Rooted in History: Historic Preservation as a Foundation for Community Engagement Along the Lower Schuylkill
Historic Preservation and Conservation
Once the centerpiece of a rolling pastoral landscape, punctuated by some of the most important ornamental and botanical gardens of the colonial and early national eras, the Lower Schuylkill metamorphosed over the next century into one of the most polluted and environmentally degraded waterways in the country. In this thesis I will discuss the historical, environmental, and political themes that have shaped the evolution of the Lower Schuylkill region. Reviewing analyses and critiques of neoliberal urbanism, particularly in the context of waterfront revitalization projects, I identify ways in which preservation and related fields might support or resist a development-driven agenda. I then consider PIDC’s Lower Schuylkill Master Plan, which outlines a long-term vision for the extension of the Schuylkill river trail, and identify ways in which it fits within the neoliberal framework. Through further analysis of Executive Summaries, Master Plans, Reports, public meeting notes, and other public documents, I discuss how aspects of the Lower Schuylkill Master Plan utilize historic resources to promote a development agenda. I then propose ways in which the preservation of a broad range of resources related to various eras of the region’s history might facilitate deeper community engagement with the space.