A Detailed Account of Chester, Pennsylvania

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The abuse lawyers in Chester are the sponsors of today's article. Our legal team is happy to help you learn more about the history of the city of Chester.

History of Chester

Chester is a city in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area. Part of Delaware County, it is the largest city in the county and the oldest city in Pennsylvania. Before English colonization, the area that is now Chester was inhabited by the Okehocking Tribe. In 1641, as European settlers from the New Sweden colony moved into the area, they built Fort Mecoponacka to defend the settlement. The Finlandia settlement was a tobacco plantation in 1644. By 1682, it had been renamed Upland and was the most populous town in the new Province of Pennsylvania. That same year, William Penn arrived in the province on the ship Welcome. He renamed the settlement Chester, after the English city. By 1702, he had relocated all of the Okehockings to other parts of Chester County.

From 1682 to 1788, Chester was the county seat for Chester County. However, when Delaware County was formed in 1789, Chester became its new county seat. During the American Revolutionary War, the town only played a small role. From 1776 through 1777, significant forces were stationed in the town. This included around 1,000 men under Colonel Samuel Miles, the Continental Army and a militia.

On March 5, 1795, Chester was incorporated by the Pennsylvania Assembly. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the town was a hub for business in transporting raw materials and finished goods by ship because of its easy access to the Delaware River. Textile mills and factories like the Powhattan Mills by David Reese Esrey and Hugh Shaw and the Upland Mills by John Price Crozer were built along Chester Creek. In 1851, the county seat was moved to the borough of Media. Chester was incorporated as a city on February 14, 1866.

Known as the "Saloon Town" of Greater Philadelphia, Chester was a freewheeling designation for drugs, alcohol, gambling, prostitution and numbers rackets. By 1914, the city had more saloons than police officers. During World War I, Chester experienced a massive growth period as people migrated to the city for jobs. In 1917, the Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. was opened to build ships for the U.S., and the Roach shipyard was purchased by W. Averell Harriman to construct merchant ships. During World War II, the second period of growth occurred as manufacturing increased. Companies that were located in Chester included:

  • Ford Motor Company
  • Wetherill Steel and Boilermakers
  • Aberfoyles Textiles
  • Congoleum-Nairn
  • Scott Paper Company
  • American Steel Foundries
  • Belmont Iron Works
  • Crew Levick Oil
  • Crown Smelting
  • Hetzel
  • Fields Brick Company

The Sun shipyard was the largest shipyard in the world at the time. Nonetheless, by the 1960s, Chester was losing its manufacturing jobs as plants started closing down. Half of the city's residents left. Today, the post-industrial city is struggling with poverty, crime and pollution. Efforts to bring investment into Chester are the Pennsylvania Keystone Opportunity Zone program, the Wharf at Rivertown, Harrah's Casino and Racetrack, and Subaru Park. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 33,972 people.

Read more: Discovering Bethel Park, Pennsylvania

Historic Sites

Among the many establishments and landmarks in Chester, there are those that hold historical significant values of the city. These include the 1724 Chester Courthouse, Old Main and Chemistry Building, Chester Waterside Station of the Philadephia Electric Company, Delaware County National Bank, William Penn Landing Site, Third Presbyterian Church, and the former Second Street Bridge. They have all been added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) throughout the years.

Delaware River Iron Ship Building and Engine Works

In 1871, after the purchase of the Reaney, Son & Archbold shipyard, John Roach proceeded to build and open the Delaware River Iron Ship Building and Engine Works. It was the largest and most productive shipyard in the U.S. and was the creator of the first steel ships for the U.S. Navy. To supply materials for the shipbuilding, Roach developed the Chester Rolling Mill to supply metal beams and hull plates, the Chester Pipe and Tube Company for the manufacture of boiler tubes and iron pipes, and the Standard Steel Casting Company to supply steel ingots. The shipyard and his other companies provided many jobs to the City of Chester. After the shipyard was purchased and renamed the Merchant Shipbuilding Corporation, it was still a major industry for the city until it permanently closed in 1923.

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