Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Chester, Pennsylvania

1885 map of the City of Chester

A sepia-tone birds eye map of the City of Chester with important buildings enlarged in the upper and lower margins

Chester’s population grew rapidly after the Civil War as migrants were drawn in by plentiful employment opportunities. This 1885 map shows a well-populated industrial city with a busy seaport. (Library of Congress)

Library of Congress

Chester once contained one-third of the population of Delaware County. Plentiful employment in the city’s various heavy industries drew in new residents. This 1885 map shows the city as a booming industrial center with an active seaport. During the decades that followed, Chester continued to grow into a working-class city with an influx of Irish, Polish, Italian, and African American migrants. Chester’s population began to decline after World War II as suburbanization increased, drawing affluent residents to nearby suburbs, and accelerated as jobs disappeared. Today, Chester’s population has decreased to half of its peak. Rampant unemployment and epidemic crime have plagued the city since the late twentieth century.

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