Recently, Forbes released its list of America’s Best Places to Raise a Family. Figuring out which counties to choose was based on several factors: cost of living, graduation rate, standardized scores, home price, property tax rate as a percentage of median home price, percentage of homes occupied by owner, per-capita income, air quality, crime rate and commute time. Other personal factors also made the list, including: political atmosphere, religious climate, community personality, parks and shopping malls. Using this criteria, Forbes rated Chester County number #10 among all of America’s Best Places to Raise a Family.
Conveniently located 30 miles west of Philadelphia, Chester County, population 482,112, is a piece of history in itself. Created by William Penn in 1682, it is one of the three original counties of Pennsylvania. The county seat is West Chester, originally named “Turk’s Head.” The county contains many remarkable towns, each with their own interesting histories.
Phoenixville and Coatesville are home to America’s earliest iron and steel forges. Kennett Square is considered the Mushroom Capital of the world. Chester County was one of the first and most important stops along the Underground Railroad.
A great place to begin in Chester County is their Visitors Center. This building, originally a Quaker meetinghouse built in 1865, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a perfect example of how important history is to this county. Located at 300 Greenwood Road, Kennett Square, PA 19348 (800-228-9933), the Visitors Center staff offers water and lemonade as they help you find a brochure that piques your interest. A free exhibit documenting the building’s involvement in the “Underground Railroad” is also available.
Located near Brandywine Valley, this area should be the next stop on your trip. Miles of rolling hills, quaint villages and narrow country roads, there is plenty to see and do. Besides the many museums in the county, there are hundreds of historic homes and towns dotting the area, many of which date back to the 1700’s. Ballooning, boating, hiking, theatres, wineries, five county parks and three state parks leave something for everyone in the family.
With 14 public school districts and eleven independent schools (including parochial schools and preparatory schools), Chester County boasts a high school graduation rate of 96% and average SAT scores of 1,075. For those wanting higher learning, there are eight colleges located in the county, several with religious basis.
A rich land focused on history and the family, Chester County is a wonderful place to live.