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Upper Darby Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania facts for kids

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Upper Darby, Pennsylvania
Home rule municipality
First Class Township
Tower Theater, Upper Darby
Tower Theater, Upper Darby
"The World in One Place"
Location in Delaware County and the state of Pennsylvania.
Location in Delaware County and the state of Pennsylvania.
Location of Pennsylvania in the United States
Location of Pennsylvania in the United States
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Delaware
Settled 1653
 • Type Mayor–council
 • Total 7.83 sq mi (20.27 km2)
 • Land 7.83 sq mi (20.27 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
230 ft (70 m)
 • Total 85,681
 • Density 10,559.62/sq mi (4,076.89/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 610 and 484
FIPS code 42-045-79000
Locust St Upper Darby
Row houses on Richfield Road

Upper Darby Township (often shortened to Upper Darby) is a home rule township in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States. Upper Darby is home to the Tower Theater, a historic music venue on 69th Street built in the 1920s, and is also home to several Underground Railroad sites. Upper Darby's population is diverse, representing over 100 ethnic cultures. The township hosts a range of housing types including densely populated rowhouse sections similar to houses in neighboring West Philadelphia, tree-lined neighborhoods of turn-of-the-century single-family houses and mid-century developments. It is Pennsylvania's sixth most populous municipality.

As of the 2020 census, the township had a total population of 85,681, making it the sixth most populated city or borough in Pennsylvania, after Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Reading, and Erie. Upper Darby is 65% residential, 25% commercial, and 8% other.

Because of a home-rule charter adopted in 1974 and effective in 1976, Upper Darby utilizes a mayor-council form of management, unlike communities that are still under the Pennsylvania Township Code. ("First Class" townships in Pennsylvania have a board of commissioners and are divided into wards, and "Second Class" townships have a board of supervisors, which are usually elected "at-large".)


Early settlement

In 1650, the area that eventually became Upper Darby had been inhabited by the Lenape tribe of Native Americans for hundreds of years, but war with the Susquehannock to the west along with devastating smallpox and measles epidemics had significantly reduced their numbers. The first permanent Europeans settlers arrived in late 1653 with a group from New Sweden. Soon after, in 1655, New Sweden was taken over by the Dutch, and then came under English rule in October 1664 as part England's overall conquest of New Amsterdam. The region was controlled as a possession of the English king until it was included in a large land grant to William Penn in 1681.

Upon Penn's founding of the colony of Pennsylvania the next year, the area was designated as part of the municipality of Darby Township, in Chester County. It was subsequently part of the eastern section of that county which was split off on September 26, 1789 to form Delaware County.

The Lower Swedish Cabin, thought to have been built in 1654, is located on Creek Road along the Darby Creek and is believed by many to be a remnant of the early Swedes, who introduced the log cabin to this area. Today the "Swedish Cabin" is designated with a Pennsylvania Historical Marker. The Cabin is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

Division of Upper and Lower Darby

Darby Township originally occupied the area between the current border of Upper Darby to the north, Cobbs Creek and then Darby Creek to the east and south, and Ridley and Springfield townships to the west. This continued until 1736, when, for the convenience of the inhabitants, it was decided at a town meeting to separate the upper part from the lower "in all matters save the levies made for the support of the poor," with the northern part thereafter to be called Upper Darby Township. The exact boundary was not established until 1787, when a petition was presented to the court. The following is an excerpt from this petition:

Beginning at Cobb's Greek on the Northwest side of a tract of land belonging to the heirs of Joshua Ash and in the line of said land, thence along said line and the line of land late Enoch Bonsall's & Joshua Bonsall's to Darby Creek thence down the said Creek to the northwest line of John Ash's land, thence along said line and the line of Samuel Ash and Nathaniel Smith to the line of Ridley Township, and that the lower part may be called Darby and the other part Upper Darby.

19th and 20th centuries

Row Houses in Upper Darby, with the Philadelphia skyline in the background, 2008

Reflecting the Quaker background of its earliest English settlers, Upper Darby was active in the antislavery movement. At least one abolition society existed prior to 1830, and sent a committee of twelve prominent citizens to the 1830 meeting of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia.

Many homes in the area were stops on the Underground Railroad, including Hoodland, the home of abolitionist Thomas Pennock, which was eventually bequeathed to the township's public library and which currently houses the children's library, connected to a much larger modern annex which houses the Main Branch. Another prominent abolitionist, Thomas Garrett, grew up in the township and Thornfield, his home until the age of 32, still stands at Garrett Road and Maple Avenue in the Drexel Hill section of the township. Two regiments from Upper Darby took part in the fighting in the American Civil War, and one, the 106th, was involved in the Battle of Antietam.

The abundance of creeks and streams in the area favored the development of mills, and it was in Upper Darby that the first mills in Delaware County could be found. The mill trade greatly increased the population of the township, from just over 800 in 1800 to almost 5,000 by 1890. However, beginning in 1885, the township also lost large sections of territory as the citizens of more populated neighborhoods petitioned the state to be recognized as separate municipalities. The first of these was the borough of Clifton Heights (incorporated on June 1, 1885), followed by the boroughs of Lansdowne (July 6, 1893), Aldan (September 22, 1893), Millbourne (October 12, 1909), and East Lansdowne (June 3, 1911). (Part of the territory of Aldan was also taken from Darby Township.)

69th Street Transportation Center in downtown Upper Darby

In 1907, the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company recognized the potential for growth in the township and extended the Market-Frankford elevated train line (or "El") from just west of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia to 69th and Market Streets in Upper Darby. The El terminus at 69th Street Station became a busy terminal serving several trolley and light rail lines into the suburbs, as well as numerous city and suburban bus routes. Commuter traffic spurred the development of the 69th St. shopping district in the 1920s by John McClatchy, and made Upper Darby the second busiest shopping area in the region, second only to Center City Philadelphia. The business district is noted for many fine examples of Art Deco style buildings. A population explosion in the township followed, and by the 1960s Upper Darby ranked as the 7th most populous municipality in Pennsylvania.

In the early 1970s, students from Highland Park Elementary School began a campaign to have the Pennsylvania Firefly declared the official state insect of Pennsylvania. With advice and support from state legislators, the students began a campaign that included letter writing, the circulation of petitions, and the distribution of bumper stickers. On April 10, 1974, Governor Milton J. Shapp signed their bill making the Pennsylvania Firefly their state's official insect. A couple of years later, Highland Park Elementary School was presented with a bronze plaque in honor of the students' achievement.

In 1991, five Upper Darby policemen were convicted in federal court and sentenced to prison for violating the civil rights of two residents, a father and son. Each was found guilty on several counts involving assault, false arrest, and prosecution.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the township has a total area of 7.9 square miles (20.4 km²). The township lies on the edge of the Piedmont slightly above the City of Philadelphia (60 to 260 feet above sea level). The area is crossed by several small creeks. The borough of East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania is an enclave completely surrounded by Upper Darby Township; additionally, an exclave of Upper Darby Township is separated from the rest of the township.

The census-designated place of Drexel Hill and the communities (or neighborhoods) of Aronimink, Beverly Hills, Bywood, Drexel Park, Highland Park, Llanerch Hills, Kellyville, Kirklyn, Oakview, Primos, Secane, Stonehurst, and Westbrook Park are part of Upper Darby Township.

Emergency services

Upper Darby Township is served by the 133-member Upper Darby Police Department, the Crozer-Keystone North Division Paramedics (based out of Delaware County Memorial Hospital), and the Upper Darby Township Fire Department, a combination paid/volunteer department which consists of a headquarters building and 5 stations: Company 20 - Garrettford-Drexel Hill (which is the only full-time volunteer station), housing 3 pumpers (engines), one ladder truck, and one rescue truck. Company 26 - Highland Park, housing 2 pumpers, one ladder truck, and one rescue truck. Company 36 - Cardington-Stonehurst, housing one pumper, one squrt, one ladder truck, and one air/light unit. Company 37 - Upper Darby, housing one pumper, one quint, and one utility truck. Company 74 - Primos-Secane-Westbrook Park, housing 2 pumpers (including a foam pumper) and one tower ladder truck.

Adjacent municipalities


Historical population
Census Pop.
1930 47,145
1940 56,883 20.7%
1950 84,951 49.3%
1960 93,158 9.7%
1970 95,910 3.0%
1980 84,054 −12.4%
1990 81,777 −2.7%
2000 81,821 0.1%
2010 82,795 1.2%
2020 85,681 3.5%
U.S. Decennial Census

Upper Darby is one of Pennsylvania's most diverse communities. As of Census 2020, the racial makeup of the township was 46.8% White, 34.5% African American, 0.2% Native American, 13.2% Asian, 1.9% from other races, and 3.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.5% of the population.

In 2019, three out members of the LGBTQ community were elected to the Upper Darby School Board.

As of the census of 2000, there were 85,038 people, 32,551 households, and 20,474 families residing in the township. The population density was 14,658.7 people per square mile. There were 34,322 housing units at an average density of 4,361.6 per square mile (1,683.8/km2). The racial makeup of Upper Darby was 59.1% White; 20.5% African American; 15.3% Asian; 0.1% Native American; <0.1% Pacific Islander; 0.5% from other races and 2.3% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 2.4% of the population

There were 32,551 households, out of which 31.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.0% were married couples living together, 13.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.1% were non-families. 31.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 3.23.

Upper Darby, along with Cheltenham and West Philadelphia, are areas in the Philadelphia region that have significant Korean populations

25.2% of the population was under the age of 18, 8.4% from 18 to 24, 32.8% from 25 to 44, 19.9% from 45 to 64 and 13.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.2 males.

The median income for a household in the township was $41,489, and median income for a family was $52,500. Males had a median income of $38,090 versus $30,416 for females. The per capita income for the township was $20,770. About 7.3% of families and 9.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.1% of those under age 18 and 6.9% of those age 65 or over.

Historic sites


Public schools

Upper Darby Township's public education is provided by the Upper Darby School District. In all, the 12 public schools plus the Kindergarten Center serve nearly 12,000 students. The district has one high school, Upper Darby High School, two middle schools, Beverly Hills Middle School and Drexel Hill Middle School, and 10 public elementary schools. In addition to Upper Darby, Secane, Clifton Heights, and Millbourne students attend the Upper Darby School District. Established in 1895, Upper Darby High School is one of the largest brick and mortar high schools in Pennsylvania with almost 4,000 students.

Private schools

In addition to the public school district, Upper Darby is home to several parochial and private schools. Monsignor Bonner High School (for boys) and Archbishop Prendergast High School (for girls), both Roman Catholic, are the largest private schools in the Township. Both schools offer grades 9–12 with a combined enrollment close to 5,500 students. In addition to the two high schools, there are nine parochial primary and middle schools located in the Township, with a combined enrollment of 2,867.

Catholic K-8 schools include:

  • Saint Andrew School (Drexel Hill)
  • St. Bernadette of Lourdes School (Drexel Hill)
  • St. Dorothy School (Drexel Hill)
  • St. Eugene School (Primos)
  • St. Laurence School (Highland Park)

Almost all of the private academic schools in the Township are administered by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia except for the Holy Child Academy, which is a Catholic academy run by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus.

Former schools;

  • St. Alice School – Closed in 2006
  • St. Charles Borromeo School – Closed in 2007

Tertiary and adult education

Also available to residents of Upper Darby and surrounding areas is the Upper Darby Adult Evening Program (UDAEP). UDAEP offers professional development and general education classes to township residents. UDAEP is an independent non-profit entity separate from the Upper Darby School District.

Delaware County Community College's Upper Darby Center holds day and evening classes serving 600 students.

Notable people

Thomas Garrett ambrotype c1850-crop
Abolitionist Thomas Garrett was born in Upper Darby and helped establish the Underground Railroad network from Wilmington, DE to Upper Darby.
Jim Croce Wide World In Concert
Singer songwriter Jim Croce grew up in Upper Darby
Robert Crumb 2010
Cartoonist R. Crumb spent a brief part of his childhood in Upper Darby
  • Todd Rucci (born 1970), football player
  • Tim (born 1981), singer
  • Lloyd Alexander (born 1924), author
  • Keith Andes (1920–2005), Broadway actor
  • Patrice Banks (born 1982), engineer and mechanic, founder of Girls Auto Clinic
  • Anthony Becht (born 1977), NFL football player
  • Joe Burke (1884–1950), composer, pianist and actor
  • John Cappelletti (born 1952), NFL football player
  • Dick Clark (1929–2012), entertainer
  • Robert J. Clendening (1914–1982), Pennsylvania State Representative for Delaware County from 1949 to 1952
  • Jim Croce (1943–1973), singer songwriter
  • Mark Cronin, television producer
  • R.Crumb (born 1943), cartoonist
  • Margo L. Davidson (born 1964), broadcaster, member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
  • George Delahunty (born 1952), physiologist, endocrinologist, and professor at Goucher College
  • Heather Donahue (born 1974), writer, actress
  • H.D. (1886–1961), poet and novelist
  • Masoumeh Ebtekar (born 1960), Vice President of Iran for Women and Family Affairs
  • Tina Fey (born 1970), comedian, writer, actress
  • D'or Fischer (born 1981), American-Israeli basketball player.
  • Derek Frey (born 1973), film producer and director
  • Thomas Garrett (1789–1871), abolitionist
  • Monica Horan (born 1963), actress
  • Jamie Kennedy (born 1970), comedian
  • Jeff LaBar (1963–2021) American guitarist in the glam metal band Cinderella
  • Simoni Lawrence (born 1989), football player
  • F. Joseph "Joe" Loeper (born 1944), American politician (resigned) who represented the 26th senatorial district from 1979 through 2000 in the Pennsylvania State Senate, including over 10 years as Republican Majority Leader
  • David MacAdam (1910–1998), Physicist and color scientist
  • Mike Manley (born 1961) Cartoonist
  • Ed McMahon (1923–2009), co-host, Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
  • Pat Meehan (born 1955), U.S. Representative Pennsylvania 7th District (2010–2018)
  • Shannon Meehan, author and veteran's activist
  • Nicholas Micozzie (1930–2020), Pennsylvania State Representative for the 163rd district (1979–2014)
  • Terrence J. Nolen (born 1963), theater director, co-founder of the Arden Theater Company
  • Cheri Oteri (born 1962), comedian, actress
  • Sophonisba Angusciola Peale (1786–1859), ornithologist and artist
  • Dorothy Germain Porter, golfer
  • Jack Ramsay (1925–2014), NBA head coach
  • Todd Rundgren (born 1948), singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer
  • Alvin Sargent (1927–2019), screenwriter
  • Herb Sargent (1923–2005), screenwriter
  • Mike Scioscia (born 1958) baseball player, manager Los Angeles Angels
  • Coleman Sellers II (1827–1907), engineer, former president of the Franklin Institute
  • John Sellers (1728–1804), scientist.
  • William Sellers (1824–1905), engineer and inventor.
  • Jerome Socolovsky (born 1964), journalist for NPR, and Voice of America.
  • Ed Stefanski, former NBA player, executive
  • Marty Stern (born 1936), women's track coach
  • George Wackenhut (1919–2004), founder of the Wackenhut private security firm.
  • Paul Westhead (born 1939), NBA basketball coach
  • William Wharton (1925–2008), author

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Municipio de Upper Darby para niños

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