Living in Swarthmore: A Guide to the Swarthmore Neighborhood
This close-knit community has a personality heavily influenced by the college that changed it in 1864.
The city a college makes
Originally named Westdale for its most famous native, painter Benjamin West, Swarthmore became Swarthmore when Quakers founded Swarthmore College in 1864. The borough – incorporated in 1893 – was built entirely in the 1930s, according to the aficionado of the Scott Laughlin Historic Home of BHHS Fox & Gardon.
The borough’s social life changed for the better when the college-built Swarthmore Hostel (10 South Chester Road) opened across Chester Road from the city center in 2016. The hotel of 40 rooms includes the Broad Table Tavern restaurant and bar that holds the borough’s first liquor license. “The hostel has done a great job of integrating the college into the community,” says Becky Hanson, a longtime Swarthmorean who is an agent for D. Patrick Welsh Real Estate (16 Park Avenue), founded and owned by her husband.
Historic houses, university atmosphere
Many of Swarthmore’s faculty call Swarthmore home, although rising property prices threaten to drive some of them out of town. The borough definitely has an academic vibe: streets are named after other colleges and universities, and the Swarthmore Public Library (121 Park Avenue) has the highest per capita usage of any library in Delaware County. Outside of pandemic times, residents can also borrow books from Swarthmore College libraries for an annual fee of $20. Swarthmore’s housing stock is rich in a variety of styles.
Working together for good (food)
The city, long a liberal island in a (more) conservative county, is also home to the third-oldest cooperative grocery store in the country. The Swarthmore Co-Op (341 Dartmouth Avenue), which began as a health food outlet in Hanson’s grandmother’s basement in 1932, offers a full line of groceries.
What you get for…
204 Michigan Avenue. A classic, well-maintained 1950’s duplex with an enclosed back porch and side deck, ready to move into or ready to upgrade – your choice. 3 BR, 1/1 BA, 1,540 square feet. RE/MAX Hometown, 610-566-1340.
207 Riverview Road. This remodeled twin features a two-bedroom apartment above its detached garage, so your tenants can pay your mortgage for you. 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1,825 square feet. Keller Williams Real Estate, 610-363-4300.
2 Chester Road North. A rare new build home next to the regional train station gives you the flexibility to choose layouts, finishes and fittings. 4 BR, 2/1 BA, 2,750 sq. ft. BHHS Fox & Roach Realtors, 610-431-1100.
Published as “Living in Swarthmore” in the February 2022 issue ofphiladelphia cream magazine