Coatesville, Pennsylvania

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Coordinates: 39°59′1″N 75°49′0″W / 39.98361°N 75.81667°W / 39.98361; -75.81667
City of Coatesville
Lukens Main Office.JPG
Main Office of Lukens Steel
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Chester
Elevation 331 ft (100.9 m)
Coordinates 39°59′1″N 75°49′0″W / 39.98361°N 75.81667°W / 39.98361; -75.81667
Area 1.9 sq mi (4.9 km2)
 - land 1.9 sq mi (5 km2)
 - water 0.0 sq mi (0 km2), 0%
Population 13,100 (2010)
Density 6,894.7 / sq mi (2,662.1 / km2)
Incorporated 1915
Timezone EST (UTC-5)
 - summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Postal code 19320
Area code 610
Location of Coatesville in Pennsylvania
Location of Pennsylvania in the United States

Coatesville is a city in Chester County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 13,100 at the 2010 census. Coatesville is approximately 39 miles west of Philadelphia.

Coatesville grew up around the Lukens Steel Company. Lukens was bought by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1997. In 2002, Bethlehem was bought by the then Ohio-based International Steel Group (ISG). Later, Mittal Steel bought ISG and then merged with Arcelor Steel to form the ArcelorMittal company.



The first known settlement in the area which would be known as Coatesville was a Native American village built along the West Branch of the Brandywine River. This settlement was a post for fur trading with the earliest American settlers. The Brandywine River features prominently in the history of Coatesville.

William Fleming, originally from Scotland, is one of the earliest landowners on record. He built a log cabin in the area of Harmony Street and 5th Avenue and owned about 207 acres (0.84 km2) of land bordering the Brandywine River.[1]

Moses Coates, a prosperous farmer and the namesake of Coatesville, bought the Fleming house from Fleming's son in 1787. Moses Coates' son-in-law, Jesse Kersey, came up with a plan to develop the area by selling frontage on the recently completed Lancaster Turnpike which crossed through their land. The Lancaster Turnpike was the first toll road in the U.S., authorized in 1792 and completed in 1795. There was a tollgate located within the present day Coatesville city limits.[2] Coatesville became a popular stopping point since it was located roughly halfway between Philadelphia and Lancaster on the Turnpike.

Another of the earliest settlers in the Coatesville region was Pierre Bizallion. He was a French fur trader who settled in the area in the early 18th century, and was said to have been an interpreter between William Penn and the Native Americans.[3] The Veterans Administration Hospital now sits on a piece of the roughly 500 acres (2.0 km2) of land that was once owned by Bizallion.

19th century[edit]

Before Coatesville became the only city in Chester County, it was a town called Bridge-Town, because of the two bridges that were used to cross the Brandywine River. A village named "Midway", named after its station owned by the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad midway between Philadelphia and Lancaster, was also formed in 1834[2] on the western bank of the Brandywine. The village of Midway and the village of Bridge-Town merged to become the borough of Coatesville in 1867. Coatesville citizens voted to become a city in 1915.

Coatesville was able to capitalize on the natural energy available due to the Brandywine River running through the area. Jesse Kersey, Moses Coates' son-in-law, partnered with the ironmaster Isaac Pennock and purchased over 110 acres (0.45 km2) of Moses Coates' farm along both sides of the Brandywine River in 1810. The resulting company was named the Brandywine Iron Works and Nail Factory, the forerunner of Lukens Steel. Charles Lukens, MD, married Isaac Pennock's daughter Rebecca in 1813. Following her husband's death in 1825, Rebecca Lukens took over the operations of the mill, purchasing it from her mother and seeing it through turmoil and market panic into a prosperous mill. Rebecca was one of the first female operators of a major corporation in America.[4]

20th century[edit]

As Lukens Steel grew so did Coatesville, eventually becoming known as the "Pittsburgh of the East."[1] By the beginning of the 20th century the population had grown to 6,000. Along with the growth, the school system expanded as well as the religious community. In 1932 Coatesville was the home to 22 churches and one of Chester County's few synagogues, Beth Israel Congregation. Lukens Steel was the largest employer in Chester County in the 1960s, with over 10,000 workers. After World War II the steel industry began a long decline and Lukens Steel was eventually sold again and again, forcing workplace reductions to 5,000 and eventually to 2,000.[1]

In 1911, the lynching in Coatesville of Zachariah Walker, a black man who allegedly killed a white mill policeman Edgar Rice, prompted the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to investigate and called for an end to lynching nationwide. Walker was dragged from a hospital, still chained to his bedstead, and burned to death in front of hundreds of Coatesville citizens in a field south of the city. When Walker staggered from the pyre, a mass of flames, with rakes and pitchforks the citizens of Coatesville shoved him back in. The lynching was the last in Pennsylvania and is said to have left a permanent stain on the city's image.[1]

21st century[edit]

Episcopal Church of the Trinity, 323 East Lincoln Highway

Despite the good efforts of many people and organizations, Coatesville entered the twenty-first century with a depressed downtown and many vacant storefronts. Many residents of other parts of Chester County, including some of the beautiful suburban and rural areas just outside of the city limits, were afraid to venture into town, particularly at night, due to rampant newspaper publicity of drug gang violence in town.

Whether deserved or not, the perception that Coatesville was (and is today) not a safe place to go has been arguably the single biggest stumbling block to the town's resurgence. This situation has become a source of much frustration and sadness among present and former residents of the town, who have watched neighboring towns such as West Chester and Phoenixville gentrify at the same time as Coatesville's business district remained depressed.

One minor bright spot came in March of 2000, when the Oak Street Housing Projects — a failed 1970s attempt to create housing for the poor which instead attracted drug-dealing, urban decay and (some believe) assisted in the breakdown of the family unit - finally met the bulldozers' wrath. While replaced with attractive affordable housing, the damage had already been done, as the urban decay brought on by "The Projects" had spread to much of the adjoining area, which had formerly consisted of neatly-kept working-class housing.

Residential real estate in this downtown area became harder to sell, and fewer homes were owner-occupied. Instead, investors scooped them up at bargain prices and fixed them up as rentals, many under the federal government's "Section 8" low-income rental program.

At various times in the early years of the twenty-first century, Coatesville's leaders have announced plans for various ambitious redevelopment projects. Some early successes included demolition of old buildings, as well as new and renovated housing for seniors accomplished through various private-public partnerships. Another success was the construction and establishment of a new multi-disciplinary health center building in the "East End" of town. The Brandywine Center offers medical, dental and behavioral health services to low-income residents. Its construction was spearheaded by the town's most dynamic and successful nonprofit organization, the Brandywine Health Foundation. The center is now part of ChesPenn Health Services, which is based in the city of Chester [Delaware County], Pennsylvania.

The city's plans for redevelopment have hit more than a few bumps in the road. In the early 2000s, an ambitious redevelopment plan was announced that would have included recreational, commercial and office park construction along the Brandywine Creek north of the town's center. Two highly-capable and accomplished Philadelphia-area developers had signed on to the plan.

Unfortunately, the plan was bungled by the efforts of the city's leadership, namely the City Council and City Manager Paul G. Janssen, Jr. They had decided that part of the plan had to be the construction of a city-owned golf course and recreation center, much of which they wanted to build on land owned by area residents Dick and Nancy Saha. The City leaders decided that they would forcibly expropriate the land from the Sahas, using the power of eminent domain.

The Saha family, who a few years earlier had purchased the farmland and made their home there — painstakingly rebuilding the ruin of a house that sat on the land — had no interest in selling. A long and expensive legal battle ensued, with the City hiring an expensive Philadelphia law firm and burning through tens (or perhaps hundreds) of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money in its attempt to [figuratively] bulldoze the Sahas into submission.

In the end, the City had to back down, and neither the golf course nor most of the rest of the planned project got built. By the time the court battles had wound down, the 2008 financial crisis and mortgage meltdown caused sources of funding to dry up, and developers to drop many projects, including this one. It will never be known for sure whether heeding pleas to jettison the golf course portion early on and get on with the rest of the plan would have yielded the desired results, but it has to be said that almost none of that project —— particularly the golf course —— was anywhere near Coatesville's downtown, the place where revitalization was most needed. (In fact, part of the Saha land was in neighboring Valley Township, not even part of Coatesville).

The land dispute has been resolved without the need to seize the property, but it caused the ouster of four incumbent city councilpersons in the November 2005 general elections. The four new councilpersons, two of whom were ordained Pentecostal and Methodist ministers, caused further controversy with the firing of the city solicitor, the resignation of the city manager (who dug his heels in hard in the ill-fated dispute with the Valley Township landowner), and the departure of the assistant manager, police chief, and city treasurer.

Ironically, the next City Council had the opportunity to hire Janssen's deputy, Assistant City Manager E. Jean Krack, to take Janssen's place. While Krack was both talented and far less confrontational by nature than Janssen had been, the council failed to offer him the job. Today, Krack serves as manager of the Borough of Phoenixville, one of Chester County's biggest recent success stories in terms of downtown revival and gentrification. Presumably he is not unhappy today that he didn't stay in Coatesville.

An attractive new Marriott hotel built along Route 82 on the outskirts of Coatesville opened in May of 2012, and is already a great success (although it is still far from Coatesville's economically challenged downtown).[5] A series of arsons took place in the city from 2007 to early 2009.[6] A December 2008 fire at a Strode Avenue home resulted in the death of 83-year-old World War II Holocaust survivor Irene Kempest. Another fire the following month on the 300 block of Fleetwood Street burned 17 row houses, causing $2 million in damage and leaving dozens homeless. By March 2009, police had arrested six suspects in the fires. On June 8, 2010 one man, pleading no-contest due to mental illness, was sentenced to a 60-year prison sentence for five of the fires, one of which resulted in Kempest's death.[7] Another, who plead guilty to the Fleetwood Street fire and eight others, received a sentence of 12.5 to 25 years with order to pay $2.5 million in restitution.[8] Twenty of the nearly 70 fires over the two-year span remain unsolved.[7]

In 1969 Lukens Steel forged steel beams for the World Trade Center in New York City.[9] Some of these beams, known as "trees", remained standing after the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks. Ten of the "trees" that remained were transported back to Coatesville on April 15, 2010, and are slated to be a part of the proposed National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum.[9]

The Coatesville Historic District, Clement Atkinson Memorial Hospital, High Bridge, Abram Huston House and Carriage House, Lukens Historic District, Lukens Main Office Building, National Bank of Coatesville Building, and Terracina are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[10]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.9 square miles (4.9 km2), of which 0.53% is water.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Coatesville has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.[11]

Climate data for Coatesville, Pennsylvania
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 4
Average low °C (°F) −6
Precipitation mm (inches) 91
Source: Weatherbase [12]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 2,025
1880 2,766 36.6%
1890 3,680 33.0%
1900 5,721 55.5%
1910 11,084 93.7%
1920 14,515 31.0%
1930 14,582 0.5%
1940 14,006 −4.0%
1950 13,826 −1.3%
1960 12,971 −6.2%
1970 12,331 −4.9%
1980 10,698 −13.2%
1990 11,038 3.2%
2000 10,838 −1.8%
2010 13,100 20.9%
Est. 2012 13,134 0.3%

The 2010 United States Census[13] stated there were 13,100 people, 4,498 households, and 2,889 families residing in the city, with a population density of 6,894.7 people per square mile (2,673.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 38.0% White, 46.4% African American, 0.5% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 8.9% from other races, and 5.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 23.0% of the population.

There were 4,498 households out of which 36.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 28.3% were married couples living together, 27.7% had a female householder with no spouse present, 8.2% had a male householder with no spouse present, and 35.8% were non-families. 42.4% of all households had individuals under 18 living in them and 19.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.86 and the average family size was 3.46.

In the city the population was spread out with 30.4% under the age of 18. The median age was 31 years. The population was 50.6% female and 49.4% male.

Coatesville had 4,998 housing units, of which 90.2% were occupied. Of the occupied housing units, 37.5% were owner-occupied.

In 2000, the median income for a household in the city was $29,912, and the median income for a family was $36,375. Males had a median income of $31,782 versus $24,774 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,079. About 18.3% of families and 22.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.9% of those under age 18 and 15.9% of those age 65 or over.


A general aviation airport, Chester County G. O. Carlson Airport, which allows private and corporate aircraft to easily access the town, is located about 3 miles (4.8 km) west in neighboring Valley Township,

Coatesville is also served by the Coatesville Amtrak Station, which until 1997 also served SEPTA's R5 regional railroad line from Philadelphia.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Mowday, Bruce Edward. Images of America: Coatesville. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2003. pp 7-8. ISBN 0-7385-1198-6.
  2. ^ a b City of Coatesville website
  3. ^ Chester Co PA; Caln; 1881 HISTORY
  4. ^ National Steel Heritage Museum
  5. ^ Smith, Eric S. (May 5, 2012). "Marriott Courtyard opens in Coatesville". Daily Local News (Chester Co., PA). Retrieved 2012-04-12. 
  6. ^ Thomas, Pierre; Date, Jack; Cook, Theresa (2009-02-19), "2 Arrests in Devastating Pa. House Fires", ABC News (ABC News), archived from the original on 2009-06-10, retrieved 2013-12-03 
  7. ^ a b Brady Shea, Kathleen (2010-06-08), "Coatesville arsonist sentenced to 60 years", Philadelphia Inquirer (ABC News), archived from the original on 2010-06-08, retrieved 2013-12-03 
  8. ^ Rellahan, Michael P. (September 18, 2010). "Serial arsonist pleads guilty". Daily Local News (Chester Co., PA). Retrieved 2011-09-04. 
  9. ^ a b "World Trade Center Steel Beams Returning Home". CBS News. April 14, 2010. Retrieved 2011-09-05. 
  10. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  11. ^ Climate Summary for Coatesville, Pennsylvania
  12. ^ "". Weatherbase. 2013.  Retrieved on October 24, 2013.
  13. ^ U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-9-6.

External links[edit]