Historic Walking Tour of Chester
sponsored by
The Chester Cultural Tour Committee
Saturday April 27, 2002


(Please click on the hyperlinks in the story for more pictures)

Delores Freeman, Freeman Enterprises Gallery
Our hostess, Delores Freeman, at Tour Headquarters,
The Freeman Enterprises Gallery
29 E 5th St., Chester

Our Walking Tour of Historic Chester began at Freeman Enterprises Gallery, 29 E 5th St. in Chester. Delores Freeman and the other members of the Chester Cultural Tour Committee welcomed us to her second-floor Gallery which, incidentally, is located in the building formerly occupied by Sweeney & Clyde and the law offices of Kingsley Montgomery. State representative Thaddeus Kirkland also has his offices on the first floor.

Delores and the Committee had prepared an interesting slide show of many of the recognizable landmarks from "Old Chester" and additional commentary was provided by famed Chester artist Mr. Bill Dandridge.

Following this introduction, Dave Guleke, our principle tour guide and President of the Chester Historical Preservation Committee, led us West on 5th Street to Market and pointed out interesting landmarks along the way (the Penn Club, Philadelphia Electric Company Office, Chester Cambridge Bank Building, and the original offices of the Chester Times.

We entered Chester's historic 1724 Court House where Carol Fireng gave about a ten-minute talk about the building's history. Both the interior and exterior are in very good condition and the interior has been painted in the original blue color. Each spring members and friends of the Chester Historical Preservation Committee meet here on a Saturday for a cleaning day to wash all of the windows, plant flowers and do a general cleanup. Needless to say, we were all cordially invited to come and help with that project!

Leaving the Court House, we saw the annex building behind which had been built in the 1920's in the style of the old Court House. Until their recent move to their new 7th Street Headquarters, that annex housed the Chester Police Department. Also outside the entrance to the Court House there still stands the "16-Miles to Philadelphia" marker from colonial days.

Directly across Market Street we saw the site of the Washington House Hotel where George Washington wrote the only report following the Battle of Brandywine. Both the hotel and the Washington Theatre were demolished for the construction of retail stores in 1952. Dave also pointed out the location and importance of Market Square which for the past 20 years has been the site of a two-story bank building now being converted for use as the new City Hall. Renovations are well underway and the city hopes to relocate there by September 2002. The 1970's era wide mall-like sidewalks along Market St. will be narrowed to their original size thus making this area more accessible for vehicle traffic.

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Observing the school cornerstones on display in the Chester Water Authority parking lot.

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We returned along 5th Street, passing the current City Hall which had been the Post Office until 1937, to the Chester Water Authority building at the southeast corner of 5th & Welsh. This had been the site of the Hoskins School, and the original Chester High School which later became the Starr School. Fortunately, the Chester Water Authority has preserved both of the markers of those former buildings. They are mounted into the brick wall in their parking lot.

Exiting the CWA parking lot onto 4th Street, we saw the site of the original First Presbyterian Church, built in 1851 at 4th & Welsh.

Our next stop was at the Old Swedish Burial Ground where John Morton, PA signer of the Declaration of Independence, is interred. A portion of that cemetery was also the site of the original St. Paul's Episcopal Church and a new marker commemorates the church's 300th anniversary that they are celebrating this year.

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Christopher Columbus Memorial

Next to the Old Swedish Burying Ground is the Columbus Monument which was erected by various Italian heritage organizations in Chester. Interestingly, when the statue was brought to this country, the stevedores were on strike at the docks in New York so there was no one to unload it from the ship. It made several crossings of the Atlantic until a Chester shipper sent some of his crew to New York to off-load the statue and bring it home to Chester.

Door to the vault in the basement of the Wolf Building
The door of the original vault in the basement of the Wolf Building.

Interior of the vault in the basement of the Wolf Building
Inside the original vault.

Another of the highlights of our tour was the opportunity to tour the interior of the Wolf Building at 3rd & Market. Dan Hay, who purchased the building in 2001 for his RNCS Inc. cabling business, was there to guide us through the first floor of this historic structure that had originally been built to house the Delaware County National Bank. It was originally a one-story building topped by a stained glass mural. Although there are now drop ceilings throughout, Dan tells us that the stained glass is still in place above the second-floor ceiling and is illuminated by sky lights in the roof.

Dan also took us through the basement to see the bank's original vault.

Continuing west on 3rd St we saw Ethel Waters Park, dedicated in 1972 with Miss Waters present.

The tour continued up Ave. of the States, passing Johnson's Tavern and a final stop at the Post Office before returning to Freeman Enterprises Gallery for refreshments and an opportunity to browse through the artworks on exhibit there. For those who might like to pay a visit to the gallery, their normal hours are:

Thursdays 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Fridays & Saturdays 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Appointments available, call 610-872-9570

Many thanks to all of the Chester Cultural Tour Committee for their very gracious hospitality and for planning and conducting this event. It was a very enjoyable day in historic downtown Chester and was, hopefully, the first of a series of many future tours!

 

2002 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 02/24/07