Chester is now a sad ruin of the wealthy nineteenth-century industrial city that arose out of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century settlement and port village. The kernel of the original settlement was located on the banks of Chester Creek where the 1724 county courthouse still stands ( DE1). Because Chester (then named Upland) antedated William Penn's ideal grid, the eastern, older portion is less regular than the western extension. As the Civil War economy boomed, historian George Smith made the provocative comment that it was first the War of 1812 and then the removal of county government from Chester that prompted its economic advance as an industrial center just as neighboring Philadelphia had prospered with the removal of the state and federal governments. Access to the river for heavy transportation, the parallel railroads, along with roads for connection inland and creeks for waterpower gave Chester a major role in the industrialization of the nation. As Smith anticipated, by the end of the nineteenth century, Chester had metamorphosized into an important subcenter of regional industrial culture with immense shipyards along the waterfront, including Sun Ship, and a mix of supporting industries. The decline of American shipbuilding and other heavy industries was an unmixed catastrophe for the city. Chester has buildings of note but they should not be visited by the unsavvy urban traveler.
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.