WHAT CHESTER MAKES THE DELCO BAR TAKES!(Reflections on the DCBA 150th Anniversary in 2022)

A VERSION OF THE BELOW ARTICLE WAS PREPARED FOR THE 150th Anniversary of the Delaware County Bar Association.



About 50 years ago William Cornell Archbold, Jr., Esq., then President of our Delaware County Bar Association (“DCBA") led the 1972 Law Day parade in Chester, Pennsylvania down what was then called Market Street, now Avenue of the States, to the site of the original Delaware County Courthouse built in 1724, in celebration of the then Hundredth Anniversary of the DCBA. Leading the parade was the world renowned actress and singer Ethel Waters (who had grown up in the infamous redlight area of wartime Chester known as “Bethel Court”). Following were the Chief Justice and entire membership of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Judges of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, and the Presidents of all of Delaware County‘s colleges and universities. It was a glorious day not only for the DCBA but certainly for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Chester as it honored the oldest courthouse in continuous use in the United States of America.

Arch, Bill, Archie, but never William, Archbold had been instrumental along with other DCBA leaders including Nick Vadino, Esquire in bringing about this celebration in the fine city of Chester, the oldest in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the same city founded by William Penn in 1682 (the Swedish had arrived in 1643 and called it Upland). But Billy Penn renamed it Chester, the original County Seat of what was then called Chester County until 1789 when it was divided into two counties, Delaware County being to the East and Chester County being the West of what had originally been Chester County. So Chester was the County Seat of the original Chester County and remained the County Seat of Delaware County in 1789.

Chester (geographically wedged between Wilmington, Delaware and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) has been a center of manufacturing, textile and light and heavy industry on the United States East Coast for centuries and even though the County Seat of Delaware County was moved to the Borough of Media in 1850 and a new courthouse erected there in1851, the population, business and industry countywide remained concentrated in Chester. Chester had grown from about 20,000 people before the turn of the twentieth century to almost 60,000 residents by the 1930’s primarily to address the World War I industrial demands[1]. (During World War II the Chester population and war time workers working three shifts 24 hours per day exceeded 120,000!)

By the early 1930’s, Media had five trollies tracking into the Borough with two tracks coming from Chester which itself had several other trolley lines traversing the City of Chester.

By 1950 Chester’s resident population exceeded 65,000 and the major employers along or close to the Delaware River Included Sun Ship Building and Dry Dock, Ford Motor Company, Scott Paper Company, America Dye Works, Atlantic Steel Casting, Baldt Anchor and Chain and many others. At Chester’s “shoulders” on the Delaware River were Baldwin Locomotive in Eddystone and Westinghouse Electric in Tinicum to the North, and Sun Oil Company and Sinclair (later BP Oil) in Trainer and Marcus Hook between Chester and Wilmington, Delaware[2]. Chester was a major retail destination with its retail stores and restaurants, and, at one point, nine movie houses. (The late, great, President Judge, Joseph Battle, who had served as Mayor of Chester and Delaware County Sheriff before ascending the Bench, could instantly name ALL NINE!)

For almost fifty years the electrified sign on the top of the PECO generation station in Chester on the Delaware River proclaimed “WHAT CHESTER MAKES MAKES CHESTER”.

But by 1972 big changes had arrived.

By 1990 the post-war boom as well as the movement of industries for a variety of reasons including the labor market, climate, “deindustrialized” riverfront and the growth of suburban

neighborhoods and expanded accessibility to an automobile, the residential population of Chester had dropped to 42,000.

Only five months before Law Day 1972, in September, 1971, Hurricane Ida had devastated the Philadelphia region but Chester particularly along its Chester Creek tributary to the Delaware River with a 16 foot tidal wave of water literally wiping out almost 450 households in the city [3]. The 1971 flood on top of the city’s other problems including diminishing population and jobs, a national downward trend for smokestack industries of which Chester was a major part, and past racial disorder did not bode well for the city and yet here was Bill Archbold leading the parade!

As we enter 2022, celebrating the DCBA‘s 150th anniversary -50 years later (and at the end of the historic COVID19 Pandemic), it is perhaps appropriate to look back and ponder the changes in Delaware County and, inter alia, the demographics of the practice of law in Delco.

It is hard for me to avoid a certain personal perspective on the City of Chester then and Chester and Media now. I had attended parochial grade school and St. James High School, both in the City of Chester and later during college at Villanova University I worked as a clerk at Medford Meats. I had joined the Chester law firm of Kassab, Cherry, Curran and Archbold in 1968 after graduating from Villanova University Law School with some other well-known ’68 Class and DCBA members such as Michael L. Murphy, Esquiure, S. Stanton”Skip” Miller, Esquire, Honorable Michael F.X. Coll , Jeffrey Sherman, Esquire, G. Guy Smith, Esquire, Norman L Haase, Esquire, Peter Dunn, Esquire, and, of course, our well known Philadelphia classmate, Mayor soon Governor Edward G Rendell.

The law firm, often then known as “KCCA”, had been characterized in a Philadelphia Magazine article as the "Whiz Kids" in part due to its representation, in the heady Sixties, of Nilon Brothers and their association with Sonny Liston, former World Champion Boxer. Some of the Wiz may have gone by the time I joined the firm and many DCBA members will remember that around 1969-71 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court[4] had assigned attorney ID numbers (mine is 08648) to all Pennsylvania licensed attorneys but they appear to have been assigned based upon where you were at the time so that if you were in Chester between 1969 and 1972 you probably have a number in the 8000's. The first attorney ID number assigned to a lawyer in Chester was to Bill Archbold - 8605 and the last assigned in Chester at the time was to Honorable Edward Zetusky at 8679 which means there were 75 Pennsylvania licensed lawyers with Chester offices (or occasionally residential addresses) around 1969-71. While the DCBA membership and Disciplinary Board Attorney listing would never fully coincide, still there were 63 lawyers listed as DCBA members with Chester addresses in the DCBA 1972 Directory of 387 total members. By contrast the Disciplinary Board numbers assigned alphabetically in 1969-71 in Media from George Abel, Esquire (8876) to Joseph Young, Esquire (9033) meant there were 157 licensed Media lawyers while 187 were listed with Media as an office in the 1972 DCBA Directory a year or so later.[5]

But what about 2022? The latest DCBA Directory dated 2018-2019 shows 1186 DCBA members of which 614 have offices in Media and 14 are in Chester! (With 20 in Upper Darby, 44 in Havertown and 22 in Drexel Hill; but in 1972 there were 50 in Upper Darby, 12 in Havertown and 3 in Drexel Hill.) So…614/1186 51.8% in Media and 14/1186 in Chester 1.2% in 2022.

Remember in 1972 the Delaware County Bar Association had 387 members per its Directory (the numbers I am using are based upon the Directory and obviously there was a plus and minus flow at any time in the year). The Supreme Court numerical listing now maintained by the Disciplinary Board includes all persons licensed as Pennsylvania attorneys whether alive, dead, retired, or worse DCBA member or not with a then current or last address in Chester. So in 1972 of the 387 DCBA members there were 63 lawyers listing a Chester address for a law office. That's right, 16% of the lawyers in the County or at least in the Delaware County Bar Association had Chester as their address in 1972. If 16% of the 2018-19 Directory listing of 1186 were still in Chester, that would mean 189 in Chester! As of 2022, per the now Disciplinary Board numbers, Delaware County has 14 lawyers in Chester in private practices or Delaware County Legal Assistance.

Besides KCCA, well known law firms in 1972 in Chester in their then known names included Eckell Sparks & Monte; Hinkson, Brennan and Hinkson; Chadwick Petrikin Ginsberg Wellman and Damico; deFuria Larkin and deFuria, Vadino and Auerbach; Snyder and Snyder; and Catania, Gorbey Pileggi Nolan and Riley (or that had been the predecessor) and McClenahan, Blumberg, and Levy.

In 1972 Sun Ship Building was in operation, Scott Paper, Medford's Meats, Atlantic Steel Castings, and numerous other industrial operations were steaming. LeRoy Wright was President of the Delaware County National Bank which competed with the Fidelity Bank at Fifth and Market Streets, First Federal Savings and Loan on Fifth Street, Ironworkers Savings and Loan at Fifth and Market, as was Philadelphia National Bank.

The Colony Hotel on the 500 block of Welsh Street (next door to” KCCA”) at Fifth and Welsh was a very popular luncheon and dinner meeting spot for the Chester professional and business crowd.

The Hon. Robert A. Wright, then a Delaware County Assistant District Attorney (later to become Delaware County’s first African American Judge) had offices on the 600 block of Sproul Street and he was joined in 1969 by his son, the future Honorable Robert C. Wright, both of whom were to become Delaware County Judges but in son, Bobby’s, case after first serving as a Pennsylvania State Representative.

Accounting firms in town around then had included the offices of Melvin Rudman CPA, and Tonge and Elko CPAs.

Those who practiced law in the City, inter alia, remember lunches at Leon's Delicatessen at Fifth and Market, the Cambridge Restaurant, the Colony Hotel of course, Ann’s Donut, Linton’s, the Welsh Restaurant and maybe even John's Doggie Shoppe on 7th Street and Welsh. Every time I drove into the city down Edgmont Avenue (which became Avenue of the States at 9th Street sometime after the 1972 celebration), after turning onto 9th St. West and then a left winding around the Pep Boys (managed by the late Nathaniel Eckell, father of our own Murray S. Eckell, for forty years) on to Welsh Street and passing the Boyd Movie Theater, the newsstand which triangulated Market Street and Welsh Street at 7th Street was a welcome sight because across the street was Speare Brothers, Chester's original department store, where I, as a young Cub Scout, would covet all of their Cub paraphernalia. But proceeding down Market Street past Weinberg's, Murray’s and other stores I can't remember you would drive under the PRR railroad station overpass at 6th Street (and if you could go right that would take you over to Sproul Street). But, if you proceeded left and South down Market Street there was the Pennsylvania Rail Road Station, a busy pharmacy on the corner and such stores as Much’s but on the right was McGovern's Men’s Store, a city fixture where in the Fall, after the major league baseball season, owner John McGovern would hold a clothing sale and bring in well-known Delco baseball stars like Danny Murtaugh, Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates which had won the World Series in 1960, to shake hands and meet and greet customers. Further down Market towards Fourth Street there was a furniture store and a Philadelphia National Bank branch. At the corner of Fifth and Market was the eight story Fidelity Building where then the Eckell Sparks and Monte firm had been located on the seventh floor as well as the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Lindsay Law Library and the McClure Insurance Company offices both on the top eighth floor.

And directly across the street was the firm of Rankin and Rankin consisting of James L Rankin, Esquire, his son, Charles Rankin, Esquire, and James’ brother, Matthew Rankin, Esquire and the Linwood-Keystone Savings and Loan. Heading South on Market Street toward the Delaware River the City's offices and Police Department backed into the 1724 Courthouse on Market followed by the Delaware County National Bank/Southeast National Bank and on the other side of Market Street were the offices of Melvin Rudman CPA.

Heading further down Market Street I can remember that there had been a shoe store, although it may not have been there by 1972, I think it was the Royal Shoe Store, which would offer customers an x-ray machine where they could try shoes on and put their foot in the machine and look at their foot inside the shoe for fit. I think there may have been a danger issue that eliminated those devices but it was always a highlight for a person growing up near round Chester and may have left a few glowing toes!

Finally arriving at Third Street and Market there was Stotters Department Store and caddy corner across the street was the Swimmer-Wolf Insurance and Real Estate Firm, Half way down Market Street, then the vacant former site of the Bethel Court at Front and Market and you could go straight to the former docks of the Wilson Line on the River (for excursions to Riverview Beach Park in New Jersey and to Philadelphia) but a turn right on Second Street to the office and plant complex of Medford Meats and Slaughterhouse and the Chester Creek Bridge. Returning to the address of Swimmer Wolf and then West on Third Street was where Sproul Street started off Third Street. There was an alley on the left known as Commission Row close to where the famous "twister” Chubby Checker had worked as a chicken plucker in a produce company. That alley continued South down to the back of the Medford's meat plant establishment to Second Street and the Delaware River and Chester Creek. (Once or twice a year some livestock would temporarily escape their fate at Medfords and wonder up Market!)

Heading up North on Sproul Street there was Berger Plumbing Supply at Third and the U.S. Post Office close to Fifth and I believe there was a law office on the corner of Fifth and Sproul and the office of James Cochrane, Esquire (whose estate in Edgmont Township was later developed into Runnymede). The same “Jimmy” Cochrane who told me once when I was caddying for him as a teen at Springhaven Country Club and mentioned my hope for a legal career “just remember, my boy, a laughing jury is not a hanging jury” but I digress.

The Hinkson offices were on Fifth Street between Sproul and Market Street and going North on Sproul was the Sears store (yes, there was a Sears!) on the left before going under the PRR overpass toward the Yellow Bowl Restaurant, past the Wright law office to 8th Street where the YWCA had taught many members’ children to swim then on up to Ninth and Sproul for the Murphy Ford Dealership.

This was the Chester of old.

What happened?

KCCA built their new offices at 214 N. Jackson St. in Media and moved there in the Spring of 1973. Also during 1972 the Chester law firms of Chadwick Petrikin Ginsberg Wellman Damico and the Chester firm of the deFuria Larkin and deFuria merged with the Media firm of Lutz Fronefield Labrum & Knapp to form a 30+ lawyer law firm to be known as Fronefield deFuria and Petrikin, then affectionately referred to by some DCBA members as "General Motors" and as part of that joinder a new office facility was built on Third Street in Media (now the headquarters of the Rosetree Media School District) to accommodate them. I remember attending their opening party and everyone was having such a grand time particularly with the liquid refreshments and frivolity that my late partner, Eddie Kassab, was heard to say he would never have such an opening fiasco in the KCCA building under construction at 214 N. Jackson St., Media and opening the following year and affectionately then referred to by some as KCCA’s “ Million Buck Home". So KCCA had a 25th Anniversary Gala in October 1987… and our 28 lawyer firm broke up a few weeks later!

Eckell Sparks and Monte joined with attorneys Nick Vadino and David Auerbach and acquired their new offices at Front and Lemon to become Eckell Sparks Vadino Auerbach Monte and now Eckell Sparks Levy Auerbach Monte Sloane Matthews & Auslander, P.C. (But the Levy Firm left Chester to join Robert Surrick at Second and Monroe in Media and then Melvin Levy ascended to the Bench and Arthur later joined the Eckell firm.)

Hinkson Brennan Hinkson moved their offices to Olive Street in Media to become Hinkson, Brennan, Donaldson. The Media CPA firm of Elko Fisher McCabe joined with Mel Rudman to form Elko Fisher McCabe and Rudman with offices at Fifth and Providence Road in Media in the Seventies.

Robert (“Bobbie”) E.J. Curran, Sr., Esquire, a founding partner in Kassab Cherry Curran & Archbold left the firm in 1972 having been appointed by the President as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and returned to the Kassab firm in 1976 before later starting his own Media firm.

The question is why this big migration?

In the Sixties, Chester had had serious civil rights issues and in September 1971 there was the flood the result of which was that the Chester Creek waters entered the Delaware River which was backed up all the way up into Toby Farms, Chester Township and well into much of the commercial business area of the city of Chester. (A resourceful Murray S. Eckell, Esquire and his firm brought suit against the Reading Railroad whose railroad bridge over the Chester Creek had apparently stayed closed and caused the Creek to backup into the city and environs.)

As a general proposition it was becoming more and more evident that the hard-core industrial businesses of the city were changing or diminishing. New retail areas had been recently constructed around the County including the Springfield Mall and the Granite Run Mall, both near Media, and later the McDade Mall in Ridley all of which had a significant impact upon the retail businesses in Chester.

had already closed its auto manufacturing plant in 1961. Scott Paper was acquired by Kimberly Clark[6]. Westinghouse closed. Atlantic Steel closed. Medford Meats (which was originally owned and built by my great grandfather, John J Buckley (of Buckley Meat Packing and Chester Packing) and sold to Medford Meats in 1929) eventually closed and was absorbed by Hatfield Meats. The smokestack industries in and around Chester were diminishing, as was happening in many small and large cities in the United States. But Chester did become the site of a riverfront Harrahs Casino and Race Track and a state prison.

The law is a service industry and it was the service industries that were growing in the fifty years after 1972! With some exceptions, the clients were no longer living, working and/or shopping in Chester. In 1972 there were about thirty restaurants or lunch places in Media but now, including the three WAWA’s there are about 75 in greater Media! And, of course, Media has become the U.S, Luxembourg of banking.

As an aside, in light of the past two plus years, the COVID 19 pandemic forced many lawyers to work at home or other locations not at their offices. It is ironic that one of the motivations for lawyers to move their offices from Chester and other more distant locations to Media was that as traffic increased the drive to Media for Court or meetings and back to Chester took longer and longer, after a fifteen or thirty minute appointment in Media, often absorbing two to three hours door to door. More and more people were moving to the suburbs that put them closer to Media thus eliminating a second commute.

But never forget “location, location, location” I believe (hope) that the renaissance of Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware may bespeak a similar eventuality for Chester. It deserves it.

Respectfully,

Joseph Patrick O’Brien, Esquire

KAO Law Associates/

PA R. E. Tax Appeals, LLC

17 East Front Street

Media, PA 19063


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT


The Scrivener acknowledges with thanks the support of his partner, Christopher H. Peifer, Esquire, and the input of the Honorable Murray S. Eckell and his law partners, W. Donald Sparks, Esquire, Joseph L. Monte, Esquire and Stephen J. Polaha, Esquire.

[1] Why is Chester Pennsylvania so Poor? John P. Caskey, Professor, Department of Economics, Swarthmore College, Unpublished Draft, June 2020 [2] Ibid. [3] A flood deadlier than Ida’s devastated downtown Chester in 1971. The scars remain. Anthony R. Wood, The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 13, 2021. [4] From conversation with the PA Supreme Court Disciplinary Board I learned that the numbers had already been assigned to Pennsylvania lawyers when the “D-Board” was formed in March 1972. [5] Honorable Murray S. Eckell recalls that in times past the President of the DCBA was often rotated each year among the “Chester Bar”, the “Media Bar” and the “Upper Darby Bar”. [6] Some have argued that Scott’s decision to move its headquarters from the riverfront in Chester to a site in Tinicum next to Philadelphia Airport was not a wise one or that greater political efforts should have been made to keep it in Chester but that is all flushed away in the past.