In 1998, Jerome and Gloria Shabazz established JASTECH (Juveniles Active in Science and Technology) Development Services, INC. to ensure a more livable, sustainable, and equitable community in the City of Philadelphia. In 2002, JASTECH established the Overbrook Environmental Education Center (OEEC) as a community based center dedicated to the preservation of our built and natural environments; improved public health; and for the promotion of sustainable and livable communities.
Now known as the Overbrook Environmental Education Center, this organization fulfills its mission through the development of great partnerships with both local and national organizations. Although JASTECH serves the entire Philadelphia area, it has a targeted focus on environmental justice communities in zip codes 19131, 19139, & 19151. JASTECH strives to promote smart growth and sustainable best management practices for livable communities in an urban setting.
The center (a former brownfield site), located at 6134 Lancaster Avenue in the Overbrook/Wynnefield section of West Philadelphia, was repurposed by removing 20 tons of trash and debris, reintroducing native fauna, adding bioretension systems, urban forestry, agriculture, and orchards. The OEEC offers programs for the entire family in nutrition, environmental education, arts & literacy, and public health.
The land, once cleared of trees, proved to be fertile farmland. The small streams, once dammed, provided power for numerous mills. Grist mills ground grains into flour and meal. Saw mills took the trees cleared from the land and turned them into lumber for local buildings and those in the nearby city. Paper mills and gunpowder mills were also in operation along the local creeks for a time.
In the 19th century, with the coming of the Industrial Revolution, textile factories were built that employed hundreds of men, women, boys and girls. Even after these factories converted to steam power by the mid-19th century, they still used the creeks as sources of water for their bleaching and dyeing operations, and as receptacles for their wastes.
Today Overbrook is working with community and state organizations to ensure a healthy and habitable environment.
Read more about Overbrook's History at Philly H2O!
Picture: Two views of Taylor farm ca. 1880, near present 63rd Street Mill Creek in foreground
The History of Overbrook
In the many millennia before European settlers arrived, Overbrook and the surrounding area had been considered a well-watered wooded area, reputed to be good hunting grounds for the local Native Americans. When the first whites began to make their way inland from the Delaware River shortly after Philadelphia was founded in 1682, they were attracted to the locality by these same features.