The Schuylkill River was never as important commercially as the
Delaware River. The Delaware was navigable all the way to Trenton
but the first major falls on the Schuylkill were just below Manayunk. The
Schuylkill quickly became the location for many country houses of the
wealthy wanting to escape the congestion and disease of the
Delaware River port. Many mansions remain, stretching from almost
where the river joins the Delaware, all the way up to the turn in the river
leading to Manayunk. The river itself became a major highway for
these residences, connecting them to Philadelphia and many of the
homes were oriented to and enjoyed fine views of, the river.
Some homes have been lost, particularly those directly across the river
to Penn's origin city in what was to become West Philadelphia.
Philadelphia "jumped" the Schuylkill with major development
immediately after the Civil War and many in the area were torn down.
Perhaps the most famous of these was Powelton, the home of Samuel
Powel, the first mayor Philadelphia. It was torn down in the early 1800s
but gave its name to Powelton village section of west Philadelphia.
Starting in about 1840 industrialization began to creep up the
Schuylkill River from its junction with the Delaware. The Schuylkill had
become the major water source for drinking water in Philadelphia's
new central water system so to protect this water source, the city
fathers purchase land on both sides of the river upstream from
downtown forming the nucleus of Philadelphia's great Fairmount Park