|Municipality of Norristown, Norristown Municipality|
|Home Rule Municipality
|Country||United States of America|
|Elevation||135 ft (41.1 m)|
|Area||3.5 sq mi (9.1 km2)|
|- land||3.5 sq mi (9 km2)|
|- water||0.0 sq mi (0 km2), 0%|
|Density||9,806.9 / sq mi (3,786.5 / km2)|
|- summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|ZIP Codes||19401, 19403-19409, 19487-19489|
Norristown, officially the Municipality of Norristown,[N 1] is the historic seat of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Located along the Schuylkill River approximately 6 miles from the Philadelphia city limits, Norristown has a population of 34,324 as of the 2010 U.S. Census and is the 4th most populous municipality in the county.
Named the county seat in 1784 when Montgomery County was formed, Norristown was incorporated as a borough in 1812 and subsequently enlarged in 1853. About 500 people lived there at the time of its incorporation. Growing rapidly after the Civil War, it swelled to 22,265 people by 1900 and by 1940 it was home to 38,181 Norristonians, making it the most populous borough in Pennsylvania before declining in the decades after World War II.
At its height, Norristown was an industrial, retail, banking, and government center. Breweries, cigar factories, textile mills, icehouses, foundries, rolling mills, and lumber yards provided ample employment for skilled laborers and artisans. The downtown featured two department stores, several theaters, and enough goods and services that residents never had to leave town to find anything they needed. Although primarily settled by the English and a handful of Germans, Scots, Dutch, and Swedes, in the mid-1800s the Irish began arriving in large numbers, followed by waves of Italians at the turn of the century.
With the opening of new malls in nearby King of Prussia and Plymouth Meeting, the downtown declined in the decades after World War II. Industry soon followed, as many companies closed or relocated into new industrial parks throughout Montgomery County. Despite this decline, Norristown continues its efforts to revitalize and reshape itself as a 21st-century community.
Norristown is located at  in southeastern Pennsylvania, approximately 6 miles (10 km) northwest of Philadelphia. Totaling 3.519 square miles in land area , the municipality sits along the Schuylkill River. Two major tributaries, the Stony Creek and the Saw Mill Run, bisect the town into thirds and empty directly into the Schuylkill. The town’s terrain is generally hilly, especially in the areas closest to downtown, which itself sits on a plateau surrounded by all three major waterways.(40.1198837, -75.3417012)
Norristown has four distinct neighborhoods: the West End, the East End, the North End, and the downtown.
It is bounded by West Norriton, East Norriton, and Plymouth Townships, as well as Bridgeport Borough.
As of the 2010 census, Norristown's population is 34,324, which represents a 9.7% increase since 2000. The municipality's population was 40.9% White, 35.9% Black or African American, 0.4% Native American, 2.1% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian, and 4.6% were two or more races. 28.3% of the population were of Hispanic or Latino ancestry, which is almost triple the Hispanic population in 2000.
There were 11,963 households and 7,498 families residing in the municipality. The population density was 9,753.9 people per square mile. There were 13,420 housing units at an average density of 3,813.5 per square mile.
Of the 11,963 households, 62.7% (7,498) were family households and 37.3% were non-family households. Of the 7,498 families, 58.2% had their own and related children under the age of 18 living with them; 51.0% were married couples living together, and 36.6% had a female householder with no husband present. The average household size was 2.79 and the average family size was 3.41.
The median age of all residents is 31.2 years, with an age distribution of 26.2% under the age of 18, 43.5% between ages 18 and 44, 21.2% between ages 45 and 64, and 9.1% ages 65 and above.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 American Community Survey, the median household income was $42,764. Males had a median income of $34,214 versus $34,086 for females. The per capita income was $21,204. About 17.3% of families and 19.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.3% of those under the age of 18 and 11.8% of those 65 and older.
Approximately 76.0% of all persons 25 and older have a high school diploma or higher, while 16.7% have a college degree (Bachelor’s or higher).
Norristown’s economy is largely comprised of institutions in the government, healthcare, legal, and social services sectors. The Montgomery County government is the municipality’s largest employer. Other major Norristown employers with a considerable presence are the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, USM (formerly U.S. Maintenance), U.S. Roofing Corporation, BartonPartners Architects+Planners, Chandler Bats, and the Norristown Area School District. Norristown is home to the corporate headquarters of both USM and U.S. Roofing.
In addition to major employers, there are numerous small professional, manufacturing, technology, and distribution firms operating in the municipality, as well as law offices and local realty companies.
Politics and government
Norristown has been a home rule municipality since 1986 when voters adopted a charter with a manager/council form of government and a seven-member municipal council. The office of mayor was abolished in July 2004 after a public referendum amended the municipal charter.
The municipality is part of the Thirteenth Congressional District (represented by Rep. Allyson Schwartz), the 70th and 150th State House Districts (represented by Rep. Matt Bradford and Rep. Mike Vereb) and the 17th State Senate District (represented by Sen. Daylin Leach).
Norristown is the largest multi-modal transportation hub in the Philadelphia suburbs. Numerous rail lines, bus routes, multi-use trails, and parking areas converge at the Norristown Transportation Center (NTC). The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) operates eight bus routes (90, 91, 93, 96, 97, 98, 99, and 131), one light rail route (the Norristown High Speed Line), and a regional rail line (the Manayunk/Norristown Line) out of the NTC complex.
The NTC contains a 522-space SEPTA commuter parking garage that also contains an intercity bus terminal operated seven days a week by Bieber Tourways, Greyhound Lines, and Martz Trailways. Several taxi companies and private bus shuttles have a presence at the Transportation Center. The Schuylkill River Trail, which connects Philadelphia to Phoenixville and runs through downtown Norristown, also passes through the NTC complex. The Chester Valley Trail will also connect to the Transportation Center by the end of the 2010s.
The Norristown Times Herald is the city's daily newspaper, printing seven days a week and serving most of Montgomery County. Founded on June 15, 1799, it is currently owned by 21st Century Media. The paper's staff offices are located within the municipality.
Despite the loss of its historic movie and vaudeville theaters, Norristown is home to two performing arts theaters (the Montgomery County Cultural Center and Theatre Horizon) and four professional theater companies (Centre Theatre, Iron Age Theatre, Theatre Horizon, and New Cavern Productions). All are part of The Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.
These theaters form the nucleus for Norristown Arts Hill, a collection of theaters, art galleries, and professional firms on the 300-500 blocks of DeKalb Street in downtown.
Norristown’s Main Street contains several upscale ethnic restaurants, including August Moon (Korean/Japanese), Taqueria La Michoacana (Mexican), Almaz Café (Ethiopian), Bahn Mi (Vietnamese), and Giacomo’s (Italian).
Norristown has seen several new office buildings constructed or rehabbed over the last several decades. One Montgomery Plaza, the municipality’s iconic downtown 10-story office building, was built in the early 1970s, and is now owned by Montgomery County.
Two newer mid-rise downtown office buildings, the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit Building and the Department of Environmental Protection Building, were built in the 1990s and early 2000s. In 2009, the historic former Bell Telephone building was completely renovated for offices, and that same year the U.S. Roofing Corporation rehabbed the former Conte Luna pasta factory on East Main Street to house their operations. The former Sears building at the Studio Centre shopping center in the North End was renovated as a modern office center.
Since the early 2000s, the Regatta Apartments, the Rittenhouse condominium building, and dozens of new townhouses have contributed to a residential boom in the East End.
Two new downtown parking garages were built in the late 2000s, one at Main and Cherry Streets for visitors and another at SEPTA’s Norristown Transportation Center on Lafayette Street. Several large downtown and neighborhood streetscape projects were completed by the municipal government to install new street lighting, trees, curbing, and sidewalks along Main Street, DeKalb Street, and Powell Street.
The Lafayette Street Extension Project, a $60 million effort now underway by Montgomery County, PennDOT, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), will improve highway access and mobility into downtown Norristown by widening Lafayette Street and extending it eastward toward Ridge Pike and Conshohocken, with eventual connections to the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-276) and the US 202 Dannehower Bridge.
Points of interest
- Elmwood Park Zoo
- First Presbyterian Church of Norristown
- Hancock Square
- Montgomery County Courthouse
- Montgomery County Historical Society
- Norristown Arts Hill
- Norristown Farm Park
- Norristown State Hospital
- Norristown Transportation Center
- Old County Prison
- Riverside Cemetery
- Schuylkill River Trail
- St. John’s Episcopal Church
- Selma Mansion
- Thaddeus Lowe House
- United States Post Office
One of the most historically important remaining structures of old Norristown is Selma Mansion located on the west end of town. Selma was built by Andrew Porter in 1794. Porter was a soldier during the American Revolutionary War as well as one of the founders of the U.S. Marine Corps. He was later appointed Surveyor General, helped lay out the borders of the commonwealth and attained the rank of general.
His eldest son, Richard Porter was president judge of the 3rd judicial district of Pennsylvania. Son David Rittenhouse Porter, named for the general's friend and neighbor, David Rittenhouse, served as governor of Pennsylvania from 1839 - 1845. His son, George Bryan Porter, was appointed governor of Michigan Territory by Andrew Jackson. Youngest son, James Madison Porter, was Secretary of War under President John Tyler & founder of Lafayette College in Easton. Andrew Porter grandson Civil War era General Horace Porter was aide de camp to U.S. Grant and is said to be the author of the definitive account of Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House.
In 1821 the property was sold to the Andrew Knox Jr. The plantation was then acquired by son Col. Thomas P. Knox, farmer and president of the state's agricultural society. In 1853 Thomas Knox had large portions of the property divided into lots and sold making possible the development of the West End of town.
Selma passed into the hands of the Fornance family with the marriage of Knox's daughter Ellen Knox to Joseph Fornance, prominent attorney and Historical Society of Montgomery County president.
The mansion is said to be in the Federal Style, although the interior woodwork and proportions are Colonial or Georgian. The porches are Italianate, having been added in the mid-19th century.
In 1982 the family occupancy of the home came to an end with the sale of the house and most of the remaining property. The mansion however, along with its contents of period objects, was offered in turn to the state, Montgomery County and borough of Norristown. Unfortunately, none took the generous offer. Countless wonderful antiques and mementos of the past were lost in an unbelievable "yard sale". It is said that whole crates of Union soldier uniforms, once stored in the barn or wagon house, were snatched up by bargain hunters. At the last moment the house was saved from the wrecker's ball.
The Norristown Preservation Society was formed to purchase the house and transform it into a focal point of pride for not only the residents of the county seat, but also all of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and the nation.
- Geno Auriemma, Hall of Fame women's basketball coach at UConn
- Maria Bello, actress
- Vishaal Bhuyan, author
- Steve Bono, former NFL quarterback
- Peter Boyle, actor (Everybody Loves Raymond, Young Frankenstein)
- Josh Culbreath, athlete (1957 400 m hurdles world record), actor ("Tail-wind Turner", The Cosby Show)
- Richard Derr, actor
- David C. Dolby, Medal of Honor
- Werner Erhard, founder of Erhard Seminars Training (EST)
- Jules Fisher, lighting designer
- Joseph Fornance, U.S. Congressman and Norristown Borough council president
- Marques Green, basketball player
- Winfield Scott Hancock, field commander at Gettysburg, presidential candidate
- John F. Hartranft, Governor of Pennsylvania 1873–1879
- Tommy Lasorda, Hall of Fame Major League Baseball manager
- Drew Lewis, CEO Union Pacific, U.S. Secretary of Transportation
- Thaddeus Lowe, Civil War-era aeronaut, scientist, and inventor
- William Moore, U.S. Congressman representing New Jersey 1869–1871
- Timothy L. O'Brien, journalist
- Jaco Pastorius, musician
- Mike Piazza, professional baseball player
- Andrew Porter, Pennsylvania Surveyor General and co-founder of the U.S. Marine Corps
- George Bryan Porter, Territorial Governor of Pennsylvania
- David Rittenhouse Porter, Governor of Pennsylvania 1839–1845
- Martha Settle Putney, educator and historian
- Brothers Quay (Stephen and Timothy), stop-motion animators
- Lisa Raymond, WTA tennis player
- Bill Schonely, broadcaster
- Richard Schweiker, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania 1969–1981 and Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1983
- Jimmy Smith, jazz musician
- Jerry Spinelli, author
- Kellee Stewart, actress
- Ralph B. Strassburger, newspaper publisher, thoroughbred racehorse owner
- John F. Street, Mayor of Philadelphia 2000–2008
- Roy Thomas, Philadelphia Phillies outfielder 1899-1908 and University of Pennsylvania head baseball coach
- Bobby Wine, professional baseball player, Coach, Manager, and Advance Scout.
In popular culture
- Maniac Magee, author Jerry Spinelli based the fictional town of Two Mills on Norristown, where he was born.
- The Lovely Bones
- The Devil in the White City
- Battle of Matson's Ford
- East Norriton Township, Pennsylvania
- Norristown Academy
- Riverside Cemetery
- West Norriton Township, Pennsylvania
- Saint Teresa of Avila School
- The phrase "Norristown Municipality" is used in official documents as well.
- Demographic and Information Packet, Montgomery County Planning Commission (MCPC), http://webapp.montcopa.org/planning/dataportal/pdfs/2012demogentiredocument.pdf, page 8.
- Montgomery County Federation of Historical Societies, Montgomery County: The Second Hundred Years; Toll, Jean Barth and Michael J. Schwager, ed.;1983, pg. 464
- Barth and Schwager, pg.463
- Barth and Schwager, pg. 469
- Barth and Schwager, pg. 465
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- "Number of Inhabitants: Pennsylvania". 18th Census of the United States. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "Pennsylvania: Population and Housing Unit Counts". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "Incorporated Places and Minor Civil Divisions Datasets: Subcounty Population Estimates: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- Demographic and Information Packet, Montgomery County Planning Commission (MCPC), http://webapp.montcopa.org/planning/dataportal/pdfs/2012demogentiredocument.pdf, page 11.
- MCPC, pg. 15
- MCPC, pg. 14
- MCPC, pg. 10
- MCPC, pg. 16
- PA Department of Labor and Industry, http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=18&objID=1281093&mode=2.
- 21st Century Media list of brands and products, http://www.digitalfirstmedia.com/products/
- Montgomery County Planning Commission, Lafayette Street Extension Project website, www.lafayettestreetproject.com.
- "George Bryan Porter". 2010 by the Litchfield Historical Society. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
- Long Bostrom, Kathleen (June 2003). Winning Authors: Profiles of the Newbery Medalists. Libraries Unlimited. pp. 247–251. ISBN 1-56308-877-0.
- Kerkstra, Patrick (November 25, 2003). "Mexican immigrants boost a growing Latino population". Philadelphia Inquirer.
- O'Toole, Stephen (December 30, 2002). "Norristown ready to recognize Mexican IDs". Norristown Times Herald.
- Heysham, Theodore (1913). Norristown, 1812-1912. Norristown.
- Official website
- Norristown Arts Hill
- Norristown Area School District
- Norristown Preservation Society
- Elmwood Park Zoo
- Living Places - Norristown
- Norristown Times Herald
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