Top

History

The village of West Grove derived it’s name from the Friends Meeting House on Harmony Road which was built in 1787 on the western edge of London Grove Township. West Grove was separated from London Grove Township and became an incorporated Borough in 1893. The petition of incorporation which was signed by eighty residents, was filed with the Chester County Court of Quarter Session on August 14, 1893. Although approved by the Courts on November 29, 1893 the decree of incorporation was not recorded until January 9, 1894 to prevent confusing the tax accounts of London Grove Township and to eliminate the need for a special borough election.

The move for incorporation followed several years of significant growth in a village that began to develop with the coming of the Philadelphia and Baltimore Central Railroad in 1860. The March 28, 1885 Daily Local News described West Grove as “one of the most flourishing villages in this county” and stated that “it contains some three flouring mills and the largest nursery for rose culture in the United States (Dingee & Conard, Co.), a large casket factory (Paxson Comfort) and a large number of dwellings”. In May 1885, the Chester County Democrat reported that thirty new homes were under construction in the village of West Grove.

The “Father of West Grove” was Joseph Pyle. Born in Penn Township in 1836, Joseph Pyle opened a general store in 1860 in the brick building that now houses the West Grove Pharmacy. This building was constructed by Pyle and is believed to be the oldest brick structure in the center of town. Joseph Pyle constructed many of the commercial buildings along the present-day Exchange Place including the Roselyn Theater Building in 1867 (torn down in 1980), the National Bank of West Grove Building in 1883 and the K&P Building in 1885. Appointed Postmaster by President Lincoln in 1864, Pyle served for twenty-two years. Further Pyle introduced the manufacture of brick, planned and installed the first public water system, was President of the West Grove Improvement Company which financed the construction of the casket factory in 1885, served on Borough Council and was Burgess (Mayor) from 1900 -1903.

In April, 1880, the first street lamps were installed by a group of citizens who joined together to purchase five Morse self-extinguishing gas street lamps. In December 1884 a town meeting was held to choose names for fourteen West Grove Streets. The vote on each street name was decided by a majority of lifted hands.

In August 1885 West Grove was connected by telephone to West Chester with the installation of a telephone exchange in M.E. Conards Grocery Store. In 1894 electric lights were installed by the Kennett Electric Light Company.

The first election of borough officials was held in the West Grove Hotel on February 20, 1894. John P. Cheyney was elected the first Burgess (Mayor) in what amounted to a Democratic landslide. The Democrats won every office including Mayor, six school directors, two Squires, Constable, Assessor and Tax Collector, two Assistant Assessors, three Auditors, Town Clerk and High Constable. The first council meeting was held March 6, 1894 in the Library Room on the second floor of the National Bank Building on Exchange Place.

No brief history of West Grove would be complete without a word on the rose business. In 1868 Charles Dingee and Alfred Conard founded the Dingee & Conard Nursery, a commercial grower of fruit trees, roses and other nursery products. In the late 1880’s the West Grove Post Office was the second biggest in Chester County, largely due to the volume of nursery products shipped by Dingee & Conrad. Early business names were influenced by the rose industry with the Hotel Roseboro built in 1908 and the Roselyn Theater opened by the West Grove Fire Company in 1914 and the Roseboro Tea Room built in 1922. Throughout the early 1900’s, West Grove was known as the “Home of Roses”.