Monday, March 7, 2016

The Westinghouse Village and Tavern Talks

Looking toward the Westinghouse Plant from the "Village" about 1922

The Model Village in Marcus Hook was built to house the new employees of the Viscose Company plant in 1910. Are you aware of the Westinghouse Village? Built for the employees of the then new plant in Essington it is now almost 100 years old. The information below is from 1919.


Architect Brazer, Who Designed This New Delaware County Settlement, gives Times Readers Some Idea of the Valuable Adjunct the Westinghouse Machine Company is to Community

    Westinghouse Village lies between the town of Lester and Essington on the Delaware River about three miles north of this city.  The large new machine turbine plant of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, for whose employee the town was projected, extends from the water front to the railroad.  On the watershed as shown on the small insert plan.  The inland side is the village site, approached from the plant by a viaduct over the railroad tracks as well as over the Chester Short Line trolley tracks from Philadelphia.  The viaduct is also planned to serve the railroad station and a trolley loading loop.
    The tract set aside for housing contains about ninety acres of comparatively high land sloping gently north and will a fall of thirty feet toward Long Hook and Darby Creeks, which are surrounded by marshland.  The portion nearest the trolley tracks is Powhattan Avenue was formerly a cornfield surrounding one of the first built houses on the Delaware River.  Essington on Tinicum Island was the first permanent settlement in Pennsylvania, having been settled on the highest river land by the Swedes in 1643.  Its streets were named for its prominent men.  The old manor house had been burned out many years ago, and the first act of the workmen before they could be stopped was to use it as a quarry for foundation stones.  A glorious old oak tree some six feet in diameter still remains, however, carefully “courted” to preserve its roots.  About twenty acres in the center of the tract are richly wooded, while stretching across the fields are groves of gum trees so colorful in the fall.
    The Westinghouse Company has over twenty other housing developments, but this is the largest of all and, as planned, it will eventually provide homes for over 6000 people.  Long before America entered the war this scheme had been projected as a permanent part of their plant, and the company’s town planning architect, Clarence Wilson Brazer, was commissioned to study and report a complete and comprehensive town planning development for the site with plans of all buildings and municipal engineering suited to the needs of the locality and the company’s employees.    After several months spent in survey and study of surrounding towns, he submitted the accompanying plans with a comprehensive report.  The latter discusses all phases of town planning, taking the open land, its sub-division, plotting, installation of all streets and public utilities, housing for different classes, and the necessary number and kinds of shops required to provide their needs, and churches which the population could support.  A complete census of probable male, female and children occupants of the bedrooms contained in the typical plans of the buildings designed also gave data for school population and playgrounds, as well as the possible number of male employees, single and married, that could be housed.  This was accompanied by the usual percentage tables to prove the proper proportioning of the land area and detailed estimates of cost of full land and utility development, as well as detailed builders’ estimates on the buildings, thus giving a grand total of eventual expenditures required.  The public improvement costs were assessed against the lots according to area, to which were added the cost of the buildings.  Tables of each of the fifteen classes of buildings were prepared, and on these total costs for each class were ascertained the taxes, insurance, water rent, 5 per cent interest on the investment, maintenance and repairs for streets, parks, utilities, lights, fire protection, and buildings, as well as costs for collection of ashes, garbage and rents.  These tables thus gave the amount of rent required from each house, or building to pay all these charges, and the proof of good design is shown by the fact that the yearly rentals on the gross cost of building and lot, average only 9 per cent, including water rent, interest, and all above charges.  Recommendations for restrictions to be placed on the land, administration and disposal of privileges terminate the preliminary report.
    When Mr. Brazer first studied the site the factory buildings were nearing completion and their septic tank was being erected upon the lowest land adjoining Long Hook Creek.  Extensions of the septic system had been planned to provide for the future village.  This, therefore, became one of the determining factors in the town plan as the natural fall of the land from the railroad gave just about the proper grade for sanitary sewers.  Then, too, the surface drainage could be handled most economically by the same route to Long Hook Creek.  The Swedish named streets of Essington and the Indian streets of Lester had already been plotted, and were in part cut through in typical gridiron fashion and the distance between these two towns being only 1800 feet, a system of curved streets would not only have been incongruous, but unsuitable to the economical straight forwarded plotting of flat land for row type housing preferred by workmen in this locality.  In order to fuse imply and directly with these towns some of the adjoining streets were continued into the property and those running north and south were chosen for residences, so that practically every room in the village gets direct sunlight sometime during the day.
    The frontage on the trolley line naturally was reserved for stores, banks, movies, etc., with apartments for the shopkeepers and offices for the professional men placed in two stories above to shield the housing district and give more privacy from the noise of the plant and railroads.  These higher buildings are broken by Central Parkway, 150 feet wide, on which are placed boarding houses of similar height, leading to the Protestant and Catholic Churches on the edge of the woods.  In order to best preserve this wooded section, twin and single houses were plotted for the executive force of the plant, each with its garage on a minor service road.  Service roads were also introduced to serve all houses and to permit most of them to have private garages.  The sanitary sewers are placed here most economically.  At the far end of Central Parkway, where the noise of organized play would least disturb the villagers, are centrally located the school, Y.M.C.A. and recreation field and boat house; the latter on filled land.  The lowest corner on the east side nearest the viaduct to the plant was reserved for the laborer’s section and the higher land to the west for homes of mechanics and foremen.
    The blocks have been planned with alternate streets omitted until full development requires their being cut thru, so that in the intervening years protected open lots for play or gardens at will.  All necessary connections have been made to the sewers and children will have the use of these other utilities, of size to amply serve the future houses on this land which are located as shown by dotted lines on the town plan.  Thus the first development will retain all the openness of the surrounding unplotted country at very little additional first cost.
    Upon America’s entry into the war, prices so advanced that private financing became undesirable and Fleet Corporation financial assistance was accepted for a sixth section of 200 houses only.  This portion is shown on the accompanying detail planting plan and the houses thereon have now all been plastered and over half of them are occupied.  The unfinished condition of the surroundings which, with the planting, cannot now be done until spring makes it more desirable to publish the beautiful perspective drawings by E. Donald Robb than any photographs which could be taken at this time.  In the war haste with which these houses were designed and erected many of the detail drawings were not followed on the job.  Ill-advised changes were also quickly made by rough work pushers, so that better as well as more economical results are anticipated in the larger number of buildings still to be erected.


The Chester Historical Preservation Committee

is opening this year's lecture series on March 16 at 7:30 PM

at the Quaker Meetinghouse 520E. 24th street, Chester, Pa.     

George Fox and the Quakers, from the founding to the end of the Holy Experiment will be the subject of the lecture.      Robert Quay will be the presenter.  He is an 18th century interpreter of Bob Quay and educator at the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation and author of " From the Collection of Bob Quay, Operator #43.  The lecture is free and open to the public. 
For further information call CHPC at 610-872-4497 

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