HISTORIC WEST CHESTER
Founded in 1799 and the county seat of one of William Penn’s original three counties (Chester county created in 1682 was named after Cheshire, England), Historic West Chester Pennsylvania has been dubbed “the Perfect Town.” Voted one of twelve distinctive destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2006 for its historic architectural integrity and one of the country’s best places to raise a family by Bert Sperling and Peter Sander in Best Places to Raise Your Family: The Top 100 Affordable Communities in the U.S. (Frommer/Wiley 2006), this small town with a cosmopolitan flare gives Norman Rockwell’s catalogue a run for its money.
West Chester’s downtown is on the National Register and contains a fascinating heritage of architectural styles designed by famous architects. Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, Victorian, Arts and Crafts and neo-Gothic are all represented and linked to a vibrant social network of tree-lined bricked sidewalks, downtown shops, restaurants, parks, schools and civic amenities. The courthouse, one of several buildings designed by Thomas U. Walters, architect of the Capital dome in D.C., is the focal point of the town and sets the stage for many civic events and festivals through the changing seasons. The town’s history boasts an array of famous characters such as composer Samuel Barber, actor Claude Rains, artist Mary Cassatt, actor Matthew McGrory (AKA “Bigfoot”), skateboarder Bam Margera.
West Chester, home to approximately 18,000 residents, is located 25 miles west of Philadelphia and 17 miles north of Wilimington in the heart of the Historic Brandywine Valley. It is close to national treasures and landmarks such as Valley Forge, the Brandywine Battlefield, World-renowned Longwood Gardens, and the Brandywine River Museum which contains magnificent local works by the Wyeths, Howard Pyle and other notable artists. These rich cultural traditions are alive today in contemporary artists such at Peter Sculthorpe and Richard Bollinger, architects such as John Milner and Archer & Buchanan, the craftsmen of Ball and Ball and preservationists such as the Brandywine Conservancy which fights to protect the vital and historic landscape of this blest region.
It has been conjectured that J.R.R. Tolkien, famed author of The Lord of the Rings, got the name of the river Brandywine that separates the shire, the idyllic home of the Hobbits, from the rest of Middle Earth from the Brandywine River in Chester County. If so, it would be a fitting analogy of a unique and idyllic place to call home which is maintained by the love of its committed residence.
Chester County & The Brandywine Valley Links: