Chester County, Pennsylvania

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Chester County
County of Chester
Chester County Courthouse.jpg
Flag of Chester County, Pennsylvania.png
Chester County Seal.png
Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Chester County.svg
Location within the U.S. state of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania in United States.svg
Pennsylvania's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 39°58′N75°45′W / 39.97°N 75.75°W / 39.97; -75.75
CountryFlag of the United States.svg United States
StateFlag of Pennsylvania.svg  Pennsylvania
FoundedAugust 24, 1682
Named for Chester, England
Seat West Chester
Largest cityWest Chester
   County commission
  • Marian Moskowitz (D)
  • Josh Maxwell (D)
  • Michelle Kichline (R)
  Total759 sq mi (1,970 km2)
  Land751 sq mi (1,950 km2)
  Water8.7 sq mi (23 km2)  1.1%%
  Density691.5/sq mi (267.0/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
  Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 6th
DesignatedOctober 26, 1982 [1]
Chester County, Pennsylvania
Interactive map of Chester County, Pennsylvania

Chester County (Pennsylvania German: Tscheschter Kaundi), colloquially known as Chesco, is a county in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the population was 498,886, increasing by 5.2% to a census-estimated 524,989 residents as of 2019. [2] The county seat is West Chester. [3] 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.


Chester County, Pennsylvania sign Chester County sign.JPG
Chester County, Pennsylvania sign

Philadelphia, Bucks, and Chester were the three Pennsylvania counties initially created by William Penn on August 24, 1682. [4] [5] 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. [6] [7] 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. [8]

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.

During the American Revolutionary War, the Battle of Brandywine was fought at what is now the southeastern fringe of the county. The Valley Forge encampment was at the northeastern edge.


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. [9] 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.[ citation needed ] 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.[ citation needed ] 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. [10]

Adjacent counties

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. [11]


Historical population
1790 27,829
1800 32,09315.3%
1810 39,59623.4%
1820 44,45112.3%
1830 50,91014.5%
1840 57,51513.0%
1850 66,43815.5%
1860 74,57812.3%
1870 77,8054.3%
1880 83,4817.3%
1890 89,3777.1%
1900 95,6957.1%
1910 109,21314.1%
1920 115,1205.4%
1930 126,62910.0%
1940 135,6267.1%
1950 159,14117.3%
1960 210,60832.3%
1970 278,31132.1%
1980 316,66013.8%
1990 376,39618.9%
2000 433,50115.2%
2010 498,88615.1%
Est. 2019524,989 [2] 5.2%
U.S. Decennial Census [12]
1790-1960 [13] 1900-1990 [14]
1990-2000 [15] 2010-2019 [2]

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 [16] 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 the fastest-growing county in the Delaware Valley; it is one of the fastest growing in the entire Northeastern section of the United States.


Uwchlan Meetinghouse Uwchlan Meeting.JPG
Uwchlan Meetinghouse

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.


Election results
2012 US presidential election in Chester County
Romney--60-70% 2012 United States presidential election in Chester County.png
2012 US presidential election in Chester County

As of 1 June 2020, there are 359,293 registered voters in Chester County. [17]

Chester County has historically been reliably Republican at the county level; traditionally, it was the most conservative county near Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. 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. Bob Casey, Jr. carried it by 10% when he unseated incumbent Republican US Senator Rick Santorum in 2006. 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. [18]

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 4.8 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 [19] )

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.[ citation needed ]

On November 8, 2017, Democrats made historic inroads in Chester County by winning their first County Row Office seats since 1799, picking up 4 row office seats. [20] 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. [21]

Presidential elections results
Presidential elections results [22]
Year Republican Democratic Third parties
2016 42.5% 116,11451.9%141,6825.6% 15,202
2012 49.4%124,84049.2% 124,3111.4% 3,425
2008 44.8% 114,42154.0%137,8331.2% 2,998
2004 52.0%120,03647.5% 109,7080.5% 1,079
2000 53.3%100,08043.7% 82,0473.0% 5,549
1996 48.6%77,02940.9% 64,78310.5% 16,554
1992 43.7%74,00235.3% 59,64321.0% 35,563
1988 67.0%93,52232.1% 44,8530.9% 1,210
1984 70.1%92,22129.6% 38,8700.3% 440
1980 60.9%73,04628.6% 34,30710.5% 12,543
1976 60.4%67,68638.1% 42,7121.5% 1,628
1972 68.4%72,72629.3% 31,1182.3% 2,415
1968 57.2%56,07333.3% 32,6069.6% 9,372
1964 45.5% 40,28054.1%47,9400.4% 390
1960 63.6%53,05936.2% 30,1670.2% 147
1956 70.2%47,22529.7% 19,9570.1% 50
1952 64.9%39,96134.9% 21,4900.3% 164
1948 65.8%29,25833.0% 14,6701.2% 550
1944 58.7%26,65540.8% 18,5480.5% 208
1940 55.5%28,22244.2% 22,4730.4% 183
1936 51.8%29,34047.1% 26,6761.1% 613
1932 69.2%29,42528.3% 12,0402.5% 1,052
1928 82.3%36,65917.3% 7,6890.5% 210
1924 75.8%22,33320.2% 5,9464.1% 1,201
1920 69.6%18,12926.9% 7,0043.6% 927
1916 56.8%11,84540.8% 8,5142.4% 505
1912 28.9% 5,70834.9%6,90136.3% 7,177 [23]
1908 64.1%13,11832.0% 6,5553.9% 803
1904 73.9%14,20022.6% 4,3423.5% 673
1900 66.2%13,80929.8% 6,2144.0% 835
1896 67.8%14,23228.9% 6,0583.3% 700
1892 55.6%10,98239.7% 7,8504.7% 932
1888 58.5%11,57838.1% 7,5413.4% 669



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.

As of the November 2019 election: [21]

OfficialPartyTerm ends
Michelle Kichline Republican 2023
Josh Maxwell Democratic 2023
Marian Moskowitz Democratic 2023

County Row Officers

As of the November 2019 election: [20] [24]

OfficeOfficialPartyTerm ends
Clerk of CourtsYolanda Van de Krol Democratic 2021
ControllerMargaret Reif Democratic 2021
CoronerChristina VandePol, M.D. Democratic 2021
TreasurerPatricia Maisano Democratic 2021
District AttorneyDeb Ryan Democratic 2023
ProthonotaryDebbie Bookman Democratic 2023
Recorder of DeedsChris Pielli Democratic 2023
Register of WillsMichele Vaughn Democratic 2023
SheriffFredda Maddox Democratic 2023

United States House of Representatives

The 2018 congressional map ordered by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania places Chester County completely within the 6th congressional district. Pennsylvania Congressional District 6.png
The 2018 congressional map ordered by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania places Chester County completely within the 6th congressional district.
6 Chrissy Houlahan Democratic

United States Senate

Bob Casey Democratic
Pat Toomey Republican

State House of Representatives

State House districts in Chester County State house 2014 201404081024056983.pdf
State House districts in Chester County

As of the November 2018 election. [25] [26]

13 John Lawrence Republican
26 Tim Hennessey Republican
74 Dan Williams Democratic
155 Danielle Friel Otten Democratic
156 Carolyn Comitta Democratic
157 Melissa Shusterman Democratic
158 Christina Sappey Democratic
160 Stephen Barrar Republican
167 Kristine Howard Democratic

State Senate

State Senate districts in Chester County PA State Senate districts within Chester County.pdf
State Senate districts in Chester County

As of the November 2018 election. [25] [26]

9 Tom Killion Republican
19 Andy Dinniman Democratic
26 Tim Kearney Democratic
44 Katie Muth Democratic


Colleges and universities

Philips Hall at West Chester University of Pennsylvania PhilipsBlgWCU.JPG
Philips Hall at West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Public school districts

Map of Chester County, Pennsylvania Public School Districts Map of Chester County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Map of Chester County, Pennsylvania Public School Districts

Charter schools

There are 11 public cyber charter schools and 144 bricks and mortar charter schools in Pennsylvania that are available for free statewide, to children K-12. See: Education in Pennsylvania. [27]

Independent schools


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.


Map of Chester County, Pennsylvania with Municipal Labels showing Cities and Boroughs (red), Townships (white), and Census-designated places (blue). Map of Chester County Pennsylvania With Municipal and Township Labels.png
Map of Chester County, Pennsylvania with Municipal Labels showing Cities and Boroughs (red), Townships (white), and Census-designated places (blue).

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:




Unincorporated communities

Census-designated places

Census-designated places are geographical areas designated by the U.S. Census Bureau for the purposes of compiling demographic data. They are not actual jurisdictions under Pennsylvania law.

Historic community

Population ranking

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of Chester County. [40]

county seat

RankCity/Town/etc.Municipal typePopulation (2010 Census)
1West Chester Borough18,461
2 Phoenixville Borough16,440
3 Coatesville City13,100
4 Downingtown Borough7,891
5 Lionville CDP6,189
6 Kennett Square Borough6,072
7 Paoli CDP5,575
8 Oxford Borough5,077
9 Exton CDP4,842
10 Chesterbrook CDP4,589
11 Berwyn CDP3,631
12 Parkesburg Borough3,593
13 Thorndale CDP3,407
14 Spring City Borough3,323
15 Malvern Borough2,998
16 West Grove Borough2,854
17 South Pottstown CDP2,081
18 Kenilworth CDP1,907
19 Lincoln University CDP1,726
20 Honey Brook Borough1,713
21 Eagleview CDP1,644
22 Caln CDP1,519
23 Devon CDP1,515
24 Toughkenamon CDP1,492
25 Atglen Borough1,406
26 South Coatesville Borough1,303
27 Avondale Borough1,265
28 Elverson Borough1,225
29 Cheyney University (partially in Delaware County)CDP988
30 Westwood CDP950
31 Cochranville CDP668
32 Modena Borough535
33 Pomeroy CDP401


Chester County has four distinct seasons and has a hot-summer humid continental climate (Dfa) except for some far southern lowlands 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 (%)69.967.862.162.264.572.772.673.674.772.672.472.869.8
Average dew point °F (°C)20.5
Source: PRISM [41]
Climate data for Coatesville, Pennsylvania
Average high °C (°F)3.7
Average low °C (°F)−6.2
Average precipitation mm (inches)91
Source: Weatherbase [42]
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 (%)66.863.359.058.662.766.668.169.671.169.367.968.165.9
Average dew point °F (°C)22.1
Source: PRISM [41]

Public health

Opioid crisis

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. [43]

Notable people

See also

Related Research Articles

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Downingtown is a borough in Chester County, Pennsylvania, 33 miles (53 km) west of Philadelphia. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 7,891. Downingtown was settled by English and European colonists in the early 18th century and has a number of historic buildings and structures.

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West Chester, Pennsylvania Borough in Pennsylvania, United States

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Brandywine Creek (Christina River tributary) creek in southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware, United States

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Downingtown Area School District

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Bruce Mowday American writer

Bruce E. Mowday is an author who lives in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He specializes in books about local history, business, sports, and true crime. He is active with the Chester County Historical Society.

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Chester County Library System

The Chester County Library System (CCLS) in Chester County, Pennsylvania is a library system in southeastern Pennsylvania that was organized in 1965. It is a federated system composed of a District Center Library in Exton, Pennsylvania and seventeen member libraries. The system provides materials and information for life, work and pleasure.

Collegium Charter School Public school, secondary school, charter school in Exton, Pennsylvania, United States

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  23. The leading "other" candidate, Progressive Theodore Roosevelt, received 6,596 votes, while Socialist candidate Eugene Debs received 314 votes, Prohibition candidate Eugene Chafin received 263 votes, and Socialist Labor candidate Arthur Reimer received 4 votes.
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Coordinates: 39°58′N75°45′W / 39.97°N 75.75°W / 39.97; -75.75