Willistown Township

Chester County, Pennsylvania

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Willistown Town Hall is located at 688 Sugartown Road, Malvern PA 19355.
Phone: 610-647-5300.


Willistown Township [†] is located in the eastern portion of Chester County, five miles east of West Chester and approximately 20 miles from Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware. Socially and economically the Township has a greater orientation to Philadelphia than to Wilmington. The 1980 comprehensive plan described the Township as within the "rural fringe of the Philadelphia metro area," however the western advance of development since that plan led to the conclusion in the 1997 comprehensive plan that the Township "has the appearance of being a rural island surrounded by a sea of intense development". In many respects, this assessment holds true today although from the standpoint of orderly growth, the Township has continued a development pattern of dense to less dense "concentric circles" emanating from the town centers of Paoli and Malvern.

The Township surrounds Malvern Borough on three sides. In fact, Malvern Borough was incorporated out of the Township in 1889. Clearly, the economic and social histories of Willistown and Malvern have been linked for many years, with Malvern serving historically as a market center and transportation hub for traditionally rural Willistown.

Willistown illustrates several major historical themes, as documented by local historians. Among them are settlement along a watershed, first by Native Americans, then by settlers for industrial and agricultural reasons; interface of early settlers with Native Americans as part of the settlement process, as evidenced by the district containing the site of William Penn's first and only land grant for an Indian reservation; Quaker settlement within a compact area for proximity to a "meeting"; agricultural land use over three centuries; and vernacular and regional architecture as interpreted by the Quakers and later land owners.

The Holmes Map of 1681 holds the first written reference to Willistown as Willeston.

Willistown was a part of the 50,000 acre Welsh Tract surveyed for William Penn in 1684. It was to be reserved for settlement by persons from North and South Wales and adjacent counties of Haverfordshire, Shropshire, and Cheshire. Penn made six grants within the Township, but there is doubt that the grantees ever lived on the land other than the Okehocking tribe of the Lenni Lanape to whom he granted a 500-acre reservation.

Willistown has five resources appearing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Bartram's Covered Bridge spans Crum Creek (Goshen Road at the Delaware County border and is the only Pennsylvania bridge using unique, slanted plank portals.

The Isaac Garret Farm with an original barn circa 1755 (Warren Avenue at Providence Road) is an example of how Chester farmsteads evolved from the 1750s through the 1930s.

The White Horse Historic District is an intact collection of largely late 18th to mid 19th century vernacular Chester County period architecture.

The Okehocking Indian Land Grant Historic District (Chester Pike/Goshen Road) includes high-integrity historic resources relate the themes of settlement, agriculture and architecture during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.

The Sugartown Historic District (Sugartown) is an example of a 19th century crossroads village; it was the most active of Willistown's four 19th century villages, and was the township seat of government.

Adapted from: Willistown Township, Guidelines for Growth: 2011 Comprehensive Plan, www.willistown.pa.us, accessed August, 2019.

Nearby Towns: Charlestown Twp • Chester Heights Boro • East Goshen Twp • East Whiteland Twp • Easttown Twp • Edgmont Twp • Malvern Boro • Media Boro • Middletown Twp • Newtown Twp • Rose Valley Boro • Thornbury Twp • Thornbury Twp • West Goshen Twp • Westtown Twp •

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