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Chester County, Pennsylvania facts for kids

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Chester County
County of Chester
Chester County Courthouse
Flag of Chester County
Official seal of Chester County
Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Chester County
Location within the U.S. state of Pennsylvania
Map of the United States highlighting Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Pennsylvania
Founded August 24, 1682
Named for Chester, England
Seat West Chester
Largest city West Chester
 • Total 759 sq mi (1,970 km2)
 • Land 751 sq mi (1,950 km2)
 • Water 8.7 sq mi (23 km2)  1.1%%
 • Total 534,413
 • Density 712.0/sq mi (274.9/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional districts 5th, 6th
Pennsylvania Historical Marker
Designated: October 26, 1982

Chester County (Pennsylvania German: Tscheschter Kaundi), colloquially known as Chesco, is a county in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2020 census, the population was 534,413, increasing by 7.1% from 498,886 in 2010. The county seat and most populated municipality is West Chester. Chester County was one of the three original Pennsylvania counties created by William Penn in 1682. It was named for Chester, England.

Chester County is part of the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metropolitan Statistical Area. Eastern Chester County is home to many communities that comprise part of the Main Line western suburbs outside of Philadelphia, while part of its southernmost portion is considered suburban Wilmington, along with southwest Delaware County.


Chester County sign
Chester County, Pennsylvania sign

Philadelphia, Bucks, and Chester were the three Pennsylvania counties initially created by William Penn on August 24, 1682. At that time, Chester County's borders were Philadelphia County to the north, the ill-defined western edge of the colony (approximately the Susquehanna River) to the west, the Delaware River to the east, and Delaware and Maryland to the south. Chester County replaced the Pennsylvania portion of New Netherland/New York’s "Upland", which was officially eliminated when Pennsylvania was chartered on March 4, 1681, but did not cease to exist until June of that year. Much of the Welsh Tract was in eastern Chester County, and Welsh place names, given by early settlers, continue to predominate there.

The fourth county in the state, Lancaster County, was formed from Chester County on May 10, 1729. On March 11, 1752, Berks County was formed from the northern section of Chester County, as well as parts of Lancaster and Philadelphia counties.

The original Chester County seat was the city of Chester, a center of naval shipbuilding, at the eastern edge of the county. In an effort to accommodate the increased population of the western part of the county, the county seat was moved to a more central location in 1788; in order to mollify the eastern portion of the county, the village, known as Turk's Head, was renamed West Chester. Apparently, this did not work: the eastern portion of the county separated from Chester County on September 26, 1789, becoming Delaware County. West Chester remained the seat of the reduced Chester County, and still is.

Much of the history of Chester County arises from its location between Philadelphia and the Susquehanna River. The first road to "the West" (meaning Lancaster County) passed through the central part of Chester County, following the Great Valley westward; with some re-alignments, it became the Lincoln Highway and later U.S. Route 30. This road is still named Lancaster Avenue in most of the Chester county towns it runs through. The first railroad (which became the Pennsylvania Railroad) followed much the same route, and the Reading Railroad progressed up the Schuylkill River to Reading. Industry tended to concentrate along the rail lines. Easy transportation allowed workers to commute to urban jobs, and the rise of the suburbs followed. To this day, the developed areas form "fingers" extending along major lines of transportation.

During the American Revolutionary War, the Battle of Brandywine was fought at what is now the southeastern fringe of the county. The Valley Forge encampment was at the northeastern edge.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 759 square miles (1,970 km2), of which 751 square miles (1,950 km2) is land and 8.7 square miles (23 km2) (1.1%) is water. The topography consists of rolling hills and valleys and it is part of the region known as the Piedmont.

Watersheds that serve Chester County include the Octoraro, the Brandywine, and Chester creeks, and the Schuylkill River. Many of the soils are fertile, rich loam as much as twenty-four inches thick; together with the temperate climate, this was long a major agricultural area. Mushroom growing is a specialty in the southern portion of the county.

Elevations (in feet): High point—1020 Welsh Mt., Honeybrook Twp. Other high points—960 Thomas Hill, Warwick Twp; 960 Barren Hill, West Cain Twp. Low point—66 Schuylkill River, Chester-Montgomery county line. Cities and boroughs: Coatesville 314; Downingtown 255; Kennett Square 300; Oxford 535; Parkesburg 542; Phoenixville 127; Spring City 114; West Chester 459.

Adjacent counties

National protected area

State protected areas

Major highways

  • I-76 / Penna Turnpike
  • US 1
  • US 30

  • US 30 Bus.
  • US 202
  • US 322

  • US 322 Bus.
  • US 422
  • PA 3
  • PA 10
  • PA 23
  • PA 41
  • PA 52
  • PA 82
  • PA 100
  • PA 252
  • PA 272
  • PA 340
  • PA 372
  • PA 472
  • PA 896


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 27,829
1800 32,093 15.3%
1810 39,596 23.4%
1820 44,451 12.3%
1830 50,910 14.5%
1840 57,515 13.0%
1850 66,438 15.5%
1860 74,578 12.3%
1870 77,805 4.3%
1880 83,481 7.3%
1890 89,377 7.1%
1900 95,695 7.1%
1910 109,213 14.1%
1920 115,120 5.4%
1930 126,629 10.0%
1940 135,626 7.1%
1950 159,141 17.3%
1960 210,608 32.3%
1970 278,311 32.1%
1980 316,660 13.8%
1990 376,396 18.9%
2000 433,501 15.2%
2010 498,886 15.1%
2020 534,413 7.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2019

As of the 2010 census, the county was 82.1% White Non-Hispanic, 6.1% Black or African American, 0.2% Native American or Alaskan Native, 3.9% Asian, 0.0% Native Hawaiian, 1.8% were two or more races, and 2.4% were some other race. 6.5% of the population were Hispanic or Latino.

As of the census of 2000, there were 433,501 people, 157,905 households, and 113,375 families residing in the county. The population density was 573 people per square mile (221/km2). There were 163,773 housing units at an average density of 217 per square mile (84/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 89.21% White, 6.24% Black or African American, 0.15% Native American, 1.95% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.35% from other races, and 1.06% from two or more races. 3.72% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 18.0% were of Irish, 17.3% German, 13.1% Italian, 10.1% English and 5.6% American ancestry. 91.4% spoke English and 3.7% Spanish as their first language.

There were 157,905 households, out of which 35.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.50% were married couples living together, 8.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.20% were non-families. 22.60% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.65 and the average family size was 3.15.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 26.20% under the age of 18, 7.90% from 18 to 24, 30.40% from 25 to 44, 23.80% from 45 to 64, and 11.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 96.40 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $65,295, and the median income for a family was $76,916 (these figures had risen to $80,818 and $97,894 respectively as of a 2007 estimate). Males had a median income of $51,223 versus $34,854 for females. The per capita income for the county was $31,627. About 3.10% of families and 5.20% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.10% of those under age 18 and 5.50% of those age 65 or over.

The region was originally occupied by the Lenni Lenape people, who greeted European settlers in the seventeenth century with amity and kindness. British settlers were mostly English, Scotch-Irish and Welsh in ethnicity. From the late 19th to early 20th century, the industrial areas of the region, such as Coatesville, attracted immigrants and job seekers from Germany and Ireland, Eastern Europe, Italy, and the American rural South, with both black and white migrants coming north. Later Hispanic immigrants have included Puerto Ricans and, most recently, Mexicans.

Long a primarily rural area, Chester County is now the fastest-growing county in the Delaware Valley; it is one of the fastest growing in the entire Northeastern section of the United States.


Uwchlan Meeting
Uwchlan Meetinghouse

In keeping with its colonial history, Chester County is home to a number of historic Quaker buildings, including Birmingham, Birmingham Orthodox, Bradford, Caln, Old Kennett, Parkersville, Westtown, and Uwchlan meeting houses. Other historic religious buildings include St. Malachi Church, southeastern Pennsylvania's oldest active Catholic mission church, and the Episcopal St. Mary's, St. Paul's, and St. Peter's churches, and Washington Memorial Chapel. Also located in the county are the First Presbyterian Church of West Chester, Coventryville United Methodist Church, which is part of the Coventryville Historic District, and Beth Israel Congregation of Chester County, a Conservative synagogue in Coatesville, a site of Eastern European immigration in the 20th century.


Map of Chester County Pennsylvania With Municipal and Township Labels
Map of Chester County, Pennsylvania with Municipal Labels showing Cities and Boroughs (red), Townships (white), and Census-designated places (blue).

Under Pennsylvania law, there are four types of incorporated municipalities: cities, boroughs, townships, and, in at most two cases, towns. The post office uses community names and boundaries that usually do not correspond to the townships, and usually only have the same names as the municipalities for the cities and boroughs. The names used by the post office are generally used by residents to describe where they live. The following cities, boroughs and townships are located in Chester County:




Census-designated places

Census-designated places are geographical areas designated by the U.S. Census Bureau for the purposes of compiling demographic data. They are not actual jurisdictions under Pennsylvania law.

Historic community

Population ranking

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of Chester County.

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2010 Census)
1 West Chester Borough 18,461
2 Phoenixville Borough 16,440
3 Coatesville City 13,100
4 Downingtown Borough 7,891
5 Lionville CDP 6,189
6 Kennett Square Borough 6,072
7 Paoli CDP 5,575
8 Oxford Borough 5,077
9 Exton CDP 4,842
10 Chesterbrook CDP 4,589
11 Berwyn CDP 3,631
12 Parkesburg Borough 3,593
13 Thorndale CDP 3,407
14 Spring City Borough 3,323
15 Malvern Borough 2,998
16 West Grove Borough 2,854
17 South Pottstown CDP 2,081
18 Kenilworth CDP 1,907
19 Lincoln University CDP 1,726
20 Honey Brook Borough 1,713
21 Eagleview CDP 1,644
22 Caln CDP 1,519
23 Devon CDP 1,515
24 Toughkenamon CDP 1,492
25 Atglen Borough 1,406
26 South Coatesville Borough 1,303
27 Avondale Borough 1,265
28 Elverson Borough 1,225
29 Cheyney University (partially in Delaware County) CDP 988
30 Westwood CDP 950
31 Cochranville CDP 668
32 Modena Borough 535
33 Pomeroy CDP 401

Economy and environment

Lanchester Landfill, located on the border of Chester and Lancaster Counties, captures methane which is sold for renewable natural gas credits, and piped to seven local businesses. This reduces the county's methane emissions, and provides an alternative to fracking for shale gas. In addition, several companies have their headquarters or a major presence in the county including Bentley Systems, EBS Healthcare, Main Line Health, Lavazza North America (formerly Mars Drinks), Depuy Synthes (part of Johnson & Johnson), Metabo, QVC, Hankin Group, Axalta Coating Systems, CTDI, Pactiv, Ricoh Americas, Blinding Edge Pictures, AmerisourceBergen, J.G. Wentworth, The Vanguard Group, and Victory Brewing Company among others.


Colleges and universities

Philips Hall at West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Public school districts

Map of Chester County Pennsylvania School Districts
Map of Chester County, Pennsylvania Public School Districts
  • Avon Grove School District
  • Coatesville Area School District
  • Downingtown Area School District
  • Great Valley School District
  • Kennett Consolidated School District
  • Octorara Area School District
  • Owen J. Roberts School District
  • Oxford Area School District
  • Phoenixville Area School District
  • Spring-Ford Area School District
  • Tredyffrin-Easttown School District
  • Twin Valley School District
  • Unionville-Chadds Ford School District
  • West Chester Area School District

Charter schools

  • Achievement House Charter School grades 9-12, Exton
  • Avon Grove Charter School grades K-12, West Grove
  • Chester County Family Academy Charter School grades K-2, West Chester
  • Collegium Charter School grades K-12, Exton
  • Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School K-12, West Chester
  • Renaissance Academy Charter School grades K-12, Phoenixville
  • Sankofa Academy Charter School grades 5–8, West Chester
  • 21st Century Cyber Charter School grades 6-12. Downingtown.

Independent schools

  • Bishop Shanahan High School (Archdiocese of Philadelphia)
  • Center for Arts and Technology (Administered by Chester County Intermediate Unit)
  • Church Farm School (now called CFS the School at Church Farm)
  • Delaware Valley Friends School
  • Devon Preparatory School
  • Fairville Friends School (Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania)
  • Goshen Friends School (West Chester, Pennsylvania)
  • Kimberton Waldorf School (Kimberton, Pennsylvania)
  • London Grove Friends Kindergarten (Kennett Square, Pennsylvania)
  • Malvern Preparatory School
  • The Concept School - 6th through 12th Grade
  • Upattinas School and Resource Center (Glenmoore, Pennsylvania)
  • Upland Country Day School (UCDS) - Pre-K through 9th Grade
  • Villa Maria Academy (Malvern, Pennsylvania)
  • Villa Maria Academy Lower School (Immaculata, Pennsylvania)
  • West-Mont Christian Academy
  • West Chester Friends School
  • West Fallowfield Christian School
  • Westtown School
  • Windsor Christian Academy - K through 6th Grade
  • Windsor Christian Preschool
  • Regina Luminis Academy


The Chester County Library System in southeastern Pennsylvania was organized in 1965. It is a federated system composed of a District Center Library in Exton and sixteen member libraries. The system provides materials and information for life, work and pleasure.

Notable people

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