Wister Area Committee (Philadelphia, Pa.) Records

Collection ID: 
Acc. 343
4 linear feet
Collecting Area: 


Historical Note

According to the By-laws found in the archival papers, the Wister Area Committee (WAC) was a division of the Wister Neighborhood Council, Inc. According to the preliminary guide prepared for ACC. 343, WAC was closely associated with the Wister Neighborhood Council though it was not legally part of that organization.

WAC was in existence from 1969 to 1972, but aspects of it continued until 1977. Due to loss of government funds the committee's work was ended, but not without a struggle.

WAC was established for the purpose of involving residents of the project area in all phases of the development program established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It was to control to the greatest possible extent the end results of said development project that was a program of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.

During the winter and spring of 1967-68, the Area Planning Committee obtained from various City departments concerned with urban renewal the approval to formulate a project area for urban renewal in Wister. There was to be some indication of structures needing to be demolished or rehabilitated. The Committee, in liaison with three architects from the Workshop of the American Institute of Architects, came up with a tentative project area.

In August 1968, the Chairman of the Wister Neighborhood Council and the Area Planning Committee decided that a concerted effort needed to be made to involve the area residents and businesses in the planning process. This resulted in a series of block meetings and resident surveys. In September of 1968 the Wister Neighborhood Council was informed that the City of Philadelphia would apply for a planning and survey application for Wister under the Neighborhood Development Program (NDP).

By February 1969 a first draft of the By-laws was written indicating that the Wister Committee 1, a division of the Wister Neighborhood Council, Inc., was established. By April 1969, in a re-draft of the By-laws, The Wister Area Committee (WAC) was named and indicated as a division of the Wister Neighborhood Council, Inc. All business transacted by WAC was to be transacted in the name of the Wister Neighborhood Council, Inc. It was established for a period not to exceed five years. Membership was limited by age and residency or business location. The area covered was generally bounded by Germantown Avenue on the south, Wister Street on the east, the Reading Railroad Company’s Chestnut Hill Line right-of-way (parallel to Belfield Avenue) on the north and Bringhurst, Wakefield and Collom Streets on the west.

The search for a director started. Letters were sent out to many of the best universities across the country advertising the position and requesting deans to make recommendations. The search was for a new graduate, African-American and offered a salary of over $10,000.

WAC was very involved in the day-to-day, hands on work with the area residents as well as soliciting support for their project politically and legally in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Washington. The loss of government funds terminated the project and the official existence of WAC after four years. The Wister area residents continued the struggle to redevelop their neighborhood past that time.

Collection Overview

The Wister Area Committee (WAC) records consist of four linear feet of material divided into nine series. The collection covers the period from 1963 to 1977, with the bulk of the material dating from 1969 to 1972, the organization’s most focused period of activity.

The Administrative series provides a background on the creation of WAC. The Projects series is divided by subject. The Financial series is organized by date, with thorough documentation of expenditures from 1970 through 1971. The Contracts series contains contracts with outside organizations as well as internal contracts. The Correspondence series is organized by correspondent and chronologically within the folder. The Publications series contains publications both by and about WAC. The Other Organizations series contains material about organizations associated with WAC at different levels of involvement. The Subjects series contains reference material used by WAC, organized by subject.

The Wister Area Committee’s commitment to a community-based approach to urban-renewal is evidenced in the extensive surveys of the area found in the Projects series, the flyers prepared for local distribution found in Publications series, and in the terms of its inception, outlined in the Administration series.

The projects initiated by the Wister Area Committee, largely housing and relocation projects, relied heavily upon collaboration with other organizations such as the Redevelopment Authority of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation. Interactions with these organizations can be found in both the Contracts series and the Correspondence series.

Organization and Arrangement

The Wister Area Committee (Philadelphia, Pa.) Records are arranged into nine series:

  1. Administration
  2. Projects
  3. Financial
  4. Contracts
  5. Correspondence
  6. Publications
  7. Other organizations
  8. Subjects
  9. Miscellaneous



HUD – (Department of) Housing and Urban Development
NDP – Neighborhood Development Program
RDA - Redevelopment Authority
WAC – Wister Area Committee

Series I. Administration. Major categories of materials herein deal with planning at a block-by-block level (in relation to the Area Planning Committee), drafts of WAC by-laws, resumes by applicants seeking to fill positions as community organizers, project architects and other roles and a number of meetings and exhortations to residents to express their views on causes such as the proposed segment of highway known as the "Belfield By-Pass," with the meetings and other concerns being advertised on handwritten "ditto" sheets characteristic of this period. A few items give a sense of resident attitudes, as exemplified by statements at a March 1970 hearing of Philadelphia City Council advocating more funding for, and better coordination of redevelopment efforts (in the third folder on "By-Laws"), minutes of April, 1971 regarding an attack on a young Wister resident by a policeman (in the folder on "Meetings – 1969-72") and an analysis of work as a community organizer by area college student Abby Rabinowitz written in the Fall Semester of 1968. Activities of Germantown Housing, Inc. (GHI), which was active in the 1970’s after WAC’s main period of work, are included in the folder headed "Minutes, 1969…"; GHI efforts are also part of Series VII on "Other Organizations."

This series includes sub-series on the Area Planning Committee, 1967-68; By-Laws, 1969-70 (also including materials on petitions, Minutes and "Wister Neighborhood Committee I"); Community Development Block Grant Program [CDBG], 1974-77; Meetings, 1969-72; Minutes, 1969 and 1976-77 (also including material on board budgets); Neighborhood Development Program [NDP], 1971-72; Personnel, 1969-72 (including information on resumes and employee time sheets) [CONTAINS SENSITIVE INFORMATION]; Shedaker Lot, 1969; Staff Meetings, 1970-71; a report by local college student Abby Rabinowitz, 1968-69; Weekly Report Sheets, 1971-72 [CONTAINS SENSITIVE INFORMATION].

Series II. Projects. Project folders are largely characterized by documentation of different possibilities for the redesign of the Wister area by architects, residents and others, listings of physical rehabilitation work to be done on a large number of houses and commercial properties in the "NDP," "Rehabilitation" and "Relocation" folders and some information on neighborhood demographics in the folders with relocation and tenant surveys. Interesting details in this series include brief comments by an unidentified community organizer on both racial and non-racial divisions on a block of Bringhurst Street (in the folder of "Reports 1969-74") and answers from a few South Philadelphia residents to a "Housing Platform Questionnaire" (under "Reports, 1974-77"). Other specific series elements are found in two oversized maps from the Spring of 1970, one showing the WAC project area and the second depicting proposed sales housing in one block of the neighborhood, and materials regarding a plan for the area’s Wister Playground which was largely created by elementary school students (with the maps and playground documents being in the series’ last, or "Miscellaneous" folder). This series includes subseries on: Acquisitions, 1968-71; Architects and Planners, 1963-70 (including a photograph of an architectural model); Housing, 1968-77 (including materials on City-State efforts and reports) [CONTAINS SENSITIVE INFORMATION]; Neighborhood Development Program, 1970; Planning Area Committee, 1969-75; Rehabilitation, 1969-70; Relocation, 1963-69 (including materials on commercial relocation); Relocation Surveys, 1966-69 [CONTAINS SENSITIVE INFORMATION]; Social Services Team Reports, 1971-72; Tenant Survey [CONTAINS SENSITIVE INFORMATION]; Urban Renewal, 1970; Miscellaneous Materials, 1968-70.

Series III. Financial Records. The largest section in this series consists of hundreds of receipts under a sub-series headed "Expenses…," including records for office supplies, phone bills, parking charges and other purchases. Another category is that of resident responses to loans and grants which they received, in the folders headed "Loan & grant reviews…" and "NDP.…" The "Public Housing" folder contains three oversized charts explaining three different subsidized housing programs.

This series includes the sub-series: 5153 Wakefield-Summary and Receipts, February, 1971; Bills-April-June, 1971; Budget proposal-2nd and 3rd years, 1971-74; Correspondence (regarding office equipment, Redevelopment Authority and legal matters), 1969-70; Expenses, February, 1970-February, 1972 [in folders with records of one, two or three months at a time depending on amounts of information in any one period) [CONTAINS SENSITIVE INFORMATION]; Foundation resources, 1970; Loan and grant reviews, February, 1970 – April, 1972 [CONTAINS SENSITIVE INFORMATION]; NDP (including a loan and grant information sheet and a loans and grant survey), 1970 and 1972; Project Area Committee - cash receipts and disbursements, 1969-71; Public Housing (with materials on the Turnkey III, 235 and 236 programs); Rehabilitation Loan and Grant program, 1969; Tax Materials – Forms, Receipts and Correspondence, 1969-70; Wage and tax statements for employees, 1970 [CONTAINS SENSITIVE INFORMATION]; Miscellaneous, 1969-71.

Series IV. CONTRACTS. The largest section found un
der "Contracts" is that of different versions of a detailed and lengthy contract between the WNC and the Redevelopment Authority, and the four folders on this subject contain multiple copies of certain portions of the agreement. There are also materials on Professional Services for WAC and petitions with an estimated 200 signatures to speed up review of the Redevelopment Authority-WNC contract. Materials in this series include the sub-series: Personnel and Miscellaneous (two folders), 1968-70 [CONTAINS SENSITIVE INFORMATION]; Petitions to speed up contract review - No date; Proposal regarding WAC contract with RDA, 1970; Redevelopment Authority, 1968-71 (in four folders); Wister Neighborhood Council and PHDC, 1971; Wister Neighborhood Council and RDA, 1969 [CONTAINS SENSITIVE INFORMATION]; Miscellaneous, 1969-71.

SERIES V. CORRESPONDENCE. Communication between the Redevelopment Authority and WAC from 1969-71 constitutes one of the major clusters of documents in this series. The folder headed "Universities…" includes WAC notifications sent to hire planners and others who would help WAC. Papers herein also include a letter signed by a well-known U.S. Senator of the time – Pennsylvania’s Hugh Scott – addressed to Ethel Bibbs, the Chair of WAC, in July 1969 (in the "Political…" folder) and, in the "Miscellaneous" folder, correspondence from the "Young Great Society Architecture and Planning Center" based in West Philadelphia. This series includes the sub-series: Area Planning Committee, 1967-69; Elected officers, 1971; Germantown Boys Club, 1968-69; Germantown Settlement – WAC, 1969-77; HUD/NDP, 1970; Philadelphia Housing Authority – WAC, 1969-70; Political – Miscellaneous, 1969; Properties, 1969-71; RDA/WAC, 1969-71; Universities – Miscellaneous, 1970; WAC Ditto Masters, 1970-71; Miscellaneous, 1969-72.

SERIES VI. PUBLICATIONS. This series is predominated by several dozen newspaper articles which cover renewal plans and resident attitudes in Wister, some of which show buildings and/or people, in photos with varying levels of clarity. A number of these articles are also stored in xeroxed form. The largest item in the "Publications By…" folders is that of pages for a "WAC Handbook," which largely list facts on housing programs, by-laws, terms related to neighborhood rehabilitation and other subjects (in a glossary) and other subjects. More subjective material in the handbook includes a "Wister Glossary," with somewhat political and subjective definitions of a few terms and copies of a Handbook introduction titled "Wister Wants Control," partly a dispassionate history of WAC but also seeking to portray resident feelings on neighborhood renewal. Folders in "Publications" are divided into two sub-series, the first with publications and press clippings about WAC from 1968-71 and the second with publications by WAC from 1969-70 (including ditto masters).

SERIES VII. OTHER ORGANIZATIONS. The groups in this series were active in Germantown, other Philadelphia neighborhoods or the city as a whole. There are several pieces of general information here including seating charts for the Pennsylvania State House and Senate in 1975-76 and maps of Districts for Philadelphia’s State Senators and Representatives (in connection with lobbying for a housing-related bill) and the first annual report of the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation (PHDC) in 1966. General context is also provided by Contracts for Personal Services between the Redevelopment Authority and neighborhood groups in the Haddington and Pennsport neighborhoods of Philadelphia. Other folders deal with the organization "Concerned Citizens of Germantown" and its efforts to improve the area’s then-new Pickett Middle School, Germantown Housing, Inc. (also covered in the Administration series in the folder headed "Minutes, 1969…"), and the Wister Buying Club, a cooperative organization to purchase lower-cost food for residents. This series includes the sub-series: Concerned Citizens, 1969; Germantown Homes, Inc., 1969-77; Germantown Settlement, 1968-69; Neighborhood Renewal Program, 1969-79; Northwest Tenants Organization, 1976; Philadelphia Housing Development Corp. (PHDC), 1966-69; Redevelopment Action Groups (RAG’s), 1969-71; Redevelopment Authority, 1975; Tenant Action Group (TAG), 1974-77; Wister Buying Club, 1966-70; Miscellaneous, 1967-73.

SERIES VIII. SUBJECTS. The greatest "human interest" in this part of the collection is arguably in the folder concerning architectural students, which includes, among other documents, an undated, anonymous essay focusing on "white helplessness" to affect change in inner-city communities and "powerlessness" within inner-city communities. This series includes the sub-series: Architectural students, 1969; Contractors/Developers, 1969-70; Legislative, 1968-69; Welfare, 1968-69; Zoning, 1969-70.

SERIES IX. MISCELLANEOUS. Highlights in this area include materials from 1976-77 on two neighborhood groups – the Greater Germantown Alliance and the Greater Germantown Housing Develop
ment Corporation. They also include a statement before a Philadelphia City Council hearing of July, 1971 by Ethel Bibbs, the Chair of WAC (speaking constructively but also summarizing "disappointments" with the NDP and reminding the Council of Wister’s issues of blight) and a "Complaint" before the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on a lawsuit by residents against the proposed highway segment known partly as the "Rittenhouse-Belfield Bypass" [with no date, but sometime after July 7, 1969 – the latest date seen in the document]. This series contains materials from 1969-77.

Acquisition Information

The Wister Area Committee materials were donated by Christopher Nicholson in May of 1978.





1 Area Planning Committee 1967-1968
2 By-laws & petition 1969
3 By-laws, minutes, attachments 1967
4 By-laws, minutes, attachments 1970
5 By-laws WNC I 1969
6 Community Development Block Grant Prog. 1974-1977
7 Meetings 1969-1972
8 Minutes 1969
9 Minutes, board budgets (Emanuel Freeman) 1976-1977
10 NDP 1971-1972
11 Personnel (sensitive) 1969-1972
12 Personnel
13 Resumees (sensitive) 1969-1970
14 Personnel Time Records 1970-1972
15 Shedaker Lot 1969
16 Staff meetings 1970-1971
17 Student report (Abby Rabinovitz) 1968-1969
18 Weekley report sheets(sensitive)1971-1972


19 Acquisitions 1968-1971
20 Architects and planners 1963-1970
21 Architects and planners (photograph) 1963-1970
22 Housing 1968-1971
23 Housing City-State 1970
24 Housing Reports (sensitive)1969-1974
25 Housing Reports 1974-1977



1 Neighborhood Development Program 1970
2 Planning Area Committee 1969-1975
3 Rehabilitation 1969-1970
4 Relocation 1963-1969
5 Relocation Commercial relocation 1969
6 Relocation survey 1:2 (sensitive)1969
7 Relocation survey 2:2 (sensitive) 1966-1969
8 Social Services Team reports (Meyers, John) 1971-1972
9 Tenant survey (sensitive) N.d.
10 Urban renewal 1970
11 Miscellaneous 1968-1970


12 5153 Wakefield-summary and receipts 1971
13 Bills-April-June 1971
14 Budget proposal-2nd and 3rd year 1971-1974
15 Correspondence from WAC 1969
16 Correspondence R.A. and Legal 1970
17 Expenses (sensitive) Feb.-Mar. 1970
18 Expenses (sensitive) Apr. 1970
19 Expenses (sensitive) May 1970
20 Expenses (sensitive) June-Aug. 1970
21 Expenses (sensitive)Sept.-Oct. 1970
22 Expenses (sensitive) Nov.-Dec. 1970
23 Expenses (sensitive) Jan.-Feb. 1971
24 Expenses (sensitive) Mar.-Apr. 1971
25 Expenses (sensitive) May-June 1971
26 Expenses (sensitive) July-Aug. 1971
27 Expenses (sensitive) Sept.-Oct. 1971
28 Expenses (sensitive) Nov.-Dec. 15 1971
29 Expenses (sensitive) Dec. 15-Feb. 1971-1972
30 Foundation resources 1970
31 Loan and grant reviews (sensitive) 1970-1972
32 NDP loan and grant info. Sheet 1970
33 NDP loan and grant survey 1972
34 PAC-cash receipts and disbursements(sensitive)1969-1971
35 Public housing, Turnkey III, 235 1970
36 Rehab. loan and grant program 1969
37 Tax materials 1969-1970
38 Wage and tax statements (sensitive) 1970
39 Miscellaneous 1969-1971



1 Personnel and misc. 1:2 (sensitive) 1968-1970
2 Personnel and misc. 2:2 (sensitive) 1969-1970
3 Petitions to speed up contract review N.d.
4 Proposal re: contract with RDA 1970
5 Redevelopment Authority 1:4 1968-1969
6 Redevelopment Authority 2:4
7 Redevelopment Authority 3:4
8 Redevelopment Authority 4:4 1970-1971
9 Wister Neighborhood Council and PHDC 1971
10 Wister Neighborhood Council and RDA (sensitive) 1969
11 Miscellaneous 1969-71


12 Area Planning Committee 1967-1969
13 Elected officers 1971
14 Germantown Boys Club 1968-1969
15 Germantown Settlement-WAC 1969-1977
16 HUD/NDP 1970
17 Phila. Housing Auth.-WAC 1969-1970
18 Political-misc. 1969
19 Properties 1969-1971
20 RA/WAC 1969-1971
21 Universities-misc. 1970
22 WAC ditto masters 1970-1971
23 Miscellaneous 1969-1972



1 Publications about WAC Press clippings 1968-1969
2 Publications about WAC Press clippings 1970-1971
3 Publications by WAC 1969-1970
4 Publications by WAC Ditto masters 1969


5 Concerned Citizens 1969-1969
6 Germantown Homes, Inc. 1969-1977
7 Germantown Settlement 1968-1969
8 Neighborhood Renewal Program 1969-1979
9 Northwest Tenants Organization 1976
10 Phila. Housing Development Corp. (PHDC) 1966-1969
11 Redevelopment Action Groups (RAG) 1969-1971
12 Redevelopment Authority 1975
13 Tenant Action Group (TAG) 1974-1977
14 Wister Buying Club 1966-1970
15 Miscellaneous 1967-1973


16 Architectural students 1969
17 Contractors/developers 1969-1970
18 Legislative 1968-1969
19 Welfare 1968-1969
20 Zoning 1969-1970


21 Miscellaneous 1969-1977