Chester County, Pennsylvania
|County of Chester|
|Founded||August 24, 1682|
|Named for||Chester, England|
|Largest city||West Chester|
|• County commission|
|• 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|
|Designated||October 26, 1982|
Chester County (Pennsylvania Dutch: 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.
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. In response to the new location of the county seat, the eastern portion of the county separated and formed the new Delaware County in 1789 with the City of Chester as its county seat.
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.
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. Because of its proximity to Philadelphia, Chester County has seen large waves of development over the past half-century due to suburbanization. Although development in Chester County has increased, agriculture is still a major part of the county's economy, and the number of horse farms is increasing in the county. 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 Caln 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
Major roads and highways
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.
|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[when?] 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.
According to the Secretary of State's office, Democrats comprise a plurality of registered voters in Chester County.
|Chester County voter registration statistics as of November 1, 2021|
|Political Party||Total Voters||Percentage|
|No Party Affiliation||44,373||11.93%|
Chester County has historically been reliably Republican at the county level; traditionally, it was the most conservative county in the Philadelphia area. In recent elections, however, it has been trending Democratic, though not as overwhelmingly as the rest of the Philadelphia suburbs. In 2000 Al Gore lost it by almost 10 percent but in 2004 George W. Bush defeated John Kerry by a much smaller margin of only 4.5 percent. In 2008, Chester County sided with the rest of Pennsylvania and voted for Barack Obama by a much larger margin of 9%, making him the first Democrat to carry it in a Presidential election since 1964. But, in 2009, with a smaller turnout, Republican candidates swept all county-row offices, winning with an average margin of 20%. In 2012 the county voted for Republican candidate Mitt Romney, by a very small margin of about 500 votes.
In 2016, despite Pennsylvania voting for a Republican presidential candidate for the first time since 1988, Chester County voted more Democratic than in 2012, with Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by over 25,000 votes or 9.4 percentage points; a 9.2 percentage point swing from 2012. The only two statewide winners in 2016 to carry Chester County were U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R) and Pennsylvania State Treasurer Joe Torsella (D). Republican candidates John Brown and John Rafferty carried Chester County, though both lost their races for Auditor General and Attorney General, respectively (Rafferty, a State Senator whose district includes northern Chester County, carried the county by a slim margin of 50 votes) Emphasizing its Democratic shift even further, Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by a whopping 17.1 points in Chester County in the 2020 election; Trump's percentage of votes was the lowest for any Republican since 1912. Such a major shift was a major factor in Biden's success of flipping Pennsylvania back to the Democratic column.
Democrats have made gains in Chester County state legislative seats in recent elections. Democrat Andy Dinniman picked up the 19th Senate District in May 2006 in the special election to replace the late Robert Thompson. Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith picked up the open 156th House district in November 2006, winning by 28 votes and tipping the State-House majority to the Democrats. This was the first time that a Democrat had served part of Chester County as State Representative since Jim Gerlach (who represented much of Chester County for 12 years in Congress) unseated Sam Morris in 1990. In 2008, two more open House seats in the county went Democratic—to Tom Houghton in the 13th and Paul Drucker in the 157th. In 2010, however, Chester County swung back to the GOP, with Republicans Dan Truitt (who defeated McIlvaine Smith), Warren Kampf (who defeated Drucker), and John Lawrence (who defeated Houghton) all elected to the State House.
On November 8, 2017, Democrats made historic inroads in Chester County by winning their first county row office seats in history, picking up 4 row office seats. On November 5, 2019, Democrats swept countywide row office seat elections and took a majority on the Board of Commissioners, for a first time in county history.
|Year||Republican Party||Democratic Party||Libertarian Party||Green Party||Other|
|2018||37.12% 87,873||61.30% 145,212||1.03% 2,448||0.52% 1,242|
|2014||48.2% 75,097||51.8% 80,701|
|2010||56.0% 97,112||44.0% 76,440|
|2006||34.9% 60,437||65.2% 112,960|
|2002||41.1% 58,669||57.4% 81,996||0.8% 1,159||0.7% 990|
|1998||67.6% 68,572||21.0% 21,337||11.3% 11,500|
|1994||53.1% 61,890||29.7% 34,652||17.2% 20,019|
|1990||47.5% 44,262||52.5% 48,935|
Chester County is administered by a three-person Board of Commissioners, who serve four-year terms. Elections occur in the odd-numbered years that precede U.S. Presidential elections, with the next election falling in 2023. The Commissioners have selective policy-making authority to provide certain local services and facilities on a county-wide basis. Accordingly, the commissioners are responsible for the management of the fiscal and administrative functions of the county.
County row officers
|Clerk of Courts||Yolanda Van de Krol||Democratic||2025|
|District Attorney||Deborah Ryan||Democratic||2023|
|Recorder of Deeds||Chris Pielli||Democratic||2023|
|Register of Wills||Michele Vaughn||Democratic||2023|
United States House of Representatives
As of January 3, 2021[update]:
|5||Mary Gay Scanlon||Democratic|
United States Senate
As of January 3, 2021[update]:
|Bob Casey Jr.||Democratic|
State House of Representatives
As of January 5, 2021[update]:
As of January 5, 2021[update]:
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
School districts include:
- 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.
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
- Chadds Ford (partly in Delaware County)
- Cheyney University (partly in Delaware County)
- Dilworthtown (partly in Delaware County)
- Lincoln University
- South Pottstown
Other unincorporated communities
- Black Horse
- Byers Station
- Chester Springs
- Darlington Corners
- Doe Run
- Faggs Manor
- Harmony Hill
- Hickory Hill
- London Grove
- Lower Hopewell
- Ludwigs Corner
- Milford Mills
- Nantmeal Village
- Parker Ford
- Saint Peters
- Valley Forge
- West Goshen
- Yellow Springs
† 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|
Chester County has four distinct seasons and has a hot-summer humid continental climate (Dfa) except for some far southern lowlands and areas along the Schuylkill River which have a humid subtropical climate (Cfa). The hardiness zones are 6b and 7a.
|Climate data for Honey Brook Twp (Elevation: 728 ft (222 m)) 1981-2010 Averages|
|Average high °F (°C)||37.6
|Daily mean °F (°C)||29.1
|Average low °F (°C)||20.7
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||3.13
|Average relative humidity (%)||69.9||67.8||62.1||62.2||64.5||72.7||72.6||73.6||74.7||72.6||72.4||72.8||69.8|
|Average dew point °F (°C)||20.5
|Climate data for Coatesville, Pennsylvania|
|Average high °C (°F)||3.7
|Average low °C (°F)||−6.2
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||91
|Climate data for London Britain (Elevation: 167 ft (51 m)) 1981-2010 Averages|
|Average high °F (°C)||40.4
|Daily mean °F (°C)||31.9
|Average low °F (°C)||23.5
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||3.30
|Average relative humidity (%)||66.8||63.3||59.0||58.6||62.7||66.6||68.1||69.6||71.1||69.3||67.9||68.1||65.9|
|Average dew point °F (°C)||22.1
In both 2018 and 2019, deaths from drug overdoses in Chester County declined. Of the 104 drug overdoses recorded by the coroner, an estimated 77 percent involved the presence of fentanyl. One of the reasons for the decline in overdose deaths was "the saturation across the county of Narcan, the anti-opioid nasal spray that can revive someone suffering an overdose." In 2019, any resident of Chester County could obtain a free Narcan dose at community training events across the county.
- 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
- Isabel Darlington (1865–1950), lawyer and the first woman to gain admittance to the bar and practice law in Chester County
- 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
- James Fitzpatrick (1748–1778), highwayman and loyalist during the American Revolutionary War
- 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"
- Elijah F. Pennypacker (1804–1888), abolitionist and Underground Railroad station master
- George Morris Philips (1851–1920), principal of West Chester University from 1881 to 1920
- 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
- Isaac Sharpless (1848–1920), president of Haverford College
- 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
- Miles Teller (born 1987), actor
- Martha Gibbons Thomas (1869–1942), first woman elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from Chester County
- 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
- James P. Wickersham (1825–1891), principal of Millersville State Normal School, state school superintendent, and chargé d'affaires in Denmark
- 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
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