Chester County, Pennsylvania facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
|County of Chester|
Location within the U.S. state of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania's location within the U.S.
|Founded||August 24, 1682|
|Named for||Chester, England|
|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%%|
|• 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.
- Economy and environment
- Notable people
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.
- Berks County (north)
- Montgomery County (northeast)
- Delaware County (east)
- New Castle County, Delaware (southeast)
- Cecil County, Maryland (south)
- Lancaster County (west)
National protected area
State protected areas
- 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
|U.S. Decennial Census
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.
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.
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:
- East Bradford
- East Brandywine
- East Caln
- East Coventry
- East Fallowfield
- East Goshen
- East Marlborough
- East Nantmeal
- East Nottingham
- East Pikeland
- East Vincent
- East Whiteland
- Honey Brook
- London Britain
- London Grove
- Lower Oxford
- New Garden
- New London
- North Coventry
- South Coventry
- Upper Oxford
- Upper Uwchlan
- West Bradford
- West Brandywine
- West Caln
- West Fallowfield
- West Goshen
- West Marlborough
- West Nantmeal
- West Nottingham
- West Pikeland
- West Sadsbury
- West Vincent
- West Whiteland
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.
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|
|29||Cheyney University (partially in Delaware County)||CDP||988|
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
- Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (partially in Delaware County)
- Delaware County Community College (locations in Exton, Downingtown, Phoenixville and West Grove)
- Immaculata University
- Lincoln University
- Penn State Great Valley
- University of Valley Forge
- West Chester University of 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Jesse B. Aikin (1808-1900), first to produce a song book with a seven-shape note system
- Samuel Barber (1910-1981), one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century
- Mifflin E. Bell (1847-1904), architect who served from 1883 to 1886 as Supervising Architect of the US Treasury Department
- Scott Brunner (born 1957), NFL quarterback during the 1980s
- Smedley Butler (1881–1940), twice recipient of the Medal of Honor, thwarted the Business Plot, advocate for veterans, author
- Bruce Davidson (born 1949), multiple Olympian in equestrian eventing; noted competition-horse breeder and trainer
- Ryan Dunn (1977-2011), actor, television personality, and daredevil; died in a car crash in West Goshen
- Phillip Dutton (born 1963), Australian-born Olympic-level equestrian rider in eventing
- Bartholomew Fussell (1794-1871), abolitionist active in the Underground Railroad; early advocate for women's careers in medicine
- Kyle Gallner (born 1986), actor
- Robert Grace (1709–1766), first manufacturer of the Franklin stove
- Isaac Israel Hayes (1832-1881), Arctic explorer and physician
- Rebecca Webb Lukens (1794-1854), first female owner and manager of the company that became the Lukens Steel Mill
- Franklin MacVeagh (1837-1934), banker and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
- Bam Margera (born 1979), professional skateboarder, television and radio personality, and daredevil
- Boyd Martin (born 1979), Australian-born equestrian competing in eventing; has participated in two Summer Olympics
- Jon Matlack (born 1950), baseball pitcher for the New York Mets and Texas Rangers (1971–83), All Star and N.L. champion
- Charles Follen McKim (1847-1909), one of the most prominent American Beaux-Arts architects of the late nineteenth century
- Herb Pennock (1894–1948), Hall of Fame baseball pitcher; also known as the "Squire of Kennett Square"
- Thomas Buchanan Read (1822-1872), poet and portrait painter
- Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), civil rights leader posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom
- Matt Ryan (born 1985), quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons; born in Exton
- John Wallace Scott (1832-1903), Medal of Honor recipient during the Civil War
- M. Night Shyamalan (born 1970), film director
- William Thomas Smedley (1858-1920), artist; member of the National Academy of Design
- James Smith (1719-1806), signer to the United States Declaration of Independence
- Kerr Smith (born 1972), actor
- Richard Troxell, international opera star, aka "America's Tenor"
- Bernardhus Van Leer (1687–1790), German-American physician and centenarian
- Samuel Van Leer (1747-1825), captain during the American Revolution; owned Reading Furnace and other nearby historical places
- Anthony Wayne (1745-1796), Revolutionary War general known as "Mad Anthony" Wayne
- George Alexis Weymouth (1936-2016), artist (painter); "whip" stager; founder of the Brandywine Conservancy and the Brandywine River Museum
- Thomas Wharton Jr. (1735-1778), served as the first President of Pennsylvania (an office akin to Governor) following the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain
- William (Amos) Wilson (1762-1821), folklore figure known as "The Pennsylvania Hermit"
- Andrew Wyeth (1917–2009), artist, son of N.C. Wyeth
- Jamie Wyeth (born 1946), artist, son of Andrew Wyeth
- N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), artist and illustrator