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Chester, Pennsylvania
City
Home rule municipality
Downtown Chester at 5th and Avenue of the States
Downtown Chester at 5th and Avenue of the States
Location in Delaware County and the U.S. state of Pennsylvania
Location in Delaware County and the U.S. state of Pennsylvania
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Coordinates: 39°50′50″N 75°22′22″W / 39.84722°N 75.37278°W / 39.84722; -75.37278Coordinates: 39°50′50″N 75°22′22″W / 39.84722°N 75.37278°W / 39.84722; -75.37278
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Delaware
Founded 1682
Area
 • Total 6.00 sq mi (15.55 km2)
 • Land 4.83 sq mi (12.52 km2)
 • Water 1.17 sq mi (3.04 km2)
Elevation
69 ft (21 m)
Population
 (2010)
 • Total 33,972
 • Estimate 
(2019)
34,000
 • Density 7,034.97/sq mi (2,716.00/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
19013
Area code(s) 484, 610
FIPS code 42-045-13208
FIPS code 42-13208
GNIS feature ID 1171694
Pennsylvania Historical Marker
Designated: October 13, 1947

Chester is a city in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States within the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area. It is the only city in Delaware County and had a population of 33,972 as of the 2010 census.

Incorporated in 1682, Chester is the oldest city in Pennsylvania and is located on the western bank of the Delaware River between the cities of Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware. It was the location of William Penn's first arrival in the Province of Pennsylvania and the county seat for Chester County from 1682 to 1788 and Delaware County from 1789 to 1851.

Chester evolved over the centuries from a small town with wooden shipbuilding and textile factories into an industrial powerhouse producing steel ships for two World Wars and a myriad of consumer goods. Since the mid-twentieth century, it has lost its manufacturing base and over half of its residents and devolved into a post-industrial city struggling with pollution, poverty and crime.

History

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.

Hendrickson House
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.

Chester PA BEye View 1885
Bird's-eye view of Chester in 1885

Chester is one of numerous places that claim to be the birthplace of the hoagie sandwich. 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.

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.

Geography

Chester borders on (clockwise from southwest to northeast) Trainer Borough, Upper Chichester Township, Chester Township, Upland Borough, Parkside Borough, Brookhaven Borough, Nether Providence Township, Ridley Township, and Eddystone Borough in Pennsylvania. Across the Delaware River, the city faces Gloucester County, New Jersey, and while most of its riverfront borders Logan Township, the easternmost portion of the city borders Greenwich Township. The city has a total area of 6.0 square miles (15.6 km2), 4.8 square miles (12.5 km2) of which is land and 1.2 square miles (3.0 km2) of which (19.42%) is 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.) The hardiness zone is 7b.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1820 657
1830 847 28.9%
1850 1,667
1860 4,631 177.8%
1870 9,485 104.8%
1880 14,997 58.1%
1890 20,226 34.9%
1900 33,988 68.0%
1910 38,537 13.4%
1920 58,030 50.6%
1930 59,164 2.0%
1940 59,285 0.2%
1950 66,039 11.4%
1960 63,658 −3.6%
1970 56,331 −11.5%
1980 45,794 −18.7%
1990 41,856 −8.6%
2000 36,854 −12.0%
2010 33,972 −7.8%
2020 32,605 −4.0%
Sources:

As of Census 2010, the racial makeup of the city was 74.7% African American, 17.2% White, 9.0% Hispanic or Latino of any race, 0.6% Asian, 0.4% Native American, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 3.9% from other races, and 3.0% from two or more races. [1].

There were 11,662 households, out of which 37.3% had children under the age of 18, 19.5% were headed by married couples living together, 35.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.1% were non-families. 31.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.1% were 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.

For the period 2010–2014, the estimated median annual income for a household in the city was $28,607, and the median income for a family was $34,840. Male full-time workers had a median income of $34,354 versus $30,634 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,516. About 27.3% of families and 33.1% of the total population were below the poverty line, including 47.7% of those under age 18 and 18.4% of those age 65 or over.

Transportation

Chester waterfront ca 1875
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 9104
Commodore Barry Bridge across the Delaware River at Chester

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 Edgmont Avenue/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, 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 in Ridley Township 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. US 13 enters Chester from Trainer on W. 4th Street, becomes part of Highland Avenue between W. 4th Street and W. 9th Street, and then continues on 9th Street to Morton Avenue. US 13 follows Morton Avenue in the city's Sun Village section until it crosses Ridley Creek and becomes Chester Pike in Eddystone.

US 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, US 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.

Talks have taken place for the reconstruction of US 322 from a two-lane road to a four-lane road between Chester and U.S. 1 in Concordville, 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 US 322 and the Commodore Barry Bridge.

A $16.6 million project to fix up eight I-95 bridges will begin March 2017 and is expected to be finished in November 2018. Improvements to Chestnut Street and Morton Avenue are also included in the project.

Public transportation

Chester PA Transportation Center SEPTA
Chester Transportation Center

Public transportation in Chester is provided 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. Route 37 connects Chester with Philadelphia and the Philadelphia International Airport, while Route 113 from 69th Street Terminal connects Chester with the state of Delaware. Both Routes 37 and 113 provide direct service to the Harrah's Philadelphia Racetrack and Casino located within the city, with Route 113 also providing service to the Philadelphia Union's Talen Energy Stadium 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, serves as the main bus hub and the main train station in the city, while the Highland Avenue station, located approximately 4 miles (6 km) 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.

Education

Chester PA High School
Chester High School

In 1995, 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.

Primary and secondary schools

Public schools

The Chester-Upland School District serves the city, along with nearby Chester Township and the borough of Upland.

Parochial schools

Chester PA Armory entrance
The old armory designed by Will Price

Drexel Neumann Academy, of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is Chester's only parochial school. It is run by the Saint Katharine Drexel Roman Catholic Church which was established in 1993 by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with the consolidation of all Roman Catholic parishes in the city.

Resurrection of Our Lord School in Chester closed in 1993. St. James High School for Boys closed its doors in 1993 due to low enrollment.

Charter schools

Chester Charter Scholars Academy
Chester Charter Scholars Academy

Chester Charter Scholars Academy began in 2008 as a small public-private partnership between The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts and the Chester-Upland school district. The school was originally called the Chester Upland School for the Arts (CUSA) and operated until 2011 when significant staff reduction occurred due to state funding cuts. In 2012, a charter school application was accepted and the school operated in Aston until September 2017 when a $30 million campus was built on Highland Ave.

Chester Community Charter School is a charter school established in 1998 that serves over 4,000 students in grades K-8. The school operates four campuses, the Upland campus at 1100 Main Street in Upland, the Aston campus at 200 Commerce Drive in Aston, the East Campus at 302 East 5th Street and the West Campus at 2730 Bethel Road in Chester Township.

Widener Partnership Charter School was first launched in 2006, and is located across from the main campus of Widener University. It has been operating for eight years, and has 400 enrolled students from kindergarten to eighth grade. Widener University provides support to the charter school including educating staff, providing work to graduate students, and use of the university facilities. The school also has a number of outside partners that include 21st Century Learning Communities, Andrew Hicks Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Big Friends, Chester Education Foundation, Earth Force, Exelon Foundation, Incredible Years, PECO, and Soccer for Success. The Widener Partnership Charter School also has recently added a new $4.6 million wing of the school at 1450 Edgmont Ave. This new edition includes a science learning center, an extension of the library, a gymnasium, eight classrooms and eight offices.

Colleges and universities

OldMainWidener
Old Main and Chemistry Building on Widener University Campus

Widener University is a private, coeducational university in Chester. Its main campus sits on 108 acres (0.44 km2). The university has three other campuses: two in Pennsylvania (Harrisburg and Exton) and one in Wilmington, Delaware.

Founded as The Bullock School for Boys in 1821, the school was established in Wilmington, Delaware. It became The Alsop School for Boys from 1846 to 1853, and then Hyatt's Select School for Boys from 1853 to 1859. Military instruction was introduced in 1858, and in 1859, the school changed its name to Delaware Military Academy. It moved to Chester in 1862 and became Pennsylvania Military Academy. It was known as Pennsylvania Military College after 1892 and adopted the Widener name in 1972.

OldMainUpland
Old Main Building at the Crozer Theological Seminary

About 3,300 undergraduates and 3,300 graduate students attend Widener in eight degree-granting schools. The university offers associates, bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees in areas ranging from traditional liberal arts to professional programs. The Carnegie Foundation classifies Widener as a Doctoral/Research University and a Community Engagement Institution. Widener was ranked #181 in the National Universities category by US News & World Report for 2012.

Crozer Theological Seminary was a multi-denominational religious institution built in 1858 by the wealthy industrialist John Price Crozer. Its most famous student was Martin Luther King Jr., who graduated in 1951 with a Bachelor of Divinity degree.

In 1970, the school was moved to Rochester, New York in a merger that formed the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. The Old Main Building of the Crozer Theological Seminary was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1973. The seminary grounds are part of the Crozer Arboretum and the Old Main building is part of the Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

Sleeper's College was a vocational school founded in 1910 for "office and commercial training".

Sports

Horse racing

Harrahschesterfront
Harrah's Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack

With the construction of Harrah's Philadelphia, 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.

Soccer

Club Sport League Venue Established Championships
Philadelphia Union Soccer MLS Subaru Park 2010  
PPL Park Interior from the Southwest Stands 2010.10.02
View of the interior of Subaru Park, from the southwest corner facing the Commodore Barry Bridge in 2010

Chester is the home of the Major League Soccer Philadelphia Union franchise, which plays its home games at Subaru 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 Subaru 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.

Notable people

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