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The Eastwick Living History Project

Eastwick is a low elevation neighborhood in Southwest Philadelphia. The neighborhood is home to a vibrant community that has been subject to extreme natural disasters and disenfranchising policies. Eastwick  represented one of the only racially integrated neighborhoods in Philadelphia through the 1950s. Many residents were attracted by the landscape’s vast open space. The area was formerly underlain by 5,700 acres of freshwater tidal marsh, 200 acres of which remain in John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge (JHNWR). Overflow from the Schuylkill River and Cobbs Creek now threatens to inundate Eastwick with severe floods.

Environmental risks, in addition to racial bias, prompted Philadelphia to declare Eastwick as blighted in 1950.  From 1950 to 2015, Eastwick was home to the largest urban renewal project in the United States. Outside Eastwick, the project was met with optimism from prospective tenants and city planners. However, residents faced the demolition of 4,000 homes of the forced migration of 8,000 neighbors. In 2006, efforts to revive the urban renewal plan were met with intense rejection from residents. City Council voted to cancel the project in 2015.

This project curated oral histories collected by Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities  (PPEH) to contextualize the current development strategy in Eastwick. Events from residents’ stories are sorted in chronological order and annotated with their historic context.

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