Chester is the oldest city in Pennsylvania and, smaller Appalachian towns aside, likely the poorest city in the state in 2005. It was settled in 1644 by Swedes as "Finlandia" (like the vodka) and William Penn landed here forty years later en route to Philadelphia and changed its name to "Chester."

Chester was a longtime manufacturing and shipping city (located on the Delaware River), peaking in population at 66,000 in 1950 (like a lot of cities which then lost population to post-WWII suburban flight). In addition to said flight to the suburbs, I-95 was constructed right through the heart of Chester, effectively slicing the small city in half. The well-to-do with big, old stone houses along with (private) Widener University, a tech park and Crozer Medical Center are on the west, while those that remain are on the east. A series of bridges connects the two sides, a familiar site to anyone who's driven 95 between Wilmington and Philadelphia (each about 15 miles from Chester).

There are currently about 36,000 people living in Chester city: 75% black, 18% white, 5% hispanic, the rest "other." In 2001, Chester ranked last in PA public schools, enabling the privatization of the school district to for-profit Edison Schools (who, as you may recall, also assumed responsibility for Philadelphia's public schools). The median income in Chester is $13,052 and nearly a third of the population is below the poverty line.

Despite crime and poverty, not all is lost in Chester. Septa recently renovated its transit center there, architectural firm Wallace Roberts & Todd (who designed Baltimore's Inner Harbor and who has a masterplan for the Philly waterfront) designed a makeover for Chester's struggling waterfront, phase 1 of which can be seen at Commodore Barry Bridge Park. There is also a racetrack proposed for Chester which may or may not field one of the six forthcoming slots contracts issued by the state.

This is Chester, Pennsylvania.