A historic borough with a strong political history. A vibrant university town. One of the world’s “most perfect small towns.” With a population of just a little over 20,000 as of the Census’ 2018 estimates and a total land area of almost two square miles, the borough of West Chester in Chester County, Pennsylvania flies under the radar when it comes to the search for the best places to live, not just in the state, but in the country. Fortunately, you’re in on the secret and on your way to becoming a part of this tight-knit community. Welcome home!
West Chester is located in the famous Brandywine Valley, about 36.5 miles away from the shining city of Philadelphia, land of cheesesteaks and hoagies. It’s also the county seat of Chester County. On the map, West Chester is a part of the Philadelphia metropolitan area. It’s also located in the southeast corner of Pennsylvania, approximately less than an hour’s drive away from the Pennsylvania-Delaware border. Wilmington is only roughly 17 miles south of the borough.
Homes for Sale in West Chester, PA
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History of West Chester, PA
West Chester started out as a Native American settlement. But at the start of the 18th century, everything changed with the arrival of other settlers. By the mid-1700s, the area was home to four family-operated farms. Mid-18th century and the 19th century saw key developments take place in the area, such as the construction of a tavern, the incorporation of West Chester as the borough, and the publication of an American icon’s biography.
Key highlights and developments
1762: Phineas Eachus and Chest Weaterson were given a license to build and open a tavern. They built it in the center of modern-day West Chester, which was still nameless then.
1768: The tavern was purchased by John Clark. He christened the establishment as “Turk’s Head Inn.” A small village sprung around the tavern, and it bore the same name: “Turk’s Head.”
1786: After Delaware County and Chester County were split from each other, Turk’s Head was named the county seat of Chester County. Five years later, the local post office was established. Not long after, Turk’s Head was renamed to West Chester by John Hanuum.
1799: At this time, the original streets of West Chester were mapped. West Chester was also incorporated as a borough. By 1800, West Chester had a total population of 34.
1813: West Chester Academy was founded. It would eventually become the renowned West Chester University.
1829: More streets were created and opened in West Chester. It was also during this time when people started planting ornamental trees along the streets. By 1830, West Chester’s total population ballooned to 1,244.
1832: The West Chester Railroad tracks were completed, enabling local farmers to transport their goods to Philadelphia much more conveniently.
1846: Thomas U. Walter, the architect who designed the U.S. Capitol, was commissioned to design several of West Chester’s most important buildings. These included the Chester County Courthouse, the Bank of Chester County, and the current home of the Chester County Historical Society.
1860s: Abraham Lincoln penned his first autobiography in the William-Everhart Building, now famously known as the Lincoln Building. This biography was published in the West Chester County Times. Its publication helped Abraham Lincoln secure his eventual victory in the 1861 Presidential Election.
The 19th century also heard the voices of prominent abolitionists like Lucretia Mott and William Lloyd Garrison speak in town hall meetings. The effects of the Civil War were also felt in West Chester, such as heavy Union army recruitment and the establishment of a training camp in the borough.
West Chester in the 20th century
By the 20th century, automobiles plied the streets of West Chester. Several notable people were born during this time period, such as renowned composer Samuel Barber and civil rights activist and leader Bayard Rustin. Another civil rights leader, Frederick Douglass, frequented West Chester for years before dying in 1895.
During the Second World War, West Chester was busy producing penicillin. And finally in 1983, what we originally knew as West Chester Academy became West Chester University. Today, West Chester is a lovely university town with tree-lined streets. Downtown West Chester was declared a historic district and is now part of the National Register of Historic Places.
Homes for sale in West Chester, PA
If you are looking to plant roots in a small town with a rich history, excellent educational opportunities, and easy access to both Philadelphia and Wilmington, DE, and a wide array of housing options available for rent and sale, you won’t go wrong with West Chester, PA.
West Chester is a top destination for buyers looking for a wide range of homes for sale in Chester County, PA. The local real estate consists of everything from medieval-style homes complete with stucco walls and gabled roofs to modern residences, whether they may be single-family homes, townhouses, duplexes, or apartments. Home prices in West Chester average at $395,000, with the typical West Chester home having four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and plenty of living space.
When it comes to architectural styles, Colonial is perhaps the most popular in West Chester. You’ll see it everywhere, from residential to commercial real estate. Aside from single-family homes, there are Colonial-style duplexes, apartments, townhomes, and luxury properties. A subclass of Colonial architecture is also quite popular in West Chester. You’ll distinguish Georgian-style homes from their cousins with their paned windows, entry porticos, and simple columns. Other architectural styles you’ll find in West Chester include ranch, Cape Cod, and contemporary.
Since West Chester is a university town, a Philadelphia suburb, and a borough with plenty of employment opportunities to boot, the community has vast investment potential. Young professionals, students, and families are always looking for rentals, resales, as well as new homes for sale in West Chester, PA. Undergraduate, post-graduate students and professionals, in particular, are always on the lookout for rentals and homes for sale near West Chester University. So if you’re looking to invest in residential real estate, make sure to consider West Chester in Chester County.
Living in West Chester, PA
Cost of living
In general, Chester County is one of the more upscale places to live in Pennsylvania. Compared to Philadelphia, the cost of living here is much higher. West Chester, in particular, is considered one of the most expensive zip codes in the state.
That said, you get a lot. Outstanding educational opportunities, easy access to two large cities, and high quality of life are all offered in West Chester. And compared to other similar towns in the country, the cost of living in West Chester is relatively reasonable.
To get a better picture of how much you’ll need to live in West Chester, use the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator.
Employment and job opportunities
There are a couple of big companies and corporations that have bases in West Chester. One of those is a business segment of Mars, Inc. called Mars Drinks, best known for their FLAVIA beverage systems. West Chester is also home to VWR International, which supplies lab research products, and Synthes, which manufactures medical devices. If you’re in the academe, you should explore your opportunities at West Chester University.
Outside West Chester, there’s QVC in West Goshen Township. The company was actually founded in West Chester in 1986. More employment and job opportunities are available throughout the Philadelphia metropolitan area.
What’s the weather like?
Because of its geographical location, West Chester experiences a combination of the humid subtropical and humid continental zones. That means summers can get warm to hot and humid, with the highest temperature recorded being 104 °F. June, July and August are the hottest months of the year. These are also the months when West Chester would receive the most precipitation.
Winters can be cold, with the lowest recorded temperature being -16 °F. During wintertime, West Chester receives an average of 27.7 inches of snowfall. The coldest months of the year are January and February, when most of the snowfall also occurs.
Dining in West Chester, PA
For such a small town, West Chester is absolutely bursting with flavor. Much of the dining options in the borough are centered around Gay and Market Streets, but you’ll also find other restaurants and eateries across town. Here are some of the local favorites:
Andiario considers itself a purveyor in all things West Chester, using the freshest local ingredients from the area’s farmers and producers to create tasty New American dishes, all served in an upscale and intimate setting.
Market Street Grill is one of the best places to go if you’re looking to treat yourself to large, hearty meals. Come for breakfast or lunch (or both on the same day or for brunch on the weekends) and, don’t worry, you don’t have to share. Just make sure you don’t forget to try their so-called Bruno Burrito.
The Couch Tomato on Gay Street does shine the spotlight on the well-beloved ingredient, but the folks here make sure every local and organic ingredient they have gets some love, too. For that reason, The Couch Tomato has received a lot of accolades. Numerous publications have recognized their pizza, their healthy meals, and their soups.
The High Street Caffe knows West Chester is a long way from the south, so it has dedicated itself to bring the full Cajun experience, with a side of Creole and a dash of the exotic. And it does an amazing job for 20 years and counting. Aside from the flavorful food, everyone loves the High Street Caffe’s funky interiors and stellar customer service.
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant is found all over the country, but thank heavens they have a West Chester branch. That way, locals will always have access to their delightful selection of beer, ranging from their ultra-light Iron Hill light lager to their Pig Iron porter, oozing with dark malt flavor with notes of chocolate.
Spence Cafe is a giant in West Chester’s dining scene, so much so that it’s hard to imagine the length of High Street without it. Open since 1996, “the original” Spence Cafe is a local institution best known for their fine meat and seafood menu, all fresh and locally sourced. It’s a fitting tribute to the Spence family, who ran a restaurant empire in the area in the 20th century.
As of time of writing, dining in restaurants is highly discouraged in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Please check restaurants’ official websites or Facebook pages for more information about their menu, deliveries, and curbside pickup services.
Schools in West Chester, PA
The borough of West Chester is served by the public schools run by the West Chester Area School District. These include Henderson High School, a part of which is located within the borough, and West Chester East High School, situated just outside the borough. Multiple private schools are also found in the area.
A significant portion of West Chester University is also located in the borough.
Events and activities
Every year, West Chester celebrates and hosts an array of events, fetes, and festivities! These include the following:
May Day Festival of the Arts, which is a free community event held every year at Everhart Park. May Day Festival of the Arts features the works of local artisans from all over Brandywine Valley, some of which are available for sale. There are also live entertainment, artist demos, and kid-friendly activities.
The West Chester Al Fresco, which is a series of live music concerts held throughout summer, during the first Thursday of June, July, August, and September, respectively. It’s usually held in Downtown West Chester, with each concert having a specific musical genre as its theme. Aside from live music entertainment, the West Chester Al Fresco series also features local food vendors and artisans.
The Turks Head Music Festival is one of the most popular music festivals in the region, held every year at Everhart Park. It’s an all-day-long affair, featuring regional bands and musicians, as well as local arts and craftsmen. Best of all, it’s completely free and open to music lovers of all ages.
The Chester County Restaurant Festival, which has been celebrated for 40 consecutive years! A testament to the vibrant local dining scene, the Chester County Restaurant Festival closes Gay, Matlack, Market, and Darlington Streets to transform the area into one big culinary paradise. There’s live music throughout the festival grounds, a beer and wine garden for the adults (proceeds go to charity), and over 65 local restaurants and caterers showcasing sumptuous food and delightful drinks.
The annual Halloween Parade, which is held late in October. West Chester’s Halloween Parade is a community affair, with everyone participating to build and design spooky floats and costumes. All participating groups and individuals parade across West Chester, handing out goodies filled with sweets and more to children. Adding to the community spirit are the spectacular performances from the local high school bands and cheer teams.
Bark in the Park, which is a full day for you to enjoy the company of your beloved furry friends. Held in Hoopes Park, Bark in the Park also features K9 demonstrations, local vendors selling specialty goods to spoil your dogs, and of course, lots of dog treats.
Attractions in West Chester, PA
Looking for things to do in West Chester? Check out the following attractions and points of interest in and around the area:
West Chester’s parks: West Chester only has a little under two square miles of total area, but the locals have devoted plenty of space for parks and green corridors. Some of the parks scattered across town include Bayard Rustin Park in South Walnut Street, Everhart Park which is a choice location for lots of community events, the expansive Green Field Park, Fugett Park along Gay Street, Hoopes Park at Hoopes Park Lane, and John O. Green Memorial Park. Click here to see more of West Chester’s parks and community facilities.
Chester County Historical Society: The entire Chester County is rich in history, both cultural and political. You can learn more about all of these things by paying the Chester County Historical Society a visit. They have extensive photo archives, several exhibits detailing the history of Chester County, as well as learning programs everyone can participate in.
Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center: In the mood for a concert? Head to Uptown! Knaufer Performing Arts Center. This non-profit arts organization also serves as one of the premier venues in the area for performing arts. Laugh out loud to a live comedy show, rock out at a rock concert, or watch summer camp recitals. Click here for a complete list of their upcoming shows.
The West Chester Railroad: One of the best ways to see and experience the heart of historical West Chester is by boarding the West Chester tourist train! You can board it on Market Street and take the 90-minute scenic train ride through Chester Creek Valley until you arrive at the village of Glen Mills. The trains used to carry tourists are also a part of local history, with some of them dating back to the 1930s.
American Helicopter Museum and Education Center: Helicopters are some of the most fascinating aircraft to grace our skies. At the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center, you get the chance to view a collection of vintage helicopters used for commercial and military flights. The museum also does a fair share of restoration work. Check out their website for more information and to plan your visit.
Outdoor recreation outside West Chester, PA
Would you like to take a breather? Aside from spending some time relaxing at any one of West Chester’s parks and green spaces, you can head out of town and enjoy the following outdoor destinations, all just a short drive away:
Stroud Preserve: Covering a total of 571 acres, the Stroud Preserve is a paradise for any fan of expansive, open space. The area is composed of a patchwork of woodlands, grasslands, as well as working farmlands. Aside from historical sites to see as you hike through the preserve, you can also go kayaking or canoeing at East Branch Brandywine Creek.
Brandywine Meadows Preserve: Located in nearby West Bradford Township, Brandywine Meadows Preserve is a place of peace and serenity. It spans 48 acres and contains miles upon miles of paved and unpaved hiking and biking trails.
Ingram’s Mill Nature Area: Perched along the banks of East Branch Brandywine Creek is Ingram’s Mill Nature Area, a 36-acre park named after a historic stone mill. Ingram’s Mill Nature Area is a great spot for fishing, rafting, as well as kayaking and canoeing. From here, you can paddle all the way to the Harry J. Waite Nature Area and pass through Stroud Preserve.
Ridley Creek State Park: For a total nature immersion experience, head west to Media and finally to Ridley Creek State Park. It’s a sprawling natural area covering more than 2,600 acres of rolling woodlands and meadows. You can go for a day hike, a weekend picnic, or stay the night at one of the campsites. Ridley Creek State Park is also a prime spot for bird watching, wildlife watching, and fishing. In the winter, when there’s enough snowfall, the state park transforms into a sledding and skiing destination.
Ready to go home to West Chester?
RE/MAX Direct can help you get started. We’re a team of local real estate professionals specializing in West Chester and Southeast Pennsylvania real estate. Each of us at RE/MAX Direct has expert-level experience in the housing market, including new construction and land development. Whether you’re buying, selling, investing, or developing real estate, we can provide you with marketing, design, and sales solutions.
Let’s get in touch! Consult with us today by calling us at 610.430.1800 or sending us an email at email@example.com. We look forward to laying out all of your best housing and investment options in West Chester, PA.