Old
CHESTER
in Delaware County, PA

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About the Old Chester, PA Web Site

This intent of this web site is to provide historical pictures and information about the city of Chester, located in Delaware County, PA.  While the visitor will find some earlier history, the focus is primarily on the 19th and the first half of the 20th century.  Also included are some of the neighboring towns of southeastern Delaware County (Aston, Boothwyn, Brookhaven, Crum Lynne, Eddystone, Marcus Hook, Media, Ridley Park, Swarthmore, Trainer, Wallingford, etc.) which are all within the general metropolitan area.

During much of its early history, although the county seat of the original Chester County, Chester was a sleepy little village along the banks of the Delaware River.  This changed dramatically with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution during the decade of the 1850's.  During those years industry boomed as did the population in order to feed the manpower needs of the new industries.   In 1850 Chester's population numbered 1,667 but by 1860 it nearly tripled to 4,631.   Much of the city's housing as well as other structures still standing was built during this period of explosive growth and through the early years of the 20th century.

By 1950 the population peaked at just over 66,000.   However, with the demise of its traditional heavy industries, the population began to shrink (45,794 in 1980) and the economic base eroded.  This has caused much of "old Chester" to fall into decay and today parts of the city show the ravages of the decline.

This should not necessarily be interpreted as a sign of the city's imminent demise.  Consider, for example, the following excerpt from the U.S. Gazette, Nov. 1 and 7, 1817, from an article found in the West Chester Federalist:

"A DAY IN CHESTER. - Mr. Miner - Accompanied by a friend, I took a ride last week to Chester, the seat of Justice in Delaware County...

Chester was formerly a place of considerable commerce; but at present, of very little. The warehouses, and buildings nearest the water, are generally in a neglected and decaying state; presenting a melancholy picture of the "gleams of better days." In passing from the Courthouse to the wharf, the eye is gratified by the view of the new banking-house, erected by the Bank of Delaware County. It is a brick building, handsome in its design, and neat in its execution, combining beauty with convenience; it is at once an ornament to the town and a credit to the liberal Directors of that institution. Would that the Directors of the Chester County Bank would ‘go and do likewise.’**

As we now know, only 30 years would pass before Chester would begin the greatest period of growth and prosperity thus far in its history!

As we approach the beginning of the twenty-first century, Chester, like many other urban centers, struggles to recruit new businesses and industries which will enable the city to recover.  Many positive strides have been taken and today there is a definite air of hope for Chester's future.

*Population figures from the Delaware County Planning Department

**Chester (and its Vicinity), Delaware County in Penna. with Genealogical Sketches of some old families, John Hill Martin, Originally Published 1877, fully indexed by John A. Bullock III., 1999


If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about the history of Chester, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com


 

 

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If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about any businesses in Chester, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com


2000, 2003 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 10/18/05

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