A publicity shot of shells being made at the Baldwin Locomotive Plant in Eddystone from 1918
NOTE: This is a long article but it gives a great overview of the effect World War One had on Delaware County businesses, real estate etc.
DELAWARE COUNTY IS RICHER BY MILLIONS
War Contracts, New Industries and a Rise in Real Estate Values the Principal Factors in Producing the Result – Local Builders Very Busy
Delaware County, always rich and always peaceful, is from $45,000,000 to $50,000,000 richer because Europe went to war.
These figures are not alone an estimate of the industries that war has brought to the banks of the Delaware River below Philadelphia. They are partly that and partly the real estate development that has resulted from those industries.
While everyone has heard how industries have sprung info life along the Delaware since the war began, the effect of these industries has been overlooked. Here is the effect:
Every village, hamlet, town and city in the eastern end of Delaware County has scores or hundreds of brand-new houses for the assessors’ books. Builder and contractors are overworked and refusing to take more jobs. For this development is just at its height, and the assessors’ books already show an increase that will add $10,000,000 to the county’s assessed valuation this year. And that isn’t half of what will be added by next year.
New houses have sprung up everywhere in the eastern townships. Villages have become towns, fields have become suburbs, waste lands have become factory sites, vacant lots and ball fields in cities have become rows of houses, the river shore has become a line of smokestacks. And, most of all, this has happened in the last two years and is happening now.
Out in the Media court house, where all is still and quiet and characteristic of the old Delaware County, they are tabulating the triennial assessment, made in February by the local assessors. Part of the story is in these untabulated figures.
For these figures incomplete as they are, show that the assessors found almost $10,000,000 to add to the real estate values of the county last winter before this wonderful summer building began. And next year – well, the assessors hesitate to think of what the increase will be.
Chester, the very center of that new Delaware County, is no longer quiet or peaceful. Here is where the new wealth that the war brought is centered, and here you can find a man who estimates that the new industrial wealth of Delaware County’s riverfront is about $36,000,000.
This is the man who knows about it, too, for he is T. Woodward Trainer, secretary of the Chester chamber of commerce, and of the Chester Board of Trade, thru whom most of the land that these new industries use was secured.
And if the Media visit and the Chester call don’t convince, take a trolley ride around the county and look into those places you hardly know the name of villages or crossroads once, now thriving, newly-painted towns and suburbs.
All this wealth made since the war broke out. And it is so big that no one can count it and every estimate is no better than a guess. But it is wealth, nonetheless.
Take Chester’s real estate development for a guide, for here, at least, actual figures are available. This is a city that the old-timer remembers as the place of great waste tracts. Time was when every other block in Chester was a vacant lot. Not so now. They need the vacant lots now.
CHESTER DOUBLES BUILDING – Building permits issued since January 1, 1916, in Chester, show that 330 buildings of all kinds are built or building in Chester at a cost of $1,579,430. This is twice as much as was spent during the whole of 1915, when 290 buildings were erected, at a cost of $746,815.
In 1914, a record year, the city spent $1,221,200 for its new buildings. Chester, at this rate, expects when all the summer building is on records to have more than $2,000,000 invested in new houses and other structures.
The most remarkable thing about these six months of 1916 is that the bulk of the money has not been spent for industrial buildings, but for dwellings of different kinds. The total amount spent for these dwellings will be $477,500.
An eight-story office and bank building accounts for $400,000 and the new buildings of the Sun Ship Building Company, the most recent of the new industries, will cost $250,000. Sixteen of the structures are to be used for stores, an unusual number to be added in Chester.
These are the Chester records, and are conclusive. They include building operations, such as that of Brigadier General William G. Price, Jr., now on the border with the Philadelphia brigade of the National Guard. General Price has a $500,000 project under way at Twelfth and Potter Streets, Chester. About fifty houses, all of high grade, are under construction.
An old baseball field is being developed into a residential district. The Chester Shipbuilding Company, which is spending $2,000,000 in reviving the Delaware shipbuilding industry, at Chester, is also doing a little bit for real estate with a development of 100 houses costing about $250,000 at Sixth and Pennell Streets.
VACANT LOTS DISAPPEAR – All over Chester the vacant lots are being filled with small projects of from two to a dozen houses. Real estate men are so busy you can’t find them for a talk about business. Everybody has a hand in it. Irvin Taylor and Samuel Bell are making the most extensive and widespread operations Mr. Taylor, who has built up a great part of Ninth Street in Chester, is now adding scores of houses in other sections of the city.
But the big wealth that has come to the county is found along the river front, where Mr. Trainer, the secretary of the Chester chamber of commerce, estimates that $36,000,000 has been or will be invested. Here are some of the real estate purchases and contemplated expenditures of the new and old industries:
Sun Shipbuilding Company, Chester, sixty acres expects to spend $8,000,000, employ 5000 men and turn out ships 900 feet long.
Chester Shipbuilding Company, Chester, eighteen acres, six ships on the way, three more way under construction, the first ship, 450 feet long, about to be launched, 1500 men at work and expenditures of $2,000,000 contemplated.
Stewart Distillery Company, making industrial alcohol, on a twenty-acre tract. Spending about $1,000,000. Commercial Box and Envelope Company, fifteen acres, spending $750,000.
Beacon Light Company, Chester, bought twenty-one acres for $75,000, building turbine power plant, with 120,000 kilowatt capacity, spending $3,000,000.
The Westinghouse Electric and Machine Company, with a purchase of 600 acres in Tinicum adjoining Eddystone, will spend $8,000,000, it is said in equipping a plant to make supplies and equipment for the Delaware shipbuilding industry.
The expenditures in Eddystone at the Baldwin plant, the Remington Arms and Eddystone ammunition plants, are given in round figures as about $10,000,000, and here alone 28,000 men are working, and in need of homes.
MARCUS HOOK SHARES PROSPERITY – In Marcus Hook, below Chester, more of this wonderful riverfront development has added to the already big industrial investment of the American Viscose plant and the oil companies.
The General Chemical Company, with sixty-five acres, and an investment of nearly $2,000,000 and the Benzol Products Company, which is working out the aniline dye problem on a thirty acre tract, in a $1,000,000 plant, are the big ones.
Marcus Hook has spread out. A hundred new houses are going up and nearly another hundred have been built in Linwood Heights. Twenty more are under construction, and two more farms, containing eighty acres, are to be developed by Chester men.
Next to the Chester and Marcus Hook development, the greatest building has been going on in the last two years in Upper Darby Township. Here Drexel Hill has developed from a few houses to a community with 250 voters. Collingdale has become a thriving town of industrial workers, with nearly 3000 inhabitants, and the third school building is going up. Highland Park, with its neighborly communities of Observatory HiIl and Kirklyn, are growing into a suburb of several hundred houses.
A. Merritt Taylor is developing Springfield, and already about thirty-five houses have been built in an attractive substantial suburban residential community. Near Sixty-Ninth Street John McClatchy is developing another tract. Eywood, another suburb, has grown up in a year and more houses are under construction this summer. Clifton Heights is so big now that it is getting ready to float a bond issue of $90,000 to buy asphalt streets, sewers and a disposal plant.