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Chester is a city in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, with a population of 36,854 at the 2000 census. Chester is situated on the Delaware River, between the cities of Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware.

The city is home to PPL Park, a soccer-specific stadium being constructed at the southwesterly corner of the Commodore Barry Bridge. Since Chester is part of the greater Philadelphia region, the stadium will host Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer and the Philadelphia Independence of Women's Professional Soccer.


This area was a part of the Swedish colonization known as New Sweden. The colonial settlement that became Chester was first known as "Finlandia," then "Upland" by the Swedes who were the first European colonial settlers in the area. Fort Mecoponacka was erected in 1641 as a defense for the settlement near Upland.[1]

William Penn first landed on the soil of the Province of Pennsylvania in Upland on October 27, 1682, via the ship Welcome. Penn renamed the settlement, then the province's most populous town, after 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 finally moved to the borough of Media in 1851. The historic courthouse is located 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 at Chester. 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.

Chester is one of numerous places claiming to be the birthplace of the hoagie sandwich.[2] It is also known as the "Cradle of Rock 'n Roll"Template:Citation needed as Bill Haley & His Comets first performed and maintained their headquarters in the Chester area.Template:Citation needed


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 65,000 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.[3]

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 of this southeastern Pennsylvania city. The Wharf at Rivertown, a $60 million renovation of the Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO)'s Template:Convert 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.[4][5] AdminServer is an upstart insurance software solution company that has drawn the market's attention.[6][7] 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.[8]

The Chester City Council is made up of four council members and the presiding officer, the Mayor. Wendell N. Butler, Jr. was appointed Mayor of the City of Chester on October 9, 2002, to fill the unexpired term of former Mayor and now State Senator Dominic Pileggi. Mayor Butler was subsequently elected by the citizens of the City of Chester in November 2003 and re-elected in November 2007 for a second four year term. 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.Template:Citation needed

Chester is a Third Class City, and was approved by the citizens on April 20, 1980 as a Home Rule Charter Community.[9] 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.Template:Citation needed

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections operates the State Correctional Institution - Chester, a drug treatment facility, in Chester.[10]

The United States Postal Service operates the Chester Post Office.[11]


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 (15.6 km²), including 4.8 square miles (12.6 km²) of land and 1.2 square miles (3.0 km²) (19.47%) of water, according to the United States Census Bureau.


Template:USCensusPop As of the 2006-2008 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates, Chester had 29,542 people. 16.4% were White, 78.0% were African American, 0.0% were Native American, 0.3% were Asian, 0.2% were Pacific Islander, 3.8% were from other races, and 1.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino data was not available. 34.8% of all people were living below the poverty level.

As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there were 36,854 people, 12,814 households, and 8,124 families residing in the city. The population density was 7,605.4 people per square mile (2,933.9/km²). There were 14,976 housing units at an average density of 3,090.5/sq mi (1,192.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 18.94% White, 75.70% African American, 0.20% Native American, 0.61% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 3.03% from other races, and 1.51% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.39% of the population.

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.

In the city the population was spread out with 29.8% under the age of 18, 13.0% from 18 to 24, 26.8% from 25 to 44, 18.6% from 45 to 64, and 11.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 89.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.7 males.

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.


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[]

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 Template:Convert 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 have plans in place to start construction of new exit and entrance ramps from the bridge to Rt. 291, providing an alternate route to the Chester Waterfront.

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[]

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. Three routes (37, 113, and 119) provides direct service with the Harrah's Racetrack and Casino located within the city.

The city is also served by SEPTA's R2 Marcus Hook/Wilmington/Newark 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 R2 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 use.

Historically, the Chester Transportation Center was, like the Paoli station on the R5 Bryn Mawr/Paoli/Thorndale station, both a commuter and intercity stop on the former Pennsylvania Railroad's New York-Washington route. Since the takeover of the NEC by Amtrak in 1976, it has been bypassed by all Amtrak intercity service, operating in the center express tracks between 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and Wilmington Station in Wilmington, Delaware.


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.Template:Citation needed

Parochial schools[]

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.

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  
Philadelphia Independence WPS 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.


Chester is the future home of Philadelphia Union, which will play its home games at PPL Park, a soccer-specific stadium being constructed 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 Chester Stadium, and an additional $7 million towards a two-phase project composing of 186 townhouses, 25 apartments, Template:Convert of office space, a Template:Convert convention center, more than Template:Convert of retail space, and a parking structure to house 1,350 cars. In phase two, another 200 apartments will be built, along with Template:Convert of office space and Template:Convert of retail space.[12] Chester Stadium will also host the Philadelphia Independence, beginning in the 2010 season. This team replaces the former Philadelphia Charge, who also played their home games in Delaware County.

Notable natives[]

Chester's most famous son may well be John Morton, who cast the deciding vote on the Declaration of Independence.[13] Ethel Waters of jazz fame was born here on October 31, 1896, and Martin Luther King Jr. obtained his Bachelor of Divinity here in 1951 from Crozer Theological Seminary. Jameer Nelson, point guard of the NBA's Orlando Magic and alumnus of St. Joseph's University, led the Chester High School Clippers to a PIAA State Championship in 2000.

Bill Haley & His Comets, the pioneering rock-and-roll band, was based in Chester and maintained their corporate headquarters there into the 1960s. Many of its members came from Chester or nearby towns.

Others include:

  • Al Albertini, or Al Alberts, and The Four Aces were all born or resided in Chester.
  • Thomas N. Barnes, first African-American Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.
  • Ron Bennington, host of XM Satellite Radio program "The Ron and Fez Show"
  • Ed Blizzard, prominent pharmaceutical injury attorney.
  • Fran Brill, voice actress and muppeteer
  • Tyreke Evans, NBA basketball player for the Sacramento Kings.
  • J. R. Gach, talk radio host
  • Hubert R. Harmon, first superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy.
  • Nicolas Iacona Jnr, who adopted the screen name, Joey Stefano in gay pornographic films.
  • Kevin Jones, a Chicago Bears running back and former Virginia Tech football standout.
  • Deron Miller, frontman for CKY.
  • Joe Klecko, retired New York Jets lineman and former Temple University football player; father of Dan Klecko of the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, and Philadelphia Eagles.
  • John Linehan, former Providence College guard and NCAA men's basketball steals leader as of 2002.
  • Kevin Michael, a soul singer.
  • John Mobley, retired Denver Broncos linebacker and former Kutztown University football standout.
  • Sylvanus Morley, archaeologist and Mayanist scholar
  • Danny Murtaugh, former manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates who guided the team to World Series titles in 1960 and 1971.
  • Alex North, composer.
  • Jameer Nelson, an American professional basketball player for the Orlando Magic of the NBA
  • John M. Paxton, Jr., United States Marine Corps general officer.
  • David Dixon Porter, American Civil War naval hero.
  • Aaron Proctor, professional wrestling promoter and politician.
  • Caleb Pusey, a friend and business partner of William Penn.
  • Joe Pyne, radio and television talk show host
  • James W. Reese, a U.S. Army Medal of Honor recipient in World War II
  • Bo Ryan, head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball team.
  • Matthew Ryan, a alternative country singer-songwriter.
  • Josiah Sleeper, local businessman
  • Brent Staples, an editorial writer for the New York Times.
  • Lamar Campbell, former Detroit Lions Defensive back and former Strath Haven,University of Wisconsin and Detroit Lions standout


  1. Narratives of Early Pennsylvania, West New Jersey and Delaware 1630-1707 (edited by Albert Cook Myers. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1912)
  2. Template:Cite web
  3. Template:Cite web
  4. Template:Cite web
  5. Template:Cite web
  6. Template:Cite web
  7. Pennsylvania Dept of Community and Economic Development
  8. Template:Cite web
  9. Template:Cite web
  10. "SCI Chester." Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Retrieved on December 7, 2009.
  11. "Post Office™ Location - CHESTER." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on May 29, 2010.
  12. Template:Cite web
  13. Not actually a native (he was born in nearby Ridley Township, but he is buried in Chester.
    Template:Cite web

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[]


Template:Delaware County, Pennsylvania Template:Pennsylvania

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