Norristown, Pennsylvania

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Coordinates: 40°07′12″N 75°20′30″W / 40.12000°N 75.34167°W / 40.12000; -75.34167
Norristown, Pennsylvania
Municipality of Norristown, Norristown Municipality
Home Rule Municipality
County Seat
Downtown Norristown in March 2006
Country  United States of America
State  Pennsylvania
County Montgomery
Elevation 135 ft (41.1 m)
Coordinates 40°07′12″N 75°20′30″W / 40.12000°N 75.34167°W / 40.12000; -75.34167
Area 3.5 sq mi (9.1 km2)
 - land 3.5 sq mi (9 km2)
 - water 0.0 sq mi (0 km2), 0%
Population 34,324 (2010)
Density 9,806.9 / sq mi (3,786.5 / km2)
Incorporated 1812
Government Council-manager
Timezone EST (UTC-5)
 - summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP Codes 19401, 19403-19409, 19487-19489
Area code 610
Location of Norristown in Montgomery County
Location of Norristown in Pennsylvania
Location of Pennsylvania in the United States

Norristown, officially the Municipality of Norristown,[N 1] is a municipality in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, United States, 6 miles (9.7 km) northwest of the city limits of Philadelphia, on the Schuylkill River. The population was 34,324 as of the 2010 U.S. Census. It is the county seat of Montgomery County.[1] Norristown is in a rich agricultural region; in the past, it had extensive manufactures of cigars, tacks, wire, screws, boilers, bolts, silos, tanks, iron, hosiery, knitting machines, underwear, shirts, lumber and milling machinery, paper boxes, rugs and carpets.

Despite being named a municipality, it was formerly a borough operating under Pennsylvania's Borough Code and is frequently referred to as "the borough" even in statements by its officials. However, since 1986, Norristown has been governed under home rule charters, not under Pennsylvania's Borough Code. The 1986 charter was properly forwarded to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for inclusion in the Pennsylvania Code.[2] The succeeding 2004 home rule charter has not been so published, but may be read at the municipal website.[3] Some areas outside the municipality, in the surrounding townships, also have "Norristown, PA" mailing addresses. The entire Municipality of Norristown is within the 19401 ZIP code.

Norristown was incorporated as a borough in 1812, its population then being about 500. It was subsequently enlarged in 1853 and 1909. In 1900, 22,265 people lived here; in 1910, 27,875; in 1920, 32,319; and in 1940, 38,181, making Norristown the most populous borough in Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population was 34,324.


Norristown was one of the largest communities under Pennsylvania's borough form of government. Now, the official name is Municipality of Norristown, operating under a Home Rule Charter with that designation since 1986. Located on the Schuylkill River, it was established as a mill town and as a seat of county government.

At one time Norristown was a retail center for the rural areas outside of Philadelphia. With the growth of suburban communities and large shopping malls including the King of Prussia Mall and the Plymouth Meeting Mall in the outlying townships, Norristown's retail sector steadily declined and eventually collapsed.

Today the city's economy is powered by Montgomery County government jobs, the legal profession, and health care. Until the Einstein Medical Center was opened in neighboring East Norriton Township in late September 2012, Montgomery Hospital was located there. Norristown State Hospital is still an active psychiatric facility located within the Munincipality. While the downtown has suffered in recent years, the residential areas of Norristown remain largely well-maintained. Row homes and twin homes are more numerous than single family residences.

The city is a transit center and the Norristown Transportation Center is the terminus of the Norristown High Speed rail line and a stop on the former Reading Railroad Norristown train to Center City Philadelphia (both are operated by SEPTA Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority).

The Norristown Times Herald is the city's daily newspaper, printing Monday through Saturday and serving most of Montgomery County. A Sunday edition is also published. Norristown is steeped in and surrounded by history. Valley Forge National Historical Park is nearby. The city is named for Isaac Norris, a member of the colonial Pennsylvania legislature who ordered the casting of the state house bell that became known as the Liberty Bell. Norris was given a grant of land, then called Williamstadt (William's Town), in honor of one of its founders William Trent who sold the land and went on to help found Trenton, NJ. The Municipality of Norristown and the adjacent Townships of East and West Norriton now occupy this former estate.

Norristown has a rich musical tradition as it was the home to several famous jazz musicians. Bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius and keyboard legend Jimmy Smith were both born in Norristown.

The Globe Knitting Mills, Cold Point Historic District, Central Norristown Historic District, Old Norriton Presbyterian Church, Gen. Thomas J. Stewart Memorial Armory, David Rittenhouse Junior High School, and Valley Forge National Historical Park are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[4]


Norristown is located at 40°7′12″N 75°20′30″W / 40.12000°N 75.34167°W / 40.12000; -75.34167 (40.1198837, -75.3417012).[5]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1820 827
1830 1,089 31.7%
1840 2,937 169.7%
1850 6,024 105.1%
1860 8,848 46.9%
1870 10,753 21.5%
1880 13,063 21.5%
1890 19,791 51.5%
1900 22,265 12.5%
1910 27,875 25.2%
1920 32,319 15.9%
1930 35,853 10.9%
1940 38,181 6.5%
1950 38,126 −0.1%
1960 38,925 2.1%
1970 38,169 −1.9%
1980 34,684 −9.1%
1990 30,749 −11.3%
2000 31,282 1.7%
2010 34,324 9.7%
Est. 2012 34,427 0.3%

As of the 2010 census, Norristown'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 [1].

As of the census[8] of 2000, there were 31,282 people, 12,028 households, and 7,144 families residing in the municipality. The population density was 8,871.6 people per square mile (3,421.5/km²). There were 13,531 housing units at an average density of 3,837.4 per square mile (1,480.0/km²). The racial makeup was 54.32% White, 34.80% Black or African American, 0.20% Native American, 2.96% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 4.61% from other races, and 3.07% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 10.49% of the population.

There were 12,028 households out of which 28.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.7% were married couples living together, 19.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.6% were non-families. 32.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.2% had someone living alone who was age 65 or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.22.

The age distribution was 25.1% under the age of 18, 10.5% from 18 to 24, 32.6% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 11.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 94.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.8 males.

The median household income was $35,714, and the median family income was $42,357. Males had a median income of $32,113 versus $26,746 for females. The per capita income was $17,977. About 13.5% of families and 17.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.6% of those under the age of 18 and 13.8% of those 65 and older.

Politics and government[edit]

Norristown has been a home rule municipality since 1986 when a Home Rule Charter with a manager/council form of government and a seven-member municipal council went into effect. The office of mayor was abolished in July 2004 after a public referendum amended the municipal charter.

The municipality is part of the Sixth Congressional District (represented by Rep. Jim Gerlach), 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 currently involved in a federal lawsuit, Briggs v. Borough of Norristown et al., over their disorderly behavior ordinance. The ordinance allows the city to penalize landlords and have the tenants evicted after the police have been called three or more times for domestic disturbances in a four month period. The law classes domestic disturbances as a form of "disorderly behavior," which requires the police to enforce the law. The American Civil Liberties Union believes this creates an atmosphere in which victims of domestic abuse would no longer want to report their abuse due to repercussions from the city. The ACLU states this may violate the victim's First Amendment rights and also the federal Violence Against Women Act.[10]

Points of interest[edit]

Norristown Small Business Assistance Center

Selma Mansion[edit]

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.

One descendant of the home's occupants was Mary Todd, wife of 16th American President Abraham Lincoln.

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.

Notable people[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The phrase "Norristown Municipality" is used in official documents as well.


  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ 2004 Home Rule Charter
  4. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  5. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  6. ^ "Number of Inhabitants: Pennsylvania". 18th Census of the United States. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  7. ^ "Pennsylvania: Population and Housing Unit Counts". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  8. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  9. ^ "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. 
  10. ^ Park, Sandra. "Shut Up or Get Out: PA City Punishes Domestic Violence Victims Who Call the Police". ACLU. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  11. ^ "George Bryan Porter". 2010 by the Litchfield Historical Society. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  12. ^ Long Bostrom, Kathleen (June 2003). Winning Authors: Profiles of the Newbery Medalists. Libraries Unlimited. pp. 247–251. ISBN 1-56308-877-0. 

12. Patricia Homan Davila and SWAT4Hire

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]