The building at the corner of Fourth Street and Avenue of the States in Chester had a past of riches before it became the Delaware County Historical Society Museum, Library & Research Center.
The building was pre-dated by its next door neighbor, the 1724 Chester Courthouse. Yet, it had been occupied by various banks until its modern day role.
The Delaware County National Bank, formed in 1814, had its first offices in the general store owned by Preston Eyre at 23 W. Third St., before it moved to the site next to the courthouse for many years.
A 1939 article of the Delaware County Advocate notes the bank’s 125th anniversary.
Many prominent names of their day were associated with the bank, including William C. Sproul, former governor of Pennsylvania from 1919 to 1923. Sproul served on the bank’s board for 21 years until his death in 1928.
Former presidents of the institution included Samuel A. Crozier, Edmund Pennell, Robert Hall Crozier and Joseph Newtown Pew Sr. from the late 1940’s to the late 1960’s.
On April 12, 1883, the first telephone was installed in the building and by two years later, there were 150 phones activated there.
On April 3, 1916, Lydia N. Room, the bank president’s wife, opened the first savings account. Patrons had to have a minimum of $100 in their account and interest rates were 3 percent. By five years later, market conditions had pushed the interest rates to 1 percent.
By 1937, automobile loans were introduced and money was printed at the facility too until 1935.
The bank was known as Delaware County National Bank until 1970 when it consolidated with National Bank of Chester County to create the Southeast National Bank of Pennsylvania.
Thirteen years later, it was acquired by Fidelio, the holding company for Fidelity Bank of Philadelphia. A year later, in 1984, it merged into Fidelity Bank.
In 2000, the Delaware County Historical Society opened its museum, library and research center in the building.
Today, it houses thousands of artifacts pertinent to the county’s legacy and dating back to the William Penn era. These materials include voluminous documents, maps, books and newspapers and actual items such as furniture, baby carriages, sleds and even the banner brought through Media on President Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration.
Even though it no longer deals with the flow of cash, vestiges of its former self can be seen at the museum from the bank’s vault to the teller windows.
Come take a look! The museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday; 1 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The museum’s telephone number is 610-872-0502. Parking is free on the society lot behind the building or across the street in the municipal lot.
Membership in the Delaware County Historical Society ranges from $10 for students, $27 for individuals to $250 at the patron level. It includes free admission to the society’s Chester museum and library at 408 Avenue of the States, the society newsletter and preferred reservations and discounts for lectures and events. To join, please visit www.padelcohistory.org or call 610-359-0832.
The former Delaware County National Bank building on the Avenue of the States in Chester is home to the DCHS Museum, Library & Research Center.