Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
Top to bottom: Phoenixville Historic District, The Colonial Theatre, Phoenixville Foundry, Phoenixville Keystone Marker,
Location of Phoenixville in Chester County and the state of Pennsylvania
Location of Phoenixville in Chester County and the state of Pennsylvania
Phoenixville is located in Pennsylvania
Phoenixville
Phoenixville
Location of Phoenixville in Pennsylvania
Phoenixville is located in the United States
Phoenixville
Phoenixville
Phoenixville (the United States)
Coordinates: 40°08′07″N 75°31′22″W / 40.13528°N 75.52278°W / 40.13528; -75.52278
CountryUnited States
StatePennsylvania
CountyChester
Settled1732
IncorporatedMarch 6, 1849
Named forPhoenix Iron Works
Government
 • MayorPeter Urscheler[1]
Area
 • Total3.72 sq mi (9.63 km2)
 • Land3.51 sq mi (9.09 km2)
 • Water0.21 sq mi (0.54 km2)
Elevation
138 ft (42 m)
Population
 • Total18,602
 • Density5,299.7/sq mi (2,046.2/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Code
19460
Area code(s)610 and 484
FIPS code42-60120
Websitewww.phoenixville.org

Phoenixville is a borough in Chester County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is located 28 miles (45 km) northwest of Philadelphia at the junction of French Creek and the Schuylkill River. It is in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. According to a 2022 estimate, the population was 19,354.[4]

For much of its history, Phoenixville was known for being home to the Phoenix Iron Works, however following the company's closure in the 1980s and a resulting economic downturn, the town has been noted in recent years for its economic revitalization that has taken place.[5][6]

History

Phoenixville skyline

The Phoenixville area was originally known as Manavon, after early-Chester County judge and politician David Lloyd bought a tract of land he named "Manavon" (believed to have come from Lloyd's home parish of Manafon in Wales) in 1713.[7] The town was originally settled in 1732.[8] In its early years, Manavon developed around a grist mill situated upon the banks of the French Creek. In 1790, the French Creek Nail Works (later the Phoenix Iron Works) opened as the first nail factory in the United States, and would become the economic center of the town for nearly the next two centuries, producing notable products such as the Griffen gun and the Phoenix column.

During the early 19th century, Manavon saw an influx of Irish immigrants, mainly from County Donegal, who would construct a neighborhood on the banks of the Schuylkill River named "Sceilp Level" (an Irish term meaning "water flowing over rock's edge"). These immigrants would help in the construction of the Schuylkill Canal in 1827 and the Black Rock Tunnel in 1838, which gave the north side of the town the name "Tunnel Hill".[9] On March 6, 1849, despite public opposition, Manavon was incorporated as a borough and was renamed to "Phoenixville", officially separating from Schuylkill Township.[10][11]

In the late 19th century and into the early 20th century, Phoenixville experienced at the arrival of a second wave of immigrants, this time mainly Poles, Italians, Ukrainians, and Slovaks.[12] By the early 20th century, other manufacturing and retail industries would arrive in Phoenixville, joining with the Phoenix Iron Company (formerly the Phoenix Iron Works). One notable type of manufacturing in Phoenixville during this time was famous (and now highly collectible) Etruscan majolica pottery.[13]

After World War II, the Phoenix Iron Company (now renamed to the Phoenix Steel Corporation) began to decline, and by the mid-1980s, the company was no longer producing iron and steel. The company would close completely in 1987. The closure of the long-time center of the town's economy resulted in an economic downturn, however, beginning in the early 21st century, a town revitalization plan was put into effect, resulting in new businesses, restaurants, and apartment buildings being constructed, along with a growth in population.[14][15]

Much of this history was recognized by the creation of the Phoenixville Historic District, the largest National Register of Historic Places site in Chester County, in 1987. The Black Rock Bridge, Gay Street School, and Schuylkill Navigation Canal, Oakes Reach Section are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[16]

Etymology

Phoenixville is named after the Phoenix Iron Works, the major employer in the town until its closure in 1987. Originally founded in 1790 as the French Creek Nail Works, in 1813, German engineer Lewis Wernwag bought the Nail Works and renamed it the Phoenix Iron Works after he described seeing a resemblance of the mythical phoenix bird from the heat in the furnaces of the factory. When the borough was incorporated in 1849, it took the name of the Iron Works.[14][15]

Attractions

Phoenixville is home to the Colonial Theatre, opened in 1903. The Colonial hosts various events year-round, such as concerts and special movie showings.[17] The Colonial is most notable for being the location of a scene in the 1958 science fiction horror film The Blob. Blobfest is celebrated every July in Phoenixville, and attendees have the opportunity to reenact the scene from the film.[18] In 2017, a major expansion of the theatre incorporating the neighboring historic bank property was completed.[19]

The Phoenixville Dogwood Festival has been celebrated in Phoenixville each May since 1943. The tradition dates back to when former Army Major General Edward C. Shannon planted a dogwood tree in Reeves Park in Phoenixville as a memorial to honor those in the Armed Forces. Each year, the festival features amusement rides, food vendors, the Dogwood Parade, and the crowning of the Dogwood Queen.[20][21]

Each December since 2004, Phoenixville has held the annual Firebird Festival, a celebration of the "rebirth" of the town with the burning of a large wooden phoenix bird. The bonfire at the festival is used to harden clay birds crafted over the preceding weeks.[22][23]

Burning of the Phoenix at the Firebird Festival

A Whole Lot of LuLu, a biannual vintage and handmade flea market, is held in Phoenixville.[24]

Phoenixville is home to multiple parks and nature trails, including Reeves Park, Reservoir Park, Black Rock Sanctuary, and the Schuylkill River Trail. Phoenixville is also near Valley Forge National Historical Park and the Perkiomen Trail.

Economy

Bridge Street

For much of its history, Phoenixville's economy was centered around the Phoenix Iron Works, as much of the town's population was employed by the company. After the company's closure in 1987, the town experienced an economic downturn, as many of the former steel workers were left without jobs. Beginning in the early 21st century, plans were made to revitalize the town. Although attempts were unsuccessful at first, by the early 2010s, new restaurants, shops, and apartment buildings were constructed, mainly in the downtown area.

One result of Phoenixville's revitalization has been the arrival of several new craft breweries and distilleries. The presence of so many craft breweries has made Phoenixville be considered a "destination-brewery location".[25]

The headquarters of Customers Bank is located in the downtown area of Phoenixville, and was originally founded in Phoenixville by Ken Mumma in 1997 as New Century Bank.

One impact of Phoenixville's economic revitalization has been the increase in the cost of living for residents, which was partially the result of increased demand for housing caused by the growth of local restaurants, breweries and boutiques in town. As a result of these issues, the Phoenixville Borough Council created the Phoenixville Affordable Housing Task Force in 2017, which then evolved into the Phoenixville Council on Affordable Housing in 2018.[26]

Geography

Church and Main Streets

Phoenixville is located at 40°08′07″N 75°31′22″W / 40.13528°N 75.52278°W / 40.13528; -75.52278 (40.135201, -75.522699).[27] According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 3.8 square miles (9.8 km2), of which 3.51 square miles (9.1 km2) is land and 0.21 square miles (0.54 km2) (4.27%) is water.

Phoenixville borders East Pikeland Township to the west, Schuylkill Township to the south and east, and Upper Providence Township to the north and east.

The Schuylkill River forms most the northern and eastern borders of the borough. The French Creek branches off from the Schuylkill on the eastern end of the borough and runs directly through the center of the borough.

Climate

Phoenixville lies on the Dfa (humid continental) climate zone of the Köppen climate classification, immediately bordering upon the Cfa (humid subtropical) zone.

Phoenixville is located in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 6b.[28]

Annual precipitation averages 43.3 inches (110 cm), and annual snowfall averages 16.3 inches (41 cm).[29]

Phoenixville is home to the highest recorded temperature in Pennsylvania history, 111 °F (44 °C), set on July 10, 1936.[30]

Climate data for Phoenixville 1 E, Pennsylvania (1991–2020 normals, extremes 1893–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 77
(25)
79
(26)
90
(32)
95
(35)
99
(37)
104
(40)
111
(44)
104
(40)
105
(41)
100
(38)
86
(30)
77
(25)
111
(44)
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 41.0
(5.0)
43.7
(6.5)
52.6
(11.4)
65.1
(18.4)
75.1
(23.9)
83.3
(28.5)
87.7
(30.9)
86.0
(30.0)
79.0
(26.1)
67.3
(19.6)
55.7
(13.2)
45.4
(7.4)
65.2
(18.4)
Daily mean °F (°C) 31.9
(−0.1)
33.8
(1.0)
41.9
(5.5)
53.1
(11.7)
63.0
(17.2)
72.1
(22.3)
76.9
(24.9)
75.2
(24.0)
67.6
(19.8)
55.7
(13.2)
45.1
(7.3)
36.4
(2.4)
54.4
(12.4)
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 22.8
(−5.1)
23.8
(−4.6)
31.2
(−0.4)
41.0
(5.0)
51.0
(10.6)
60.9
(16.1)
66.1
(18.9)
64.3
(17.9)
56.3
(13.5)
44.2
(6.8)
34.4
(1.3)
27.3
(−2.6)
43.6
(6.4)
Record low °F (°C) −19
(−28)
−16
(−27)
−2
(−19)
11
(−12)
27
(−3)
33
(1)
42
(6)
34
(1)
28
(−2)
18
(−8)
−1
(−18)
−8
(−22)
−19
(−28)
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.15
(80)
2.87
(73)
3.67
(93)
3.52
(89)
3.30
(84)
3.85
(98)
4.57
(116)
4.37
(111)
4.43
(113)
3.91
(99)
3.41
(87)
4.08
(104)
45.13
(1,146)
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 9.3 8.7 9.8 10.3 9.8 9.3 9.8 8.4 7.5 8.1 7.7 10.2 108.9
Source: NOAA[31][32]

Demographics

Historical population
CensusPop.Note
18502,670
18604,88683.0%
18705,2928.3%
18806,68226.3%
18908,51427.4%
19009,1968.0%
191010,47313.9%
192010,4840.1%
193012,02914.7%
194012,2822.1%
195012,9325.3%
196013,7976.7%
197014,8237.4%
198014,165−4.4%
199015,0666.4%
200014,788−1.8%
201016,44011.2%
202018,60213.2%
2022 (est.)19,3544.0%
Sources:[33][34][35][36][37]

As of the census of 2020, there were 18,602 people and 7,897 households residing in the borough. The population density was 5,299.7 inhabitants per square mile (13,726/km2).

The racial makeup of the borough was 82.5% White, 7.9% African American, 0.1% American Indian, 3.2% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 5.0% two or more races, and Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.3% of the population.

The borough's age demographics were 6.6% under the age of 5, 19.9% under the age of 18, 69.1% from 18 to 65, and 11.0% from 65 and older. 45.2% of the population were female.

The median income for a household in the borough was $86,747, and the per capita income for the borough was $43,869. About 12.5% of the population were below the poverty line.[38]

Residential area on Main Street

Transportation

Roads and highways

As of 2019, there were 53.89 miles (86.73 km) of public roads in Phoenixville, of which 7.10 miles (11.43 km) were maintained by Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and 46.79 miles (75.30 km) were maintained by the borough.[39]

PA 113 crossing French Creek at the Gay Street Bridge

Phoenixville is served by three state highways: Pennsylvania Route 23, Pennsylvania Route 113, and Pennsylvania Route 29. PA 23 follows a northwest-to-southeast alignment through western and southern sections of the borough via Nutt Road. PA 23 heads northwest to Elverson and southeast to King of Prussia. PA 113 follows a southwest-to-northeast alignment through western and northern parts of the borough via Kimberton Road, Nutt Road, Bridge Street, Franklin Avenue, Emmett Street, Dayton Street, Freemont Street and Black Rock Road. PA 113 heads southwest to Downingtown, and northeast to Trappe. PA 23 and PA 113 share a short concurrency in the western portion of the borough on Nutt Road. Finally, PA 29 follows a southwest-to-northeast alignment through southern and eastern sections of the borough via Main Street, Manavon Street, Starr Street and Bridge Street. PA 29 heads southwest to Malvern, providing access to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and northeast to Collegeville, providing access to U.S. Route 422. Less than a mile northwest of the Phoenixville borough is the eastern terminus of Pennsylvania Route 724 at an intersection with PA 23. Although not within the borders of the borough, PA 724 provides a connection for the Phoenixville area to Pottstown.

Public transportation

Phoenixville is currently served by two of SEPTA's Suburban Division bus routes. The Route 99 bus connects Phoenixville with the Manayunk/Norristown Line Regional Rail service at the Norristown Transportation Center, and the Route 139 bus connects Phoenixville with the King of Prussia Mall and Limerick.[40]

Several major railroads once served Phoenixville. The Reading Company Main Line entered the east side of town via a station above Bridge Street. The line passes under the north side of town in the Black Rock Tunnel, the third railroad tunnel constructed in the United States. Regular commuter trains last stopped at the Phoenixville station in 1981, when SEPTA ceased operating non-electrified commuter lines, and the former station is now used as an event space. Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) currently utilizes the line on a daily basis as part of its Harrisburg Line. Phoenixville was also where the former Pickering Valley Railroad joined the Reading. The Pickering Valley was operated as a subsidiary of the Reading that connected Phoenixville to Byers, near Eagle. In 1906, the railroad was formally merged into the Reading,[41] and became the Pickering Valley Branch of that railroad.[42] The branch was closed in the late 20th century, and most of the track has been removed.[43]

North portal of the Black Rock Tunnel

The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) Schuylkill Branch also served Phoenixville. The line enters town crossing the Schuylkill River from neighboring Mont Clare on a high bridge, north of French Creek. The line passes along the north side of the former Phoenix Iron Works site. The station southwest of the intersection of Vanderslice and Gay Street, no longer exists. Past the Iron Works, the line splits, with the main fork turning north and passing through the now abandoned Phoenixville Tunnel, which partially collapsed in the 1990s, and continuing northwest of the town toward Reading. The other fork, which served as the former Phoenixville Branch of the PRR, turns southwest, continuing along the Pickering Creek Valley and joining the former PRR Main Line in Frazer.[44] A section of the line remains in place, and is currently known as the Phoenixville Industrial Track (owned by Norfolk Southern). Passenger service on the line had ceased by the end of the 20th century, and regular freight service on the line ceased in 2004. During the 2008 replacement of the Gay Street Bridge, the line was severed at its crossing of Main Street and the rail bridge over Main Street was later raised by 14 inches to allow better access for emergency vehicles.[45]

Former Reading Company station

Beginning in 2000, interest to resume passenger rail service in Phoenixville was spurred by the Schuylkill Valley Metro (SVM) project, which would have connected Phoenixville to Reading and Philadelphia. However, funding for the project was ultimately rejected in 2006. Shortly after, another project called the Greenline, led by the group Citizens for the Train, was proposed as an alternative to the SVM. It would have utilized the Phoenixville Industrial Track and the former Phoenixville Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad to give Phoenixville a rail connection to Oaks and Paoli, which could then be used to connect to Philadelphia via the Paoli/Thorndale Line of SEPTA Regional Rail. However, no funding was ever allocated to move the project forward.[46]

In mid-2018, Phoenixville began a study to restore SEPTA passenger rail service to connect Phoenixville to Norristown, which would then connect to Philadelphia. In 2020, PennDOT finalized a study to extend passenger rail service from Norristown to Reading, which would include a stop in Phoenixville.[47] In 2021, Amtrak revealed a similar plan that would allow rail service from Reading to New York City, which would also include a stop in Phoenixville.[48] In 2022, the Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority was created to advance the project forward, with Phoenixville mayor Peter Urscheler serving as one of three authority members for Chester County.[49]

Government

Phoenixville Borough Hall

Phoenixville is governed by a mayor and a borough council. The Borough Council consists of eight members, two for each of four wards: North, East, Middle, and West. Each ward is further divided into three numbered election precincts.

The Borough Council governs over the various borough departments, boards & commissions, consultant services, and the Phoenixville Police Department.[50]

The current Mayor of Phoenixville is Peter Urscheler, having served since January 2, 2018.

Borough Council members

As of January 2, 2024

Ward Council member Party Position Term ends
Middle Jonathan M. Ewald Democratic President 2027
Middle Beth Burckley Democratic Vice President 2025
West Brian Moore Democratic Assistant Secretary 2027
East James Carminito Democratic 2025
West Dana Dugan Democratic 2025
North Richard M. Kirkner Democratic 2025
North David Strenfel Democratic 2027
East Brian Weiss Democratic 2027

Phoenixville is part of Pennsylvania's 6th congressional District (represented by Chrissy Houlahan), District 26 of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (represented by Paul Friel), and District 44 of the Pennsylvania Senate (represented by Katie Muth).

Education

Public school

Phoenixville is served by the Phoenixville Area School District, which also serves the surrounding municipalities of East Pikeland and Schuylkill Townships. The district has an early learning center and three elementary schools, Barkley, Manavon, and Schuylkill, each serving sections of the borough. Phoenixville Area Middle School and Phoenixville Area High School serve the entire borough and school district for secondary education. High school students can choose to attend the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) Technical College High School Pickering Campus for specific hands-on training in particular fields of study.[51]

Private schools

Holy Family School, a K–8 school of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is located in the borough. It opened in 1922, and has an enrollment of 255 as of 2021.[52]

Charter schools

Renaissance Academy Charter School, a K-12 charter school, is located in the borough. It opened in 2000 and has a enrollment of approximately 1060 students.[53]

Higher education

The campus of the University of Valley Forge is located less than a mile outside the border of the Phoenixville borough.

The Phoenixville campus of the Lansdale School of Business is located in the borough.[54]

Public libraries

The Phoenixville Public Library serves as the community library.[55]

Media

Newspapers

The Daily Local News is a newspaper that covers local news throughout Chester County, including Phoenixville.[56]

Radio

WPHE-AM (690), branded as Radio Salvación, is a Spanish Christian radio station that broadcasts from Phoenixville.[57]

Television

Voxipop is an online television channel that produces original programming and news based around the Phoenixville area.[58]

Notable people

Sports

Entertainment

Other

In popular culture

References

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