- Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania
Location in the state of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania's location in the U.S.
Founded November, 1682 Seat Philadelphia Area
143 sq mi (370 km²)
135 sq mi (350 km²)
8 sq mi (21 km²), 5.29%
11,292/sq mi (4,360/km²)
Philadelphia County is a county located in the U.S. State of Pennsylvania. It is coterminous with the city of Philadelphia which also serves as its seat. The 2010 census showed the population had grown to 1,526,006, making it the most populous county in the state. Philadelphia County is one of the three original counties, along with Chester and Bucks counties, created by William Penn in November 1682.
This county is part of the Delaware Valley area and is one of the flagships of the Greater Philadelphia MSA.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 142.6 square miles (369.4 km²), of which 135.1 square miles (349.9 km²) is land and 7.6 square miles (19.6 km²) is water. The total area is 5.29% water. Bodies of water include the Delaware River, Schuylkill River, Cobbs Creek, Wissahickon Creek, and Pennypack Creek.
The lowest point in the county lies 10 feet above sea level near Fort Mifflin in Southwest Philadelphia at the convergence of the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. The highest point is in Chestnut Hill, at 432 feet above sea level, near Evergreen Place, just north and west of Evergreen Avenue.
Montgomery County, PA Montgomery County, PA Bucks County, PA Montgomery County, PA Burlington County, NJ Philadelphia County, PA Delaware County, PA Gloucester County, NJ Camden County, NJ
Historical populations Census Pop. %± 1790 54,391 — 1800 81,009 48.9% 1810 111,210 37.3% 1820 137,097 23.3% 1830 188,797 37.7% 1840 258,037 36.7% 1850 408,762 58.4% 1860 565,529 38.4% 1870 674,022 19.2% 1880 847,170 25.7% 1890 1,046,964 23.6% 1900 1,293,697 23.6% 1910 1,549,008 19.7% 1920 1,823,779 17.7% 1930 1,950,961 7.0% 1940 1,931,334 −1.0% 1950 2,071,605 7.3% 1960 2,002,512 −3.3% 1970 1,948,609 −2.7% 1980 1,688,609 −13.3% 1990 1,585,577 −6.1% 2000 1,517,550 −4.3% 2010 1,526,006 0.6%
Tribes of Lenape were the first known occupants in the area which became Philadelphia County. The first European settlers were Swedes and Finns who arrived in 1638. The Netherlands seized the area in 1655, but permanently lost control to England in 1674. William Penn received his charter for Pennsylvania from Charles II of England in 1681, and in November 1682 divided Pennsylvania into three counties. In the same year Philadelphia was laid out and was made the county seat and the capital of the Province of Pennsylvania.
Penn wanted Philadelphia, meaning "brotherly love", to be a place where religious tolerance and the freedom to worship were ensured. Philadelphia's name is shared with the ancient Asia Minor city spared in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. It was William Penn's prayer, as a Quaker, that his "Holy Experiment" would be found blameless at the Last Judgment.
When established, Philadelphia County consisted mainly of the area from the Delaware River west between the Schuylkill River to the south and the border with Bucks County to the north; the western boundary was undefined. Two counties would be formed out of Philadelphia County, Berks County which was formed in 1752 (from parts of Chester, Lancaster, and Philadelphia counties), and Montgomery County established in 1784. From these separations, as well as other border moves, come the present day boundaries of the county.
The City of Philadelphia, as laid out by Penn, comprised only that portion of the present day city situated between South and Vine Streets and the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. Other settlements were made beyond the boundaries of the city, and in the course of time they became separately incorporated and had separate governments.
Several of these settlements were situated immediately contiguous to the "city proper" of Philadelphia such as Southwark and Moyamensing in the south, the Northern Liberties District, Kensington, Spring Garden and Penn District to the north, and West Philadelphia and Blockley to the west — which combined with the City of Philadelphia formed practically one continuously built up town, the whole group being known abroad simply as Philadelphia.
Besides these, there were a number of other outlying townships, villages and settlements throughout the county. Over time, as the population expanded out from the City of Philadelphia, those closer to the City of Philadelphia became absorbed in the congeries of towns of which greater Philadelphia was composed, while those further away from the city often joined with other townships, villages and settlements to form the newer counties of Berks and Montgomery.
During this period, the city government of Philadelphia and the county government of Philadelphia acted separately. By the mid-19th century, it was clear that a more structured government bureaucracy was needed. A reform charter, on February 2, 1854, brought all the boroughs, townships and districts of the County of Philadelphia within the City of Philadelphia, thus abolishing the patchwork of cities, boroughs, and townships that had made up Philadelphia County since its founding.
The city-county consolidation was a result of the inability of a colonial-type government by committees to adapt to the needs of a growing city for new public services, for example, better streets, police, transportation, sanitation and schools.
The newly integrated districts had marked characteristics between them, but over time, after the consolidation, these characteristics generally integrated into the City of Philadelphia known today. Today, the names of some of these districts are synonymous with neighborhoods in the city, with their boundaries roughly matching their historic boundaries.
In 1951, a new initiative called the Home Rule Charter fully merged city and county offices. This new charter provided the city with a common structure and outlined the "strong mayor" form of government that is still used today.
The county offices were merged with the city government in 1952, effectively eliminating the county as a governmental structure in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Even though the county no longer has a government structure by law, in both the Unconsolidated Pennsylvania Statutes and The Philadelphia Code and Charter, the County of Philadelphia is still an entity within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is thus subject to the provisions and laws of the Commonwealth concerning counties. Exceptions include restrictions stated in the Home Rule Charter of Philadelphia, Act of Consolidation, 1854, and subsequent legislation. The county also is the only First Class County, meaning it had a population of 1.5 million or above at the last census, in the Commonwealth.
Philadelphia has become racially and ethnically diverse over the years, and this process continues. Since 1990, (the year that immigration began increasing), thousands of immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Europe have arrived in the county. Today, the city has some of the largest Puerto Rican, Italian, Korean, Vietnamese, Russian, Ukrainian, Jamaican, Chinese, Arab, Irish, Thai and Cambodian populations in America. The county has the fourth largest concentration of African Americans in North America, including large representations of Liberians, Nigerians, and Sudanese. The Northeast section of the city, and more significantly the suburbs of Philadelphia, contain vast numbers of Indian Americans and Mexicans.
As of the 2010 US Census, the city was 41.0% White, 43.4% Black or African American, 0.5% American Indian or Alaskan Native, 6.3% Asian, 0.0% Native Hawaiian, 2.8% two or more race, and 5.9% were some other race. 12.3% of the population were Hispanic or Latino.
Currently, Philadelphia County has no government structure. Prior to the Act of Consolidation in 1854 a Board of Commissioners governed the county in accordance with the law of Pennsylvania at the time.
The origins of the Board of Commissioners are found in the office of Tax Assessor in Philadelphia County, established by an Act of the Pennsylvania General Assembly on November 27, 1700. Tax Assessor was an office of six persons, elected annually to estimate the County's fiscal needs, to make an assessment and levy a tax to meet them, and to appoint its collectors and the County Treasurer.
On March 28, 1710, the Assembly approved an act that created an appointed Board of County Commissioners, which was changed to a notable elected board in 1725. The Commissioners were empowered to demand accountings of the Assessors and Collectors and to appoint new collectors if necessary. Subsequent acts passed by the Assembly in 1715, 1718 and 1722 expanded the power and the scope of the Board, granting the Commissioners authority to share with the assessors in the assessment process and in the allocation of tax receipts among the various county projects, to take part in the appointment of the County Treasurer, and to issue warrants and levy fines against delinquent taxpayers and collectors. Other Acts passed during the eighteenth century gave the Commissioners regulatory powers and maintenance functions in regard to county lands, roads, bridges, wharves and landings, courts and the county prison.
In 1780, the Assembly passed an Act that abolished the Board of County Assessors and left its functions in the hands of the Commissioners alone, who continued to appoint the assessors and collectors of each of the county's boroughs, townships and districts. Further legislation in 1799 and 1805 formally established the Commissioners' functions of furnishing lists of voters to election officers and aiding the Sheriff in the selection of jurors, as both were based upon lists of taxpayers. During the first half of the nineteenth century, the Commissioners' duties were further increased to include the leasing of polling places, the provision of ballot boxes, and related duties.
Consolidation in 1854
The consolidation of the City and County of Philadelphia in 1854 abolished the Board of County Commissioners, with most of its functions transferred to the popularly elected City Commissioners who, although retaining their original title and duties, were thenceforth considered County officers. Because the City Commissioners were considered County officers, they were still regulated by State laws concerning County Commissioners. The City Commissioners should not be confused with the City Council, as these are two separate entities.
Even though the governments of the both the City and County were effectively consolidated by the Act of Consolidation, not all offices and agencies, such as the Board of Inspectors of the County Prison (Philadelphia Prison System), Coroner, Recorder of Deeds, and Sheriff, that were under the control of the county prior to the consolidation were transferred to the city, though their oversight and regulation were now handled by the City Commissioners. Other offices and agencies, like that of Offices of City Tax Collector and County Tax Collector were reduced to that of clerk in the new office of Receiver of Taxes. Both Commissioners' (City and County) powers in regard to streets and City property were transferred to the City's Departments of Highways and City Property. From 1854 until 1867, the Commissioners also served as members of the Board of Revision of Taxes. In 1867, the City Assessors were made appointees of that Board.
The powers left to the Commissioners were chiefly accounting ones over County institutions, regulatory duties regarding weights and measures (given them by an Act of 1895) and administrative functions in connection with elections, which culminated in complete control of their conduct with the formation of the County Board of Elections under their direction in 1937.
Philadelphia Home Rule Charter
Although not mentioned in the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, the City Commissioners' Office became part of the City government by way of the 1951 City-County Amendment to the State Constitution. In addition, the 1963 amendment to the First Class Cities Home Rule Act gave City Council the power to pass legislation with regard to operations of the City Commissioners' Office. The 1965 City-County Consolidation Ordinance of City Council further enabled these enactments.
Philadelphia County is by far the most Democratic county in Pennsylvania. In 2004, John Kerry received 542,205 votes (80%) to 130,099 votes (19%) for George W. Bush, making it Kerry's strongest county in the state, which he narrowly won. The county has voted for the Democrat in every presidential election since 1932. On numerous occasions, it has been the only county in the state to vote for a Democrat. Even Republican Senator Arlen Specter, a Philadelphia resident, did not receive one third of the Philadelphia vote in 2004, which he won easily; however, Specter switched to the Democratic Party in 2009 and was defeated in the 2010 Democratic Primary.
Districts, townships, and boroughs of the County of Philadelphia before 1854
- Aramingo Borough
- Belmont District
- Blockley Township
- Bridesburg Borough
- Bristol Township
- Byberry Township
- Delaware Township
- Frankford Borough
- Germantown Borough
- Germantown Township
- Kensington District
- Kingsessing Township
- Lower Dublin Township
- Manayunk Borough
- Moreland Township
- Moyamensing District
- Northern Liberties District
- Northern Liberties Township
- Oxford Township
- Passyunk Township
- Penn District
- Penn Township
- Philadelphia City
- Richmond District
- Roxborough Township
- Southwark District
- Spring Garden District
- West Philadelphia Borough
- Whitehall Borough
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Philadelphia
- The Philadelphia Code and Charter TITLE 2. CITY-COUNTY CONSOLIDATION
- Philadelphia Home Rule Charter ARTICLE XI - Severability and Acts Superseded
- Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Article IX - Local Government
- Unconsolidated Pennsylvania Statutes - The County Code
- City Commissioners Office of Philadelphia
- U.S. Census Bureau County Population Estimates through July 1, 2006
Incorporated Districts, Boroughs, and Townships in the County of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania prior to the Act of Consolidation, 1854
Aramingo Borough | Belmont District | Blockley Township | Bridesburg Borough | Bristol Township | Byberry Township | Delaware Township | Frankford Borough | Germantown Borough | Germantown Township | Kensington District | Kingsessing Township | Lower Dublin Township | Manayunk Borough | Moreland Township | Moyamensing District | Northern Liberties District | Northern Liberties Township | Oxford Township | Passyunk Township | Penn District | Penn Township | Philadelphia City | Roxborough Township | Richmond District | Southwark District | Spring Garden District | West Philadelphia Borough | Whitehall Borough
Delaware Valley Counties Major cities Cities and towns
Cities and towns
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