History of the Chester County Archives

August 27, 2012 marked the 30th anniversary of an unusual public-private partnership. The Chester County Archives, which is administered by Chester County Historical Society for the County of Chester, was dedicated on August 27, 1982 in a ceremony held in Courtroom I of the historic Chester County Courthouse.

The establishment of the Archives was both practical and inspired. Before 1982, old county records found their way to the Library of the Chester County Historical Society (CCHS) by various means. In most cases, the records came to CCHS through the efforts of Dorothy B. Lapp, the Historical Society’s long-time librarian and archivist.

As the growing amount of records began to cause space problems for CCHS, the Historical Society and the County Commissioners came up with a solution. The County would provide the space for the archives while the Historical Society would provide professional expertise. County records that had become dispersed across the CCHS Library collection were re-assembled, back in County custody.

The 1st Chester County Archives was in the basement of the Mosteller Annex of the Courthouse, where the records storage area was separated from the public research room by chicken wire. After an addition of record management responsibilities, the department was renamed Chester County Archives and Records Services and relocated to the old Benson department store, which the County had rented.

In 1993 the department moved to its current home in the Government Services Center on Westtown Road,
where the records are stored in an environmentally-controlled room and there is ample space for researchers.

The Chester County Reading Room Through The Years
Mosteller Annex, 1985 The 1st Chester County Archives opened to the public in 1982. Located in the basement of the Mosteller Annex to the Courthouse, its shelving area was separated from the research room by chicken wire.
The Records
Benson Building Move, 1986
The Archives moved to rented space in the Benson Building in 1985, and set up temporary shop in the 1st floor while the basement shelving was installed.

The department moved to the Government Services Center in 1993. Many of the records were shrink-wrapped and moved from the Benson Building directly onto new shelving at the GSC.

The People

Dorothy Lapp Chester County Historical Society Librarian Dorothy B. Lapp (1901-2000). Miss Lapp, who worked at CCHS for 39 years, saw the long-term research value of county government records and devoted most of her life to preserving records and making them available.

Historian Lucy Simler (1926-2005) began work organizing the records before the Archives was established. She spent most summers of the 1980s and 1990s at the Archives, and served as a consulting historian on 3 federal grants. Her work, based on intensive study of early Chester County records, continues to influence historical scholarship today.