The Port of Chester lies on the shores of the Delaware River about 21 kilometers southwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States. The Port of Chester is part of the greater Philadelphia metropolitan area. Traditionally, shipbuilding and automobiles manufacturing were the mainstays of the local economy. However, since the 1960s, much of the city's industry and population have left the area. While shipbuilding is still important, the local economy is now more diverse, including manufacturers of paper products and chemicals as well. In 2000, almost 37 thousand people called the Port of Chester home.
The colonial village that became the Port of Chester was called Finlandia when it began in the Swedish colony of New Sweden. The community was later named Upland, and the early Swedish settlers built Fort Mecoponacka in 1641 to defend the settlement. The Port of Chester is the oldest city in the State of Pennsylvania.
In 1682 when William Penn arrived with his Quakers, the Port of Chester (or Upland) was the province's biggest town. Penn renamed the settlement Chester after the city in England, and it was the seat of Chester County. For two centuries, the Port of Chester was wealthy and prosperous. Located on the river and with access to the major railways, the Port of Chester grew into a busy manufacturing community with industries that produced metals, machinery, locomotives, textiles, and ships.
When Delaware County was formed in 1789, the Port of Chester became its county seat, holding that position until 1851. The naval shipyards at the Port of Chester supplied the Union during America's Civil War and in wars after that until the Philadelphia shipyard gained prominence after World War II.
The United State's biggest post-Civil War shipyard was located at the Port of Chester. Until 1990 when it closed, the Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Company was located there. The US Navy has named to ships USS Chester in honor of the port.
The Port of Chester began to grow in the early 20th Century during World War I as people moved there for jobs the war had created. While 38 thousand people lived in the Port of Chester in 1910, the population topped 58 thousand by 1920. The city's industrial base expanded, stimulating construction of housing and services for the new residents. During the Great Depression, growth slowed and employment in manufacturing began to decline.
World War II brought a second growth spurt and economic prosperity to the Port of Chester. Jobs opened, demands for housing increased, and business and industry resumed. By 1950, the Port of Chester had reached its peak of 66 thousand residents. The Port of Chester claims the title of the "Cradle of Rock 'n Roll" because the early rock pioneers Bill Haley and His Comets performed first there and then located their headquarters in the Port of Chester area.
The post-war economy was difficult for the Port of Chester. By the middle of the 1950s, businesses and manufacturers started moving out of the city, and residents left in search of work. Employment reached a low in the 1960s. The Port of Chester has undertaken many improvement projects since 1966. It restored its parks, improved housing, and began to attract new business and employment opportunities.