The Lost City Of Chester, P.A. and Why You Want To Find It

If you're sightseeing in Southeast, Pennsylvania, chances are you've heard of Philadelphia, also known by its moniker "The City of Brotherly Love," but what you probably didn't know is that Philadelphia has a brother of sorts, a neighboring city you might be less familiar with called Chester, P.A. In its hayday, this city was a booming metropolis surging with promise. Its waterfront attracted sightseers from all corners of the earth and all walks of life. Shortly following the shipyard and auto manufacturing decline of the '60s, Chester plummeted into a deep depression and was officially declared "financially distressed" in the late '90s. Since then, there have been several attempts made to restore this hidden city back to the previous luster that earned it the nickname of "Little New York" decades ago. Today, if you look up Chester, PA on Wikitravel you'll find little more than a warning to stay safe in this dangerous area. While it's true that Chester has its share of crime, the same could be said of every other city (New York, Los Angeles, Paris even). What we find when we look past the surface however, is what makes these cities worth seeing. Again, the City of Chester isn't an exception. It's definitely worth seeing. Here are five reasons you might want to visit Chester. PA.

Reason #5: You're A Photographer


Like most forgotten cities, Chester's overflowing with never before seen, picture-perfect photo opportunities. Here you'll find historical sites that are rarely, if ever photographed, centuries old buildings, murals, unique cars and, most importantly, interesting, influential people. From politicians, to poets, from auto mechanics to award-winning chefs, from craftsman to classroom leaders, every street, every building and everybody has a story to tell. You, with the camera, could be just the person to tell it.

Reason #4: You're A History Buff

Cynthia Griffith/ The Poet's Guide

Above, we mentioned that Chester is home to centuries old buildings but you probably never knew that the oldest public building still in use in the United States is situated right in plain sight in Chester, PA. The 1724 Chester Courthouse located on Market Street currently holds this title. Other interesting and lesser known historical sites include the above pictured monument which represents a meeting that took place in the 1600s between the Swedish residents who inhabited Chester at and before 1682, and then real estate entrepreneur William Penn. And while the only Penn's Landing you're likely to hear about is a tourist attraction in Philadelphia, Penn's actual landing occurred near Commission St in Chester in the late 1600s. Here is a sign that was later erected in honor of the former "Finlandia".

Cynthia Griffith/ The Poet's Guide

Following that landing, Penn and fellow Quakers constructed one of the first Quaker meetinghouses and it is still intact today. While you're on the lookout for historical sites in Chester City, you might also want to take a peek at these hidden gems listed on the National Historic Registry:
  • Chester Waterside Station
  • Old Main and Chemistry Building
  • Delaware County National Bank
Reason #3: You're An Advocate for the Arts

As shown in the video above, Chester's arts programs are brimming with talented individuals that, like many other aspects of this community, are yet to be discovered. For the record, a great many athletes and performers are natives of the area including:
  • Former Major League Baseball Player Ben Davis (who is currently a commentator for the Phillies)
  • NBA's 2010 Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans
  • NFL Running Back Kevin Jones
  • Meek Mills' Super Producer Jahlil Beats
  • Noted New York Times Author Brent Staples
The list goes on and on, especially if you go back to Chester's golden era when Bill Haley and His Comets and The Four Aces first set up shop in the community. So here you have arts, history and photo essay potential but there's more.

Reason # 2: You're A Lover Of Rare Furnishings

Butchershop Rehab/ The Poet's Guide

If stores like Dot & Bo and West Elm appeal to you with their gritty, industrial styles, you'll thoroughly enjoy taking a trip to Butchershop Rehab, an upcycling manufacturer of rare and unique furniture located at 526 Avenue of the States. Philly's Thrillist called them "Everybody Else's Awesome" and VisitPhilly's blog Uwishunu refered to their furniture as "really unique". Having designed backdrops for large events like Vegas' Liberty Fairs and window treatments all over Philadelphia, it's high time this shop, which has been headquartered out of Chester City for over 20 years, gets its shine. A sampling of their artistic take on home décor is depicted above.

Reason #1: You're a Soccer Fan

Liberia9/Wikimedia Commons

If you don't go to Chester for any other reason, at least stop past for the brand new soccer stadium which is an excellent source for family fun. Tallen Energy Stadium, the latest and probably greatest addition to Chester's urban renewal, is easily accessible via a free shuttle that runs daily from the Chester Public Transportation Center.

Tip From The Locals: Stay On The Grid

Much like Philadelphia, Chester is built on a grid with streets that go up and down in numerical order. If you find yourself getting turned around, look for the Ninth Street. This street stretches the entire length of the city, leading out to Boothwyn (known by locals as ChiChester) on one side and Eddystone on the other. Alternatively, you can look for the second street which used to be called Second Street but was recently renamed 291. This street has a highway worthy speed limit and few traffic lights. It leads out to Essington on one side and ChiChester on the other side.

Pennsylvania native and resident Cynthia Griffith is a full time staff writer for the Philadelphia section of The Poet's Guide. Her musings on the topic of Philly, Wilmington and the suburbs between them has earned her a spot as a longtime contributor for popular blogs like VisitWilmingtonde, Buzzoto Beat, Modern Chic Magazine and more.