A close association with the steel industry has been a primary factor in shaping the Borough of South Coatesville because of its ideal setting on the Brandywine Creek and the close proximity of railroad transportation. Prior to the Revolutionary War, smelting of ore in the colonies was declared illegal by England. The result was an eager American market with vast resources waiting to be tapped once independence had been won.
1837 One of the mills that arose in the area that was later to become the Borough of South Coatesville was built in 1837 by James Yearsley and John Forsythe, which operated for 14 years before it was sold to the firm of Steele and Worth. After the death of Steele, Worth Brothers became the owners until 1915 when the mills were sold to the Midvale Steel & Ordinance Company. Housing sprang up in the area with the advent of the steel mills. In the central district of what is now the Borough of South Coatesville was an area sometimes referred to as Boxtown, an unincorporated village in East Fallowfield Township that provided homes for steel workers. A portion of the Boxtown area was also called Hustonville.
1915 After the Midvale Steel & Ordinance Company purchased the Worth Brothers Company, Harry Whitaker was named to manage the steel works. During his time as manager, Whitaker built the Midvale Company Patch at the western end of Hustonville. These structures consisted of wooden barracks for transient workers and double houses of brick for permanent laborers and foremen. Shacks were also built on the Baker farm and became known as Meyers Camp. All the houses for the steel workers had flat roofs.
J. Howard Gordon was hired to sub-divide the eastern end of Hustonville into 1,075 building lots called Plot Highland Park. These houses were built for the salaried personnel, technicians, and higher management having peaked slate roofs. The structures in Lower Highland Park were smaller and closer together and as one proceeded up Parkway Avenue, the housing became more imposing and were built on larger lots. Where a person lived, indicated their importance to the company. At the upper end of Highland Park, the Midvale Hotel was constructed to accommodate visiting consultants and corporate representatives.
1921 Whitaker filed for the incorporation of South Coatesville. Out of 39 signers for the March 10, 1921 Petition, 12 petitioners signed with a mark witnessed by F. Borgnis. The incorporation took place in Midvale (industrial section and Company Patch), Hustonville and Highland Park. Shortly after its incorporation, South CoatesvIlle was referred to as the youngest and richest Borough in the County by a local newspaper because of the growing industry located within its boundaries.
In June of 1921 the Borough was decreed and declared to be a separate election and school district The first elections were held on the second day of August of that year and the first meeting was held at #32 Modena Road on August 8th. The Council immediately appointed committees to organize the Borough’s business. One of the more pressing matters before the Council was to find a suitable place to meet. Midvale Realty Company offered to rent Council the property where Council is now meeting at #32 Moderns Road for $10.00 month. It was suggested that before renting this building a heater should be installed, along with water service and other minor repairs be made. Midvale Realty Company agreed to the terms, and Council had solved its first problem.
The first Ordinance passed the new Council was to set a time for the meetings. The second ordinance passed related to disorderly conduct and provided penalties for the same. The Borough of South Coatesville\e had its first law on the books. The youngest Borough in Chester County was ready for business. Ashes and garbage were collected by a horse drawn wagon. The streets were patrolled by mounted policemen. The Midvale sewer plants were rented and operated by the Borough. Bethlehem Steel became the new owner of the steel mills in South Coatesville in 1923. Streets were ordained and sewer lines were laid in the new streets. South First Avenue was widened and a paving program was started. Within eight years the Borough was firmly established and began to form an identity of ifs own and a new decade had begun.
1930 In 1930 the horse drawn wagon was replaced by a truck. There were no more mounted policemen and the horses were sold the following year. The Depression had reared its ugly head in South Coatesville, and Borough laborers were put on a 5 day work week to save money. The engineers time was cut by 20% and the police force had to be reduced by the same percentage. In 1932 the Council voted to postpone tax lien sales. The citizens were allowed to pay their delinquent taxes by working for the Borough either personally or by having their tenants work on Borough projects. This practice continued until 1939.
Other changes were occurring in the Borough. Bethlehem Steel Company conveyed the Midvale Hotel to the Borough for a nominal fee. New Borough offices opened in the building six months later. Lukens welding decided to build its plant in the Borough. The economic conditions necessitated levying the first sewer charge which was 60% of the water used.
1941 World War II brought further changes. The U.S. Government built a diesel engine plant in the Lukens welding complex and expanded Lukens welding 206 inch plate mill. The Borough of South Coatesville was declared a government defense area.
An all black fire company consisting of 35 members was started. The fire engine was obtained through federal funds because of the defense area status. Blackouts were mandated. The war was over, and in 1946 the U.S. Government advertised the diesel plant for sale or !ease and it was purchased by Lukens welding the following year.
1950s - 1960s The fifties were the start of a new era of post war construction when Marionette Mills began its operations followed by Lukens Steel’s electric furnace building, and Lipsett Steel Products, Inc. opened its doors for business in the Borough. During the 60’s, construction continued in South Coatesville with the Lukens Employees Credit Union, the Public Housing Authority, the new Borough Sewage Plant, the research building at Lukens Steel, the continuous casting facility at Lukens Steel, and a new Borough Hall located on Modena Road. The Borough also began to have a new look when the Borough Council started a program of demolition of the old buildings in the 500-600 blocks of South First Avenue.
1980s The Administrative Resources Center of the Lukens Steel Company was dedicated in 1980 and the Borough garage was completed in 1981. New industries were moving into the Borough. International Miff Service, Inc., Liquid Air Corporation, Matlock Company and the Comerboard Co. conduct business within the Borough boundaries. The Borough of South Coatesville is still moving ahead. The demolition program started in 1965 has been an ongoing project. In place of dilabidated buildings, neighborhood play areas have been built, much needed parking lots have been constructed and sites have been retained for future development. Rehabilitation of Company Patch houses has progressed.
The shacks at Meers Camp are gone. Highland Park has expanded with new homes.
The Borough of South Coatesville Is the youngest Borough in Chester County with a short history, but it has a long future. In December 1981 the Redevelopment Authority of Chester County presented the Borough of South Coatesville with a plaque "for its steady, deliberate policy of neighborhood beautification to improve the image and quality of all within the Borough.”