History of Chestnut Hill
The Suburb in the City
Chestnut Hill became part of Philadelphia in 1854 when the state legislature annexed some 129 square miles to the old city of Philadelphia, which occupied the land between the Schuykill and the Delaware Rivers. The village of Chestnut Hill lay ten miles north of city hall and served as a way station for travelers and a gathering place for the surrounding farms and the mills operating on the Wissahickon Creek.
According to David R. Contosta’s definitive history, Suburb in the City: Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, 1850- 1990, prosperous Philadelphians first headed to Chestnut Hill to escape the summer heat of the low-lying old city. When the railroad provided a link in 1854, suburban development took off. The village provided services to the new suburbanites and the new commuters lived in the comfortable, breezy enclave of Chestnut Hill while they depended on the city for their livelihood and culture.
To this day, Chestnut Hill remains a highly livable suburb in the city. Bordered by Fairmount Park, the largest city park in the country, and served by two railroad lines, Chestnut Hill offers a vibrant commercial district, low-density housing, and a strong community commitment to a lifestyle worth preserving.