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Chester, Pennsylvania

City of Chester
Home Rule Municipality
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Delaware
Elevation 69 ft (21 m)
Area 6.0 sq mi (15.5 km2)
 - land 4.8 sq mi (12 km2)
 - water 1.2 sq mi (3 km2), 20%
Population 29,972 (2010)
Density 6,244.2 / sq mi (2,410.9 / km2)
Founded 1682
Mayor John Linder
Timezone EST (UTC-5)
 - summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 19013
Area code 484, 610
Location of Chester in Delaware County
Location of Chester in Pennsylvania
Location of Pennsylvania in the United States
Designated October 13, 1947[1]

Chester is a city in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States, with a population of 33,972 at the 2010 census. Chester is situated on the Delaware River, between the cities of Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware.


  • History 1
  • Economy 2
  • Government 3
  • Geography 4
  • Demographics 5
  • Transportation 6
    • Highways and bridges 6.1
    • Public transportation 6.2
  • Education 7
    • Primary and secondary schools 7.1
      • Public schools 7.1.1
      • Parochial schools 7.1.2
      • Charter schools 7.1.3
    • Colleges and universities 7.2
  • Sports 8
    • Horse racing 8.1
    • Soccer 8.2
  • Notable people 9
    • Music & entertainment 9.1
    • Sports 9.2
    • Other 9.3
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • Other sources 12
  • External links 13


The first European settlers in the area were Swedes. They called the settlement that became Chester first Finlandia (The Latin name for Finland), then Upland (see the Swedish province of Uppland and the borough of Upland). They built Fort Mecoponacka in 1641 to defend the settlement.[2]

Hendrickson House, built in Chester in 1690 by Swedish farmers, was moved to Wilmington, Delaware, in 1958

By 1682, Upland was the most populous town of the new Province of Pennsylvania. On October 27, the ship Welcome arrived at the town, bearing William Penn on his first visit to the province. Penn renamed the settlement for the English city of Chester.

Chester served as the county seat for Chester County, which then stretched from the Delaware River to the Susquehanna River. In 1789, the city became the county seat for the newly created Delaware County (whereupon Chester County became landlocked, with West Chester as its county seat), but the county seat was moved to the borough of Media in 1851. The courthouse is near the new City Hall building.

Chester's naval shipyard supplied the Union during the Civil War, and the United States in subsequent wars until the shipyard at Philadelphia became dominant after World War II. America's largest postbellum shipyard, John Roach's Delaware River Iron Ship Building and Engine Works, was also located in Chester, and the location was repurposed by the Ford Motor Company with the Chester Assembly factory until 1961. The Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., later Pennsylvania Shipyard & Dry Dock Company, was located in Chester until it closed in 1990. Two ships of the United States Navy have been named USS Chester in honor of the city.

On April 10, 1917 an explosion at the Eddystone Ammunition Corporation near Chester resulted in the deaths of 133 workers, mostly women.[3]

Bird's-eye view of Chester in 1885

Chester is one of numerous places that claim to be the birthplace of the hoagie sandwich.[4] It is also known as the "Cradle of Rock 'n Roll" as Bill Haley & His Comets first performed and maintained their headquarters in the Chester area.[5]

The following are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Delaware County National Bank, 1724 Chester Courthouse, Chester Waterside Station of the Philadelphia Electric Company, Old Main and Chemistry Building, William Penn Landing Site, and the former Second Street Bridge.[6]


Chester began losing its mainstay shipyard and automobile manufacturing jobs as early as the 1960s, causing the population to be halved in fifty years from over 66,000 in 1950 to under 37,000 in 2000. Poverty and crime rose as the city declined. In 1995, the state designated Chester as a financially distressed municipality. Soon thereafter, the city's schools ranked last among the state's 501 districts, leading Pennsylvania education officials in 2001 to hire the for-profit Edison Schools to run the local school district for three years.[7]

Avenue of the States in downtown Chester

When Chester became eligible for Pennsylvania's Opportunity Zone (KOZ) program, firms began to accept state and local tax breaks to invest in KOZ-designated areas. The Wharf at Rivertown, a $60 million renovation of the Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO)'s 396,000 sq ft (36,800 m2) generating plant, which was originally built in Chester in 1918, has returned the waterfront to the local residents, providing both recreational and office space for new local endeavors.[8][9] One of its tenants is AdminServer, which makes software for the insurance industry. It moved from Malvern, Pennsylvania, in 2003 and was acquired by Oracle in 2007.[10][11] Sun Shipbuilding converted part of the shipyard to a smaller shipping concern and sold its interest, then sold off portions of the rest to new users, such as the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution Chester. Harrah's Casino and Racetrack built its facilities beginning in 2005, launching harness racing along the Delaware River in September 2006, and its racino in January 2007.


Chester Courthouse was built in 1724 and operated until 1967

Chester is a Mayor-Council government system, consisting of a popularly elected city mayor and city council. The terms of the Mayor and members are four years.[12]

The Chester City Council is made up of four council members and the presiding officer, the Mayor. Republican Wendell N. Butler, Jr. was appointed Mayor of the City of Chester on October 9, 2002, to fill the unexpired term of Dominic Pileggi, who resigned to take a seat in the State Senate. Butler was subsequently elected to the post in November 2003 and re-elected in November 2007. In the November 2011 general election, Butler was defeated by Councilman John Linder, who became just the second Democratic Mayor since 1905.[13] Council members are elected at large to serve the entire city. Council meetings are generally held the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. Under the Administrative Code of the City, each council member serves as a department head for one of the five municipal departments.

Chester is a Third Class City, and was approved by the citizens on April 20, 1980 as a Home Rule Charter Community.[14] Under the Home Rule form of government, the city council has been given all the legislative power to create ordinances, rules and regulations so the city can provide for the health, safety and well-being of its citizens.

The city government has been in financial distress for many years. It has operated under the state’s Act 47 provisions for twenty years. The Act provides for municipalities that are near bankruptcy.[15] The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections operates the State Correctional Institution - Chester, a drug treatment facility, in Chester.[16]

The United States Postal Service operates the Chester Post Office.[17]


Chester borders on (clockwise from southwest to northeast) Trainer Borough, Upper Chichester Township, Chester Township, Upland Borough, Parkside Borough, Ridley Township, and Eddystone Borough in Pennsylvania. Across the Delaware River, the city faces Gloucester County, New Jersey, and while most of its riverfront neighbors Logan Township, the easternmost portion of the city borders Greenwich Township. The city has a total area of 6.0 square miles (16 km2), including 4.8 square miles (12 km2) of land and 1.2 square miles (3.1 km2) (19.47%) of water, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Being at a low elevation between Philadelphia and Wilmington, Chester experiences a humid subtropical climate (Cfa) bordering a humid continental climate (Dfa.)


As of the census of 2010, there were 29,972 people living in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 17.2% White, 74.7% Black, 0.4% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian, 3.9% of some other race, and 3.0% from two or more races. 9.0% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 12,814 households out of which 32.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 24.8% were married couples living together, 32.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.6% were non-families. 31.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.34.

The median income for a household in the city was $23,703, and the median income for a family was $29,436. Males had a median income of $29,528 versus $21,005 for females. The per capita income for the city was $9,052. About 22.8% of families and 27.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 36.9% of those under age 18 and 21.8% of those age 65 or over.


Chester waterfront c. 1875

In Chester, east-west streets are numbered, while north-south streets carry names. The main bisecting street, known as The Avenue of the States south of 9th Street and Edgmont Avenue north of it, is signed as both Pennsylvania Route 320 (southbound only; northbound PA Rt. 320 uses adjacent Madison Street to Interstate 95) and Pennsylvania Route 352. North of I-95, State Route 320 follows Providence Avenue. Between 1993 and 2006, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) widened and realigned Pennsylvania Route 291 from Trainer to Eddystone from a two-lane roadway to a five-lane roadway. This widening and realignment project, spearheaded by the late State Senator Clarence D. Bell of Upland, allows PA Route 291 to maintain at least two travel lanes in each direct between the refinery towns of Marcus Hook and Trainer and the Philadelphia International Airport, as well as promote the riverfront development in the city. Prior to the realignment, which was done first, the roadway followed 2nd Street to Crosby Street, then bore right onto E. 4th Street, widening to four lanes and becoming the "Industrial Highway" in Eddystone. Post-realignment, the road now follows W. 2nd Street to Concord Avenue, becoming the "Industrial Highway" past Concord Avenue and bypassing the Kimberly-Clark (formerly Scott Paper) processing facility.

Highways and bridges

Commodore Barry Bridge across the Delaware River at Chester

In addition to State Rt. 291, Chester is served by two interstate highways: Interstate 95 and Interstate 476, which meet in nearby Eddystone. I-95 was built in the 1960s and originally terminated just north of the Chester/Eddystone line at the present-day I-95/I-476 junction. It was extended north in the 1970s with the section around Philadelphia International Airport being completed in 1985. Three exits on I-95 allow access to Highland Avenue, Kerlin Street, and The Avenue of the States (Rts. 320 & 352), with access to Widener University, via State Rt. 320. Of the three, only Kerlin Street is a partial exit, although the Avenue of the States exit was also a partial exit until the completion of a southbound on-ramp, also spearheaded by the late State Sen. Bell, was completed in 2002. I-476, planned as an alternative route to State Rt. 320 since the 1920s and an original planned extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the 1950s (as part of the 1,000-mile (1,600 km) Turnpike network), was finally opened to traffic in 1992. An exit at MacDade Boulevard (which becomes 22nd Street in Chester) allows access to I-476 without having to use I-95.

Two federal highway routes, U.S. Route 13 and U.S. Route 322, also run through Chester. U.S. Rt. 13 enters Chester from Trainer on W. 4th Street, becomes part of Highland Avenue between W. 4th St. and W. 9th Street, and then continues on 9th Street to Morton Avenue. U.S. Rt. 13 follows Morton Avenue in the city's Sun Village section until it crosses Ridley Creek and becomes Chester Pike in Eddystone.

U.S. Rt. 322 enters Chester as a part of I-95 (merging on at Highland Avenue) and then departs I-95 at the Commodore Barry Bridge exit. Prior to the bridge's opening in 1974, U.S. Rt. 322 would cross the Delaware River on the Chester-Bridgeport Ferry, via Flower Street, causing major backups because of limited space on the ferries. With the expansion of State Rt. 291 and the redevelopment of the Chester Waterfront, both the Delaware River Port Authority and PennDOT built a pair of entrance (westbound) and exit (eastbound) ramps to PA Rt. 291, providing direct access to the waterfront without using local streets. The ramps were built between 2007 and 2010 and were opened in 2011.

In addition, talks have taken place for the reconstruction of U.S. Rt. 322 from a two-lane road to a four-lane road between Chester and U.S. 1 in Concordville, Pennsylvania, and the Highland Avenue exit. The road currently requires traffic to merge onto I-95 in the left lane and requires changing lanes three times to the Commodore Barry Bridge exit ramp in less than a mile. Such a major undertaking would result in the demolition of numerous homes in the city's crime-plagued Highland Gardens section, along with condemning properties in nearby Chester Township, as I-95 passes through both municipalities between U.S. Rt. 322 and the Commodore Barry Bridge.

Public transportation

Chester Transportation Center

Public transportation in Chester is served by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), which acquired the former Suburban Philadelphia Transit Authority (aka "Red Arrow" Lines) in 1968. Seven bus routes (Routes 37, 109, 113, 114, 117, 118, and 119) serve the city, with the Chester Transportation Center in the city's business district, serving as the hub. One route, Route 37, connects Chester with Philadelphia and the Philadelphia International Airport, while another, Route 113 from 69th Street Terminal, connects Chester with the State of Delaware. Both Routes 37 and 113 provide direct service with the Harrah's Philadelphia Racetrack and Casino located within the city, with the Route 113 also providing service to the Philadelphia Union's PPL Park soccer-specific stadium on the city's waterfront.

The city is also served by SEPTA's Wilmington/Newark Line commuter rail service, via Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. The Chester Transportation Center, while serving as the main bus hub in the city, also serves as the main train station in the city, while the Highland Avenue station, located approximately 4 miles southwest of Chester T.C. station, is also served by Wilmington/Newark trains. A third station, at Lamokin Street, located approximately a mile east of the Commodore Barry Bridge at the junction of the NEC and the abandoned Penn Central Chester Creek Secondary Branch, was operated by SEPTA as a flagstop station until it was closed and demolished in 2003 due to low usage.

Historically, the Chester Transportation Center was, like the Paoli station on the Paoli/Thorndale Line, both a commuter and intercity stop on the former Pennsylvania Railroad's New YorkWashington route. But when Amtrak took over intercity rail passenger services in 1971, the Chester Transportation Center was bypassed, except from April 30, 1978, to October 29, 1983, when the Chesapeake stopped once daily in each direction between Philadelphia and Washington.


Chester High School

Primary and secondary schools

Public schools

The Chester-Upland School District serves the city, along with nearby Chester Township and Upland. Chester High School is currently the district's sole high school, but a recent approval by the district's empowerment board will see the development of two magnet schools; one dedicated to the arts and another for science and technology.

Parochial schools

The old armory designed by Will Price, now a charter school

The St. Katharine Drexel Parish, established in 1993 by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with the consolidation of all Roman Catholic parishes in the city, maintains the city's only parochial school. St. James High School for Boys, the city's "other high school" and for many years, the main football rival for Chester High School, closed its doors in 1993 due to decreased enrollment. The nearest Catholic high school to Chester is the Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield or, to parts of Chester, Archmere Academy, Claymont, Delaware.

Charter schools

Chester Community Charter School is a charter school established in 1998 that serves over 2,000 students in grades K-8.[22][23] It is currently run by Steven Lee.

Colleges and universities

  • Widener University, formerly the Pennsylvania Military College (PMC), is in Chester.
  • Sleeper's College was a vocational school for "office and commercial training" founded in 1910.


Club League Venue Established Championships
Philadelphia Union MLS Soccer PPL Park 2010  

Horse racing

With the construction of Harrah's Chester, the city received a series of horse races that were once held at the Brandywine Raceway and the now-defunct Liberty Bell Park Racetrack. The racino opened on January 22, 2008, and features a specially-constructed bridge that enables the midpoint of races, contested at one mile, to take place over the Delaware River.


View of the interior of PPL Park, from the southwest corner of the Main Stand facing the Bridge Stand and the Commodore Barry Bridge in 2010. To the left is the Chester End and the right The River End, which is separate from the rest of PPL Park.

Chester is the home of the Philadelphia Union, which plays its home games at PPL Park, a soccer-specific stadium at the base of the Commodore Barry Bridge. Located on the Delaware River, the stadium is part of a larger development called Rivertown. Financing for the Rivertown development was announced in early 2008 by Governor Ed Rendell and Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, with $25 million going to the construction of PPL Park, and an additional $7 million towards a two-phase project composing of 186 townhouses, 25 apartments, 335,000 square feet (31,100 m2) of office space, a 200,000-square-foot (19,000 m2) convention center, more than 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) of retail space, and a parking structure to house 1,350 cars. In phase two, another 200 apartments will be built, along with 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) of office space and 22,000 square feet (2,000 m2) of retail space.[24]

Notable people

John Morton, a resident of Chester, cast a key vote on the Declaration of Independence.[25]

Music & entertainment



See also

  • Wade Dump, a former Superfund site under the Commodore Barry Bridge


  1. ^ "PHMC Historical Markers Search" (Searchable database). Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2015-02-11. 
  2. ^ Narratives of Early Pennsylvania, West New Jersey and Delaware 1630–1707 (edited by Albert Cook Myers. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1912)
  3. ^
  4. ^ George Sheridan (2008-03-17). "City of Chester, PA". 
  5. ^ Laura Wiseley (2009-05-15). "Rock's roots? Begin with Chester". Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  6. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  7. ^ George Sheridan (2003-01-26). "Edison in Chester Upland". 
  8. ^ "New Power in Pennsylvania's Oldest City". Preservation Online. 2003-10-01. 
  9. ^ Cory, Jim (2001-12-07). "Industrial Grandeur, PriceDraw First Tenant". Philadelphia Business Journal. 
  10. ^ "For the Second Consecutive Year, AdminServer was named to Deloitte’s Greater Philadelphia Technology Fast 50 and North America Technology Fast 500" (PDF). AdminServer news release. 2007-10-31. .
  11. ^ Pennsylvania Dept of Community and Economic Development
  12. ^ "City of Chester Mayor Butler". City of Chester. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  13. ^ Kopp, John (January 4, 2012). "Democrats are back in charge in Chester as mayor is sworn in". The Delco Daily Times. Retrieved July 14, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Chapter 11. City of Chester Home Rule Charter". Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  15. ^ McCabe (25 May 2015). "Colwyn: Can this town be saved?". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  16. ^ "SCI Chester." Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Retrieved on December 7, 2009.
  17. ^ "Post Office Location - CHESTER." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on May 29, 2010.
  18. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  20. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  21. ^ "Incorporated Places and Minor Civil Divisions Datasets: Subcounty Resident Population Estimates: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012". Population Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  22. ^ Public school review data sheet
  23. ^ About Us page from the school website
  24. ^ "Major hurdle cleared for Philly expansion". Retrieved January 31, 2008. 
  25. ^ Morton was born in nearby Ridley Township and is buried in Chester.
    "Old Chester, PA: Cemeteries — St. Paul's Burying Ground". Retrieved 2007-10-22. 

Other sources

  • Jordan, John W. ed. A History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania (New York Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1914)
  • Johnson, Amandus The Swedes on the Delaware (International Printing Company, Philadelphia. 1927)
  • Weslager, C. A. New Sweden on the Delaware 1638–1655 (The Middle Atlantic Press, Wilmington. 1988)

External links

  • City of Chester
  • J. Lewis Crozer Library - part of the Delaware County Library System
  • History of the City of Chester, PA
  • - Chester History
Preceded by
County seat of Chester County
Succeeded by
West Chester
Preceded by
County seat of Delaware County
Succeeded by
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