A Brief History of Parkesburg
As a settled community, Parkesburg predates the Revolutionary War. First known as the Fountain Inn (circa 1734), the building still stands today. The area was inhabited by settlers of predominantly Scottish-Irish descent who migrated to the area to pursue an agrarian lifestyle that still exists in the area today.
An early center of commerce for western Chester County it experienced growth due to its location on the Limestone Pike (Route 10 north and south) and the nearby Lancaster Philadelphia Turnpike (Route 30 east and west).
Rapid growth started in 1831 when the tracks of the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad were laid through Fountain Inn on its westward expansion. Since Parkesburg was located at one of the highest points along this railroad it was decided to locate the repair shops, round house and construction/repair facilities here. At these shops the standardization of parts and mass production in the railroad industry had their beginnings.
Good fortune however was not to follow the Philadelphia and Columbia. By 1857 the system had gone bankrupt and was sold to the new Pennsylvania Railroad. By 1861, with expansion westward the Pennsylvania Railroad moved the shops from Parkesburg to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and eventually to Altoona, Pennsylvania.
Much of the land in the area was owned by the Parke family who desired to establish a European style industrial town. When the railroad shops left town the dream disappeared.
With the name change from Fountain Inn to Parkesburg (1836) Parke still desired to pursue his dream.
In 1872 Horace A. Beale moved his Iron Company from Hibernia into the former railroad shops and established the Parkesburg Iron Company. The company eventually became world known for its quality charcoal iron boiler tubes used in steam engines. At times employing hundreds of men and staff the company had a profound positive economic effect on the area for years. Due to Beale’s Iron Company, Parke’s dream of an industrial town became a reality.
Parkesburg, formerly a part of Sadsbury Township, became a Borough in 1872. The years 1900 to the mid 1920’s were known as the glory years due to the prosperity brought by the Iron Company. The town experienced growth in commerce, population, civic involvement and national recognition.
Parkesburg was a pioneer in many new technologies and innovative adventures of the time. They included:
- Public radio stations – 1920’s
- Parkesburg Airport – 1920’s
- Semi-pro baseball teams - “teens” – 1920’s
- Semi-pro basketball teams – “teens” – 1920
- Parkesburg horse racetrack – 1900 – 1920’s
- Public Utilities – water, sewage, gas, electricity
- Civic activity
- Public transportation – trolley and train
- Business districts
- Active church community
- Public education
By the early 1920’s competition from big steel companies, governmental regulations and the diminished use of steam power had a profound effect on the need for charcoal iron boiler tubes. After fifty-four years of prosperity to the area, the Parkesburg Iron Company ceased operations in October, 1926.
Hundreds of people lost employment and the depression of the 1930’s had a devastating effect on the community. Lukens Steel Co. in nearby Coatesville provided many jobs to former iron company employees.
Enter World War II where nearly 400 members of the community served in military service. The community was very active in supporting federal programs and activities to benefit the country’s war effort.
Recent times have seen an increased population and employment opportunities with several companies establishing facilities here. Noted are: A Duie Pyle – Warehousing, High Energy Corporation, J. D. Eckman Highway Contractors, Shiffer Book Publishing Co., Victory Brewing Co.
The renovation of a former industrial building (Brown Fields Project) into a Governmental Administrative Center has been a great asset to the town. Housed there are the Parkesburg Borough offices and public meeting room, Parkesburg District Court 15-3-07 and the Parkesburg Police Department office and facilities.
The opening of West Sadsbury Commons Mall located nearby at the intersection of Rt. 30 and Rt. 10 with Walmart, Home Depot and other stores has had a draining effect on the commercial vitality of the Borough.
The recent renovation of the former Parkesburg Firehouse into a state of the art facility that houses the newly formed Keystone Valley Fire Department with their fire-fighting trucks and EMS services provides coverage to the area 24 hours a day.
Parkesburg has a long time tradition of honoring members of the area who have served in the service of our country and community. A new Memorial Park honoring veterans and fallen firefighters is being constructed adjacent to the new firehouse.
Today with a population of nearly four thousand people, Parkesburg has become a bedroom type community with people commuting daily to all points of the compass.
Residents like the quiet, safe hometown feeling with all the amenities one might need nearby.