Chester Pike in Folcroft looking west toward Oak Ave. which would be at the top of the picture. The Wawa store would be on the right, today.
NOTE: from the 1850's till June of 1921, Chester Pike was a toll road between Chester and Darby. A private company ran it, basically started to save tax payers money for road repair. Things were getting out of hand in the early 1900's.
CHESTER TIMES – August 1, 1905
CHESTER PIKE AND THE NEED OF REPAIR
Philadelphia Newspaper Frames a Severe Indictment against the Road
The Philadelphia Evening Telegraph frames a severe indictment against the Chester and Darby Pike. It says:
For years the Chester Turnpike and its tollgates have been thorns in the sides of Delaware contains. Protest after protest has been lodged officially and unofficially, yet no step looking either to its improvement or abolition of the tollgates, which line it like mushrooms on a swampy bank, has been taken.
Throughout its snakish length it is a menace to pedestrian and driver alike. For a full decade practically nothing has been done for the amelioration of the discomforts of those who are compelled to use it.
Every borough and township along its line has passed resolutions condemning it, but still the tolls and miserable roadway exist to depreciate property value to keep away desirable would-be residents, and to tax the purse and temper of all of Delaware County.
The stockholders of the corporation want to be rid of it, the people are equally anxious for that end, and so the responsibility for its presence rests upon a Board of Viewers appointed some months ago as a result of legal steps taken by the residents of Sharon Hill.
It is their business to view it and to condemn it, but this has not been done, according to the Turnpike’s President, George C. Hetzel. Their duty completed, the matter should be referred to the Master appointed. John T. Reynolds of Media, and then it will be up to the County Commissioners, C. Harry Marshall of Lanwellyn; A.A. Sellers of Radnor; and John C. Rhoads of Chester Heights to purchase the road.
“The Evening Telegraph” takes up the fight in order to expedite the work of the Board of Viewers and to urge upon the County Commissioners the wisdom of purchasing the miserable stone and mud heap that masquerades under the name of a turnpike. The cooperation of the people of Delaware County is solicited and expressions of opinion or protests from them will be gladly received and published, along with the findings of staff men and legal advisers.
The following description, the result of a walk from Darby to Chester, will show the fearful conditions which obtain throughout the turnpike’s length of six miles.
PEN PICTURE OF THE PIKE – To take the Chester and Darby telford road mud hole by mud hole, rut by rut, and jolt by jolt; to review it throughout its miserable length is to realize in all its distress that it is the worst turnpike in the State.
Beginning at Darby Bridge, pedestrians, automobiles, carriage drivers, and trolley patrons alike are confronted with either a mud puddle or a dust heap, according to the vagaries of the weather, extending from the bridge to Quarry Street.
To those compelled to use the Chester Traction Company especially, the place is a nightmare. One car every fifteen minutes to Chester and one every half hour to Wilmington is the schedule of this transportation company.
All cars for months past have stopped on the south side of the bridge right in the heart of the spot described. No shelter from wind or weather is there provided, and the hundreds of people who daily use the line must stand in either the boiling sun or pouring rain waiting at times as long as thirty-five minutes for long-delayed cars.
If it has been dry they are smothered and choked by dense clouds of dust, which rise to nearly suffocate them at the least breath of wind or in the wake of passing vehicles. IN order to make the connection with Philadelphia cars, they must first walk a full square, wading through the dust or mud, as the Case may be, and crossing the bridge.
To essay that dust pile or mud in low-cut shoes is to fill them with one or the other, which uniformly varies in depth from two to three and a half inches.
WILL NOT PAY THE BOROUGH – All this must be endured because of the joint dereliction of the trolley and turnpike companies. The condition of the void may be laid to the latter, while the lack of shelter and the walk across Darby Bridge is imposed by the refusal of the Traction Company to hear half of the expense for the erection of the new bridge which has been in course of construction for months.
Leaving Quarry Street and beginning the steep ascent of the Darby Heights Hill, which attains its highest point at Cherry Street, the jolting stones hold undisputed sway. Throughout, the rise is fraught with danger to all who climb no matter by what means of locomotion.
Twisted ankles, unstrung nerves, damaged vehicles, and lamed horses are the result of anything other than the most careful picking of the way. An accident lurks in every square of its disgraceful length.
Just beyond Cherry Street a full 100 yards of backbreaking nerve-destroying stones form in themselves a declivity that would mean certain damage if unavoided in the remaining few feet of clear road at that point.
At Pine Street a partially exposed sere of perhaps eight inches diameter extends across the intersecting road plainly visible from end to end. To take it in a quick turn with horses or motor would mean a spavin for the former and a broken machine for the latter.
In Sharon Hill Proper a large square block of stone measuring 6 1/2 by 7 ¼ inches lies unblushingly in the center of the road. What would it mean to the axle, tire, or hoof that strikes it?
At Ridley Avenue in Sharon Hill, an unbroken succession of exposed cobbles lurk four inches above the ground for the demoralization of unwary drivers. Throughout that section between Darby and Sharon Hill piles of earth, and heaps of ties placed along the roadside by the Traction Company combine with the unvarying uncomfortableness of the road to augment the discomfort of its users.
CUTTERS HILLS; ROAD A GUTTER – Between Sharon Hill and Glenolden the track belies the designation given it in its charter specifications. “artificial road.” A succession of timber cards passing through paths of primeval forests could eventually create a road with more pretensions to the name than the undiluted apology known as the Chester Turnpike.
Here to place the eight feet of beaten track occupying the center of the right of way is flush with what should be the gutters at each side, and is often lower, sharp stones with sharp edges protruding everywhere, to permanently injure hoofs.
Large stones, lying flagrantly in the road are numerous; weeds three feet high line its neglected edges, and the road itself is as flat as pancake except where ruts disturb – it is not wholly unlike the surface of the rolling, rollicking sea.
Immediately on the north side of Glenolden Bridge a full twelve feet of large stones appear above the ground on a declivity which, if swerved into by an automobile moving at the regulation speed, would mean a wrecked car and certain injury to its occupants.
Just on the south side of the bridge there nestles in the bosom of the roadway a germ-disseminating, disease-laden stagnant pool. By actual measurement its dimensions were a day or two ago 3 feet 2 inches by 7 feet 8 inches. The rule used as a stick and held perpendicularly, recorded a depth of 5 ½ inches of mud and water when pushed down as far as it would go, with only the moderate impetus imparted by one hand.
PROMISE AND PROBABILITY – Hard by this artificial lake in an “artificial” road stands a shanty. It is tollgate No. 4. You must stop and enrich the coffers of the Chester & Darby Telford Road Company to the amount of one cent for the pleasure of contemplating the pool’s murky water, and for the inconvenience of steering carefully past it, with one hand held sedulonaly to the nose. Your ruffled temper impels you to declare it an outrage, but that doesn’t matter. Your protests are met with prophecy, promise and probability.
This over you proceed a scant mile further, stop again, and repeat the performance. Isn’t it a beautifully obsolete yet compensating game for the company?
Farther on you find grass on both sides of the route, caked mud, large stones and unbroken line of ruts. From Norwood to Prospect Park the same conditions obtain. Sticks, grass, weeds and ashes obstruct the path – a fitting name; sewers at cross streets exposed, and the inevitable ruts and refuse.
At the White Horse Hotel and Lincoln Avenue the worst conditions on the whole apology – hereinafter designated “the snake” appear. Worn down to the original telford paving of years ago, every stone flares out boldly, utterly guiltless either of earth or gravel to mitigate its brazen bareness.
Imagine this steep incline immediately after a rain with every stone presenting a treacherous slimy surface. Horses slip and slide as though with the blind staggers, and drive wheels on motor cars whirl and fly around like buzz saws. To attempt the climb on anything more than second speed means to get out and push or go to the garage for repairs.
Yet for a full decade this hill has thus deteriorated to its present depth of dilapidation. Never a spade or pick or a bushel of dirt for its improvement. To go either up or down means clenched teeth, a determined hand and a few or maybe a few more violations of the Decalogue.
On the ascent of another grade – or precipice – the cobbles are not only bare, but ruts, not of mud, but of hard paved rocks that would mean certain diameter to any one essaying them.
From thence to Ridley Park on the second descent, the same thin holds good. Then are encountered the usual mild puddles, ruts, weeds and grass in the abyss between and clear to Ridley Park until South Ridley is reached, where the corporation, after being compelled to make improvements by that borough, is doing a little desultory work on “the snake.” And this needs comment. On one day of last week the ten men alleged to be employed on this operation, together with two carts, were kept under careful scrutiny by the writer. Throughout the forenoon careful counts and recounts failed to reveal more than nine men.
A DAY JOB CINCH – Their manner of working was of that character usually encountered in “day jobs.” From their placid, leisurely, carefree movements it was evident that they regarded their work in the light of what is termed, in questionable English, “a cinch.” Two worked with picks, two with shovels, three sprawled full-length along the wayside, while two others, the cart drivers, stood idly by. But none overworked.
This continued at intervals throughout the morning. In the afternoon the number mounted to ten, and their inactivity increased proportionately with the course of the sun. The circumstances compelled the mental suggestion of that arithmetical bugbear to the average schoolboy: “If it requires ten years for 100 men to build a turnpike 6 miles long, how long will it take 10 men to construct the same road?”
The answer is obtainable, but unsatisfactory to Delaware countians. It might come under the head of the mathematical theory of chance, yet ultimately inevitable accidents.
Thence through Crum Lynne to Leiperville the undulating thoroughfare winds its uneven course with not a single saving mark of grace to warrant the leniency of a long-suffering public.
Thence to Saville Avenue, where the tracks of the crack Chester Traction Company desert it for Chester, its winds in snakiest contortion to its unkempt end.
NOT FORGETTING TOLLS – But here comes the chiefest outrage – the toll gate question. The possible purchaser of property in Delaware County determines to take a spin or a drive by way of the Chester Pike to look it over. He finds handsome suburban residences in many of the townships and boroughs it crosses. But his appreciation of their beauty is somewhat befogged by being held up at its beginning for either a cent or a through ticket – ten cents. Every mile of its length is punctuated by a ramshackle shanty called by courtesy a toll gate.
At each of these he must slack up or stop and pay his penny, or flourish before the eyes of the inhabitant money-grabber his ticket. He must actually pay to have his throat clogged with dust, his eyes blinded, and for the privilege, not of a pleasant drive, but of a sort of “bumpy bump” performance, calculated to bring him to the dentist, the blacksmith shop, the garage or the veterinary surgeon.
By the time he reaches the third toll gate his choler is up and what with tolls, ruts, mud puddles and the cobblestone rattle, his one aim in life is to get off. His purchase is forgotten, and when he ordinarily emerges from the grasp of the octopus, Chester Pike is deserted forever.
Hundreds of disgusted people daily condemn this past century and the Pike and those who have indulged and endured by the people of Delaware County. And it undoubtedly means a pecuniary loss through making the towns unpopular and unsought as places of suburban residence. “I myself,” declares G. C. Hetzel, president and chief stockholder of the pike, “am opposed to the tollgate. It is obsolete and should be abolished. I would be gladly rid of it.” And this is the sentiment of all the stockholders. It is obsolete and should be abolished. I would gladly rid of it.” And this is the sentiment of all the stockholders. It is not a paying proposition for those who control it, so what is the logical conclusion. With no opposition from this source it should be easy to have them abolished.
CHESTER TIMES – August 2, 1905
THE COMMISSIONERS AND THE DARBY PIKE
Position in the Premises is to Protect the Interest of the Taxpayers
The Evening Telegraph of Philadelphia for some days past has been publishing a series of articles upon the question of doing away with tolls on the pike between Chester and Darby, and in the article of yesterday gave the impression to the public that the County Commissioners of Delaware County are standing in the way of the abolishment of this long-standing public evil. This is not the case. The only thing the Commissioners are doing and which is their duty, is to protect the interest of the taxpayers and to see to it that, if the collection of tolls is done away with, that the taxpayers pay no extravagant sum for the franchise. The owners of this franchise are asking about $100,000 to relinquish their grip upon it and this, the Commissioners think, it out of all proportion to its value.
The petition filed with the Court asking for the abolition of the payment of the tolls will bear out the Commissioners in this petition. This petition sets forth that the Darby Pike is in bad condition, and that the owners of the franchise are not justified in exacting so much for each mile traveled by vehicles over its surface.
The Court, upon the petition, appointed a jury to adjust the matter, with John T. Reynolds, Esq., as Master, or virtually as Judge of the Court to take testimony and pass upon the facts and report the same to the Court. Several meetings have been held, at which testimony was given as to the condition of the pike and also as to the value of the franchise. The County Commissioners and their solicitor, H.J. Mackiver, Esq., appeared before the jury and in plain words stated their position in the premises, which is that a they propose to oppose the payment of any large sum of money from the public treasury for a franchise which has admittedly, almost, become worthless, if the condition of the highway is to be taken as a criterion. Every property owner in the county cannot but upheld the county officials for their position, it being their duty to save to the taxpayers every cent they can, if the report of the jury and Master should be in favor of the abolition of the toll system and the taking over of the highway by the county officials.
The question will hardly admit of argument, but that the toll system should be abandoned, and no doubt the report of the present jury and Master will be in favor of it after a careful hearing of the facts. It is understood that the hearings will be resumed in a short time, and the while matter will then be laid before the Court for his judicial decision. In the meantime, however, it is not fair to the County Commissioners for the impression to go out that they are opposing the abolition of the toll system – they are simply performing one of the many duties for which the public elected them, to see to it that no extravagant price is allowed for the toll franchise.
CHESTER TIMES – February 15, 1906
KING’S HIGHWAY TO BE IMPROVED
Chester and Darby Turnpike Company Will Be Put in Good Condition
HEARING BEFORE THE MASTER
The fact was established yesterday at the hearing before the Master, John T. Reynolds, Esq., and the jury of view at Media that the Chester and Darby Turnpike Company intend to put the old King’s Highway between Chester and Darby in first-class condition. This information was given to the public through W.K. Mitchell of Ridley Park, the only witness called for the day, and who gave evidence on behalf of the telford people.
Mr. Mitchell said that in his judgment and from practical experience, backed up by the knowledge of the best engineers of the country, that it will cost $1 per square yard to put the turnpike in good condition. There being 65,000 square yards in the entire roadway of eighteen feet wide, it will be seen that considerable money is to be expended.
“This will be done,” said Mr. Mitchel, “notwithstanding the order of the Court. We have already given the contract for the labor to re-surface the road its entire length and the work will be started just as soon as the weather will permit. We have also ordered a new steam teller which we expect to arrive about the middle of March and the contract for the necessary stone to put the roadway in first-class condition will be let in a few days.”
VALUE OF THE ROAD - The above was not given in the line of testimony upon the subject before the jury. The question being considered in what the turnpike is worth. All parties have agreed to its condemnation, providing the telford road people are paid a fair compensation for the franchise by the county. This franchise according to the evidence of Mr. Mitchell, is worth what it will take, $65,000 in his judgment to put the pike in good condition and the good will, it already having been shown that the investment has been a paying one.
Mr. Mitchell in his testimony hearing upon the question of why the roadway has not been kept up, puts the blame on the trolley company. He said that from time to time in ballasting the trolley road the tracks have been raised higher than the bed of the pike and in this has caused all of the water to be taken care of by the Telford road people. In the original construction of the pike this was not provided for and hence it has kept the pike in bad condition. There was no attempt to deny the words of the petitioners, who ask to have the pike condemned and that the roadbed has been in bad condition, but the excuse has been and it seems reasonable, that with the water from the trolley road flowing over the pike, it was impossible to do this.
Join us as Lansdowne's own Steve Gunn kicks off the
2016 Lansdowne Arts on the Avenue Festival
in a solo concert benefiting the Lansdowne Theater
Saturday September 10th at 7:00
$30 General Admission
Steve Gunn was born and raised in Lansdowne and often speaks of growing up in the borough. As he said on C-Ville.com in July 2016, "I was lucky enough to be in a town where there was a great guitar store (Todaro's Music) where I took lessons." Now a resident of Brooklyn, Steve returns to Lansdowne to perform a solo concert in support of the ongoing restoration of The Lansdowne.
Steve's performance kicks off the 2016 Lansdowne Arts on the Avenue Festival. For additional information click here.
Steve is coming off a successful European Tour and the recent release of a new highly regarded CD Eyes on the Lines. Help us to welcome Steve back to Lansdowne while supporting The Lansdowne.
Take a look at Steve's recent performance on CBS This Morning
Tickets are very limited----make sure to get yours today!
Tickets may be purchased HERE or call the theater office at 610-622-1234
2016 Lansdowne Arts on the Avenue Festival
Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra
Lansdowne String Quartet
Sunday September 11th at NOON
Dorothea DiGiovanni, Laurie Wolfe, Eiko Ogiso and Suzanne Sevens
Join us for the 2016 Lansdowne Arts Festival on the Avenue Festival
For more information visit
Lansdowne Comedy Night- 2016
By popular demand
Comedy returns to The Lansdowne
Saturday September 17th 6:00 to 9:00
Doors open and silent auction 6:00 to 7:00
Pat House, Mike Rainey and Carl Boccuti
Tickets from $35
Tickets available HERE.
Tickets are very limited-- make sure to get yours today!
Proceeds from the night benefit the ongoing restoration of the Lansdowne Theater.