Chester Pike at Hook Rd. looking toward Darby about 1890. The tank truck in the middle is putting water down on the pike to keep dust down and keep local ladies happy!
NOTE; Before local roads began to be paved in the 1920's road repair was a major problem. While oyster shells and stones filled in holes, oil and water was used to keep the dust down to keep local ladies dresses clean. The article below from 125 years ago gives an idea on how bad it was.
CHESTER PIKE AND THE NEED OF REPAIR
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 fogyism 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.