A 15-foot statue of a Native American sits high above the Creek in Wissahickon Valley to memorialize the Lenni-Lenape tribe, the first people to walk the steep trails of the Wissahickon. With the arrival of the colonists in the mid-1600s, the Native American’s hunting and fishing grounds became the site of North America’s first industries as the Creek and its tributaries were dammed to supply power for mills along adjacent banks. Even as the region’s population grew, the Wissahickon’s natural beauty was celebrated in art; it even achieved international fame when visitors to Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition of 1876 took home tales of its wild scenery.
Fairmount Park acquired the 1,800 acres that are now the Wissahickon Valley Park in 1868 to protect the City of Philadelphia’s water supply. As a result, the many mills and taverns lining the Creek were demolished and the former Wissahickon Turnpike was closed to vehicles and became known as Forbidden Drive. Some remnants of former buildings remain, as do beautiful stone bridges and spill dams and the Valley Green Inn (which was built in 1850).