Chester is a city in
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.
is home to Union Field
at Chester, a soccer-specific stadium being
constructed at the southwesterly corner of the Commodore Barry
Since Chester is part of the greater Philadelphia
region, the stadium
will host Philadelphia Union
Major League Soccer
of Women's Professional
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.
Mecoponacka was erected in 1641 as a defense for the settlement
first landed on the soil
of the Province of
in Upland on October 27, 1682, via the ship
. Penn renamed the settlement, then the
province's most populous town, after the English city of 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 &
, later Pennsylvania Shipyard & Dry Dock
Company, was located in Chester until it closed in 1990. Two ships
of the United States Navy
been named USS Chester
of the city.
Chester is one of numerous places claiming to be the birthplace of
sandwich. It is also known as the
"Cradle of Rock 'n Roll
" as Bill Haley & His Comets
first performed and maintained their headquarters in the Chester
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
. 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.
When Chester became eligible for Pennsylvania's Opportunity Zone
, 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
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. AdminServer is an upstart
insurance software solution company that has drawn the market's
attention. 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
. 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
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.
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
Chester is a Third Class City, and was approved by the citizens on
April 20, 1980 as a Home Rule Charter Community. 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
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
Township, the easternmost portion of the city borders
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
As of the census
of 2000, there were 36,854
people, 12,814 households, and 8,124 families residing in the city.
The population density
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
, 0.01% Pacific Islander
, 3.03% from
, and 1.51%
from two or more races. Hispanic
of any race were 5.39% of the
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
, 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
(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
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)
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
1950s (as part of the 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
Two federal highway routes, U.S.
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
Barry Bridge exit.
Prior to the bridge's opening in 1974,
U.S. Rt. 322 would cross the Delaware
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.
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
Township, as I-95 passes through both municipalities between
Rt. 322 and the Commodore Barry Bridge.
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
Three routes (37, 113, and 119) provides direct
service with the Harrah's Racetrack and Casino located within the
The city is also served by SEPTA's R2 Marcus
commuter rail service, via Amtrak
. 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
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
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
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
The St. Katharine Drexel
established in 1993 by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
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
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
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
is the future home of Philadelphia
Union, which will play its home games at Chester
Stadium, 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
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, of office space, a convention
center, more than of retail space, and a parking structure to house
1,350 cars. In phase two, another 200 apartments will be built,
along with of office space and of retail space. Chester Stadium
will also host the Philadelphia Independence
beginning in the 2010 season. This team replaces the former
, who also
played their home games in Delaware County.
most famous son may well be John Morton, who cast the deciding
vote on the Declaration of
Independence.Not actually a native (he was born in nearby
but he is buried in Chester.
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
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
, 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.
- Al Albertini, or Al Alberts, and
The Four Aces were all born or resided
- 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"
- Fran Brill, voice actress and
- J. R.
Gach, talk radio host
- Hubert R. Harmon, first superintendent of the
United States Air Force
- 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
University football player; father of Dan Klecko of the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, and Philadelphia Eagles.
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
University football standout.
- Sylvanus Morley, archaeologist
and Mayan scholar
- Danny Murtaugh, former manager of
the Pittsburgh Pirates who guided
the team to World Series titles in 1960
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- Josiah Sleeper, local
- 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
- Jordan, John W. ed. A History of Delaware County,
Pennsylvania (New York Lewis Historical Publishing Company,
- Johnson, Amandus The Swedes
on the Delaware (International Printing Company, Philadelphia.
- Weslager, C. A. New Sweden on the Delaware 1638-1655
(The Middle Atlantic Press, Wilmington. 1988)