead of-perpendicular. In which case, more light would be reflected into their windows than they get at present. It Is not possible to carry out the entire operation without numerous modifications, but it is certain that whatever plans are followed the brewery sites are bound to be improved by the street, and the proprietors have expressed themselves to that effect while interviewing the construction officials. A space has been left between the Reading abutment and pier for the extension of a road that may in time be opened from the rear of the pumping station to the upper level. Steps will also be provided at the most convenient points for the accommodation of people who cannot reach the elevated portion of the street by its main entrances.

The opening of Thirty-third street Is a move in the direction of bringing the northwestern part of Fairmount Park within easy reach of people who live in the central section of the city. It will permit carriages to get to the Diamond street entrance of the Park without having to drive miles through the city or take the alternative of descending to the river drive. At its connection with Girard avenue, new Thirty-third street will branch out into a Y, the center between the two diverging roads to be filled with in ornamental flower bed, probably surmounted by a bronze statue to correspond with the Joan of Arc nearly opposite.

Besides opening that part of the Park, previously to be reached only by the Oxford or Diamond street entrances, the Thirty-third street elevated thoroughfares will make an attractive promenade for the residents of the northwest, to whom Fairmount Park is now several miles away because it cannot be reached other than by a roundabout way. The character of the construction Is the best and the two great abutments running parallel with the Pennsylvania Railroad are the finest pieces of masonry along the entire New York division. The amount needed for the completion of the work is $100,000 and if this sum is appropriated by the city the street may be ready for pleasure traffic several months before the end of 1896. The Bureau of Highways has already advertised for bids to pave that part of the street between Oxford street and the north abutment, and the plans are being pushed as rapidly in the other departments.