History - Ridley Park Borough

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History of Ridley Park

To understand the history of Ridley Park, you must first appreciate the era of the 1870s. The country is recovering from the Civil War where Pennsylvania’s industrial enterprise and natural resources were essential factors in the economic strength of the northern cause. Philadelphia is a bustling port with ships in and out bringing raw materials for the many textile mills, immigrants and disease to the city. It is understandable then, to realize why clean air & healthy conditions, free from malaria were important to the populous.

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Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore

New route from Philadelphia to Chester

In 1870, the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore railroad made the decision to construct a new route from Philadelphia to Chester. It is called the “Darby Improvement” and Isaac Hinckley, president of the railroad, with a small group of investors, plans to develop the farmlands around the new routing, much as the “Main Line” that was created by the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1860s.

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Robert Morris Copeland

Recommend a site for a new town

Robert Morris Copeland, a well-respected landscape architect from Boston, was contracted to recommend a site for a new town. “The experienced eyes of the landscape gardener saw in the rolling land, the creeks, the woodland, the magnificent river views and proximity to Philadelphia the locality he sought as the site for the new suburban town, Ridley Park, the geographical centre of Ridley Township.”

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The first train of passengers-cars

Names lived on

Between January and May of 1870, many farms were purchased and their namesakes continue to live on in the streets of Ridley Park. Names such as Burk, Dutton, Free, Henderson, Stewart & Ward. “The first train of passengers-cars passing on the new road was on October 19, 1872”, opening for regular traffic in late November. Much had been accomplished by that time. They had erected a “commodious hotel, constructed a dam across the Little Crum Creek, and making a lake that covered twenty acres. . .the whole forming a picturesque feature of great credit to the taste and skill of the landscape gardener.”

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Past to present

Population of Ridley Park

“The healthfulness of the locality, its freedom from malaria, proximity to Philadelphia, and the liberal plan pursued by the Ridley Park Association, commended the park to the public, and the result was a number of handsome houses that were erected. In 1880, the census return gave the population of Ridley Park at 439. The railroad was, and continues today – 120 years later – to be an integral part of Ridley Park.

Barbara Smith
Ridley Park Historical Society
Excerpts from “History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania”