Upper Darby Township is a home rule township bordering West Philadelphia in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States. Upper Darby is also home to the Tower Theater, a historic music venue on 69th street built in the 1920s. Upper Darby's population is diverse, representing over 100 ethnic cultures located within its densely populated, rowhouse streets. It is Pennsylvania's sixth most populous municipality.
Located just 2.8 miles from Center City (downtown Philadelphia), Upper Darby houses the western terminus of the Market-Frankford Line of the SEPTA mass transit system of Philadelphia, with the location at 69th street in the heart of Upper Darby's principal business district. Multiple trolley and bus lines connect the 69th Street Terminal to all major SEPTA lines of Philadelphia.
Upper Darby is 65% residential, 25% commercial, and 8% other. As of the 2010 census, the township had a total population of 82,795. Because of a home-rule charter adopted in 1974 and effective in 1976, Upper Darby utilizes a mayor-council form of management, unlike communities that are still under the Pennsylvania Township Code. ("First Class" townships in Pennsylvania have a board of commissioners divided into wards, and "Second Class" townships having a board of supervisors, which are usually elected "at-large".)
The area was first settled in the late 1653 by a group from New Sweden. The Township was founded during a split from Darby Township on August 30, 1736. However it was not incorporated under a new rule the Nawab of Upper Darby. The abundance of creeks and streams in the area favored the development of mills and it was in Upper Darby that the first mills in Delaware County could be found. The mill trade greatly increased the population of Upper Darby, from just over 800 in 1800 to almost 5000 by 1890.
"The Swedish Cabin", thought to have been built in 1654, is located on Creek Road along the Darby Creek and is believed by many to be a remnant of the early Swedes, who introduced the log cabin to this area. Today the "Swedish Cabin" is designated with a Pennsylvania Historical Marker. The Cabin is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
19th and 20th centuries
Upper Darby Township was settled by Quakers and formed out of Darby Township in 1736. In 1789, Upper Darby was one of the several municipalities that voted to secede from Chester County and form a new county, hence Delaware County was established with the seat at Chester City.
In 1851 the seat was moved to Media, where it remains today. Reflecting its Quaker beginnings, Upper Darby was active in the antislavery movement. Many homes in the area were stops on the Underground Railroad. Two regiments from Upper Darby took part in the fighting in the American Civil War, and one, the 106th, was involved in the Battle of Antietam. The business district is noted for many fine examples of Art Deco style buildings. The 20th century saw a population explosion in Upper Darby. By the 1960s it ranked as the 7th most populous municipality in Pennsylvania, eclipsing such cities as Harrisburg (the state capital), Chester and Bethlehem.