A hundred years ago, there wasn't much of a Philadelphia neighborhood called Eastwick. The southwesternmost portion of the city was sparsely populated and at that time
commonly known as The Meadows, so named for the marshlands that the Darby Creek flowed through en route to the Delaware River. Then in the 1930s, the airport came along.
With construction of the airport came the dredging of Darby Creek, thereby creating new open space. For a number of years, that space was occupied by small farms,
scattered homes and junkyards. All this changed in the 1950s.|
When urban renewal was taking off, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority earmarked Eastwick's open spaces and deteriorating old infrastructure for a massive project. In 1953, it announced the largest urban renewal project in the country would change the face of the neighborhood. Indeed it would. The 50s were a unique period in American history in which the automobile was celebrated and the landscape evolved to reflect that. Architecture was modernized as well, accentuating forms, lines and simplicity and frowning on ornamentation. These two ideals, and to a lesser extent the fascination with outer space, very much lend a timeliness to Eastwick's visible development.
The Korman Company, known for its residences and retail facilities all across the northeast, was to have developed 'New Eastwick' for the urban renewal project, but to date only a fraction of that exists. Still, they own the rights to much of Eastwick, and as Mayor, Ed Rendell renewed their lease on the land for 99 more years.
Interestingly, then, this post-war neighborhood took shape as post-war American cities were witnessing flight to the suburbs, especially in Southwest Philadelphia. In a sense, Eastwick never had a sense to build the greater sense of regional, neighborhood pride that so many across the city possess before it started to change. That is not to say Eastwick is in a poor and blighted state. It's not, and arriving in Eastwick by way of neighboring Elmwood and Paschallville help toward illustrating things aren't bad.
Still, truthfully a lot of Eastwick's history lies on the dubious side of the tracks. The Eastwick library was allegedly used by Al Qaeda operatives in the months preceding September 11, 2001. Darby Creek has repeatedly turned up Superfund violations for its pollution, which not only includes chemicals from nearby refineries and sewage treatment facilities, but also bodies disposed here by the mafia.
Darby Creek then passes through John Heinz Wildlife Refuge on its way to the Delaware. The last page of this photo essay features pictures from the Refuge, named for the late US Senator involved in environmental funding who died in a helicopter crash in Lower Merion in 1991. The primary entrance and public facility of the Refuge is accessed at the bottom end of Lindbergh Boulevard in Eastwick. It is indeed a beautiful natural asset to the region, but when hiking there, it's hard not to notice you're so close to the Airport (whose planes are as you'd expect very noisy), I-95 (which passes through the lower portion of the Refuge), and the refineries which remind you of their presence in occasional sirens and, um, scents.
Again, things aren't all bad in Eastwick. A good portion of the community (in particular, Korman's apartment rentals) is popular with a transient crowd, specifically pilots, attendants and other airline employees since the airport is just down Bartram Ave. And, with the opening of the new massive US Post Office facility, there's a wealth of new jobs and a renewed interest in nearby housing.
For what it's worth, this is Eastwick.
A special thanks to Nicole Gordon of the Eastwick Branch of the Philadelphia Free Library, and to Matt Wysong for sharing his college term paper on Eastwick's redevelopment. You can read the 47 page pdf HERE.