Chester has several tourist attractions hidden among the predominate blight and urban decay we’re known for. For example, the oldest continuously used courthouse in the United States is located in Chester. Should it be preserved and stay in Chester or should we just knock it down and create another empty lot?
Delaware County Council agreed to give the old courthouse new life by voting 4-0 to take on a 99-year lease of the building and relieve the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission of what used to be their responsibility but has claimed they can no longer care for the courthouse because of a lack of resources and are no longer willing or able to maintain the property.
Some would argue they haven’t done a great job of maintaining it anyway and for the preservationists and interested parties seeking a solution to save the courthouse, they may have found their savior in a partnership of the county, the Delaware County Historical Society, a new advisory committee, the city of Chester, the local Chester historical society, the bar association, and the state, in caring for this property.
Many locals aren’t aware that the Delaware County Historical Society formed in 1895 is located in Chester housing the largest collection of county memorabilia anywhere with treasures in the collection dating back long before its opening. Everyone agrees it belongs in Pennsylvania’s first city and the only city in Delaware County – that’s Chester City if you didn’t know – but some tough decisions must be made in the very near future to determine the future of the building, the collection, and the future of the Delaware County Historical Society.
What other treasures are lurking in Chester that may need a little preserving? Here’s my short list…
- The package deal of Crozer Theological Seminary and Calvary Baptist Church, the two landmark locations where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King spent most of his time in study during his 3-years here in Chester.
2. Ruth L. Bennett Home and Wilson Nursery was recently renovated thanks to a generous decision by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Although renovated, the buildings are serving no purpose that I know of in their current state.
3. The last time I remember the Swedes in Chester was in 2013 when King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Sylvia of Sweden, accompanied by Eero Heinaluoma, speaker of the Parliament of Finland, visited the Finnish Settlers monument at Crozer Park as part of the 375th anniversary of the first Swedish and Finnish settlement in the Delaware Valley. I’d think that piece of art deserves to be preserved.
4. Penn’s Landing, the actual place William Penn docked in Pennsylvania is here in Chester. The monument marking this history was stolen years ago.
5. The 10-acre Deshong Park has received a lot of attention this year after years of neglect, uncut grass, a razed mansion, a museum closed with some valuable art stolen and some on display at Widener University.
6. The beautiful Christopher Columbus statue on Rt 291 across from Chester city hall has been cloaked in a blue tarp allegedly for its protection according to rumors out of city hall. Letter’s have been sent to city hall by the group of Italians who put the statue there asking permission to move the statue if it’s going to continue to be hidden under a tarp. They’ve received no response according to my sources.
7. Widener University preserves the vestiges of PMC College like the Old Main building and we’re glad they do. They take good care of their stuff.
8. There was a big gun left over from the Sun Ship days where war ships were built on Chester’s waterfront. Someone was trying to give the gun away recently. The Delaware County Historical Society had first right of refusal and wanted it but didn’t have the space to display it inside the building or have the money to build a base to sit it on outside. I wonder whatever happen to that big gun.
8. While writing this, I received a phone call and asked the caller if there was anything he’d like to see preserved in Chester. He mentioned the newsstand in the middle of the street on 7th and Ave of the States. According to OldChesterPA.com, it’s known as Roder’s Newsstand as Edwin G. Roder bought the newsstand at 7th and Edgmont Ave in 1906. He owned a cigar factory where he produced the 5¢ Penn Club Cigar. He had the triangular structure rebuilt in 1912. It was one of the busiest places in the city, selling newspapers, magazines, candy, soda, cigars, tobacco, and many other items. In recent years where newspapers and magazines have become historic in their own rite, the newsstand was owned by Asians who served some food and PA lottery tickets to survive. It’s now closed.
What would you like to see preserved in Chester?
Feature Photo: Laurie Grant, Executive Director of the Delaware County Historical Society