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Norwood Borough


Norwood Borough municipal offices are located at 10 W. Cleveland Avenue, Norwood, PA 19074; phone: 610-586-5800.

Beginnings [1]

Morton Mortonson originally owned the majority of land that is present-day Norwood Borough. Upon his death (approximately 1746), his land passed to his grandson, Morton Morton, who built his still-standing residence (the Morton Morton House) at the confluence of the Muckinipates and Darby Creeks. Morton Morton died in 1781, and his property passed to his daughter, Rebecca Morton Boon, and her children, Lydia and Elizabeth. It was then Elizabeth Boon's daughter Rebecca who inherited both her mother's and aunt's properties. Rebecca had married into the Gesner family, and when she died, the Morton family land was divided among her four sons—William, George, Thomas, and J. Washington Gesner—and thus the stage was set for the birth of Norwood.

In 1872, William Gesner sold his land to John Cochran, an ambitious realtor from Chester City. A year later, Cochran purchased the land of Thomas Gesner and commissioned Robert Morris Copeland of Boston to design the original street layout. This new community was named Norwood, after the Henry Ward Beecher book Norwood, or Village Life in New England, based on the town of Norwood, Massachusetts. The first sale of buildable lots in Norwood took place on May 28, 1873, as Cochran brought prospective buyers by train from Philadelphia and escorted them through the area, following a route through the present-day Delaware Avenue neighborhood from Mohawk Avenue to Seminole Avenue and finally Winona Avenue. At various lots, Cochran would stop the tour and hold an auction on the spot for that particular parcel of land. In all, nearly fifty lots were sold that day at a price of $125 each.

In preparation for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, Cochran constructed the Norwood Hotel on Ridley Avenue in 1875. It became a popular resort for Philadelphians until it was destroyed by fire in 1905. Also in 1875, Norwood station was built along the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore (PWB) railroad near the intersection of Welcome Avenue and Amosland Road. It was later demolished in 1950. With the railroad firmly established, stopping at Norwood fifty times each day, people were at liberty to move further out from Philadelphia and enjoy the clean relaxed life of the suburb.

In spite of this easy access and "suburban" lifestyle, only forty families resided in Norwood by 1880. The hopeful 1877 prediction by the PWB Railroad that "it is easy to foresee that before many years Norwood will be a pretty suburban town with several hundred inhabitants of the very best class of people" never came to be. Concurrently, Cochran fell upon hard times, selling much of his holdings to William C. Calhoun and losing more of his property at sheriff's sale in 1883. Calhoun eventually built thirty homes and took up permanent residence in Norwood.

Norwood underwent great strides during the 1890s when modern conveniences such as gas, water, sewer, and electric lines reached the town. George and John Duffee began to develop property that they had inherited from their father, which included areas known as East Woodlawn and the Duffwyn/"Four Hundreds" (present-day West Side). The latter had deed restrictions put in place that required any house constructed to cost no less than $4,000.

Of great importance in the history of Norwood is its separation by petition from Ridley Township on November 6, 1893, officially creating the Borough of Norwood. That same year, the Ridley Township School District gave Norwood the Prospect Park Elementary School, and the Norwood School Board was created. Further municipal development occurred in 1895 when the Norwood Fire Company was chartered on September 2nd, and the first police officer was appointed on September 25th.

  1. Delaware County Pennsylvania Planning Department, Comprehensive Plan for the Borough of Norwood, 2004, www.pacounties.org, accessed March, 2016.
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