Nether Providence Township is a first class township in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States. Many residents refer to the township by the name of its largest community, Wallingford, because the Wallingford postal code is used for most of the township. The population was 13,456 at the 2000 census. Nether Providence Township is located at 39°53′40″N 75°22′25″W (39.894612, -75.373705).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the township has a total area of 4.7 square miles (12.2 km²), of which, 4.7 square miles (12.2 km²) of it is land and 0.21% is water. Major boundaries include Crum Creek and Ridley Creek.
The first recorded inhabitants of Nether Providence Township were Native Americans of the Lenape tribe, who lived in the area for about five hundred years, but by 1740 few remained. On August 14, 1682, two months before William Penn’s landing in Chester, John Sharpless came to the area. Penn had given Sharpless a thousand-acre (4-km²) tract and he settled near Ridley Creek.
By the time Penn arrived, there were several small settlements in the area, which became known as Providence Township. Providence Township comprised today’s Nether Providence, Rose Valley, Media, and Upper Providence. On October 17, 1683, the residents of Providence Township petitioned the Court of Chester County, of which they were then a part, to establish a road from Providence to Chester. The court approved the creation of Providence Great Road (now Route 252).
Nether Providence went through four distinct phases from farming, to manufacturing, to resort, and finally, to residential community. By 1729, the area was producing sufficient crops to allow exporting to New England, Canada, and Europe.
Fourteen major mill complexes were built in Nether Providence, six on Crum Creek and eight on Ridley Creek. The first, a cotton mill along Crum Creek, was started by Thomas Allen in 1763. He named his mill for his hometown, Wallingford, England. The mills played an essential part in the growth of Nether Providence. Millhands lived in the self-contained villages that grew up around the mills.
After the Civil War, wealthy Philadelphians built summer residences and vacation resorts in the area. The first railway was the Leiper Railroad, a horse-drawn quarry rail line, constructed in 1809–1810 and used to haul cut stone until about 1828. That early rail line was superseded by the Leiper Canal. The first steam-locomotive train came through in 1854; it used a single track with a sidetrack at Wallingford. The first post office in Nether Providence was established at Hinkson’s Corner in 1873. Trolleys also contributed to the area’s development. The first independent trolley was the Chester and Media Electric Railway, chartered in 1892. The last trolley through the township closed in 1938. The Nether Providence Police Department was established in 1935 and automobile parking was regulated in 1947 and speed in 1949.
As of the census of 2000, there were 13,456 people, 5,007 households, and 3,755 families residing in the township. The population density was 2,857.7 people per square mile (1,103.1/km²). There were 5,125 housing units at an average density of 1,088.4/sq mi (420.1/km²). The racial makeup of the township was 90.08% White, 6.12% African American, 0.10% Native American, 2.34% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.27% from other races, and 1.06% from two or more races. 1.13% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 5,007 households out of which 34.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.3% were married couples living together, 9.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.0% were non-families. 21.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.62 and the average family size was 3.08.
In the township the population was spread out with 25.4% under the age of 18, 4.9% from 18 to 24, 25.8% from 25 to 44, 26.3% from 45 to 64, and 17.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 90.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.8 males.
The median income for a household in the township was $68,059, and the median income for a family was $78,491. Males had a median income of $72,370 versus $49,048 for females. The per capita income for the township was $32,946. About 3.1% of families and 3.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.2% of those under age 18 and 2.1% of those age 65 or over.
The first area school started in 1810 and was built on a portion of a 78 acre land grant of farmer and friend of William Penn, Matthew Thaddeus McGonigal of Wallingford, Pennsylvania. Nether Providence School District was formed in 1856; it merged with the Swarthmore School District in 1984, creating the Wallingford Swarthmore School District. The Helen Kate Furness Library was founded in 1902.
School-age children within the public education system attend the Kids’ Place for kindergarten, Nether Providence Elementary School (NPE), Swarthmore Rutledge Elementary School (SRS), or Wallingford Elementary School (WES) for grades 1 through 5. Strath Haven Middle School (SHMS) includes grades 6th through 8th. Formerly housed in the old Nether Providence High School (NPSH), SHMS was renovated during 2008 through 2010 to add a new wing facing Copples Lane and to demolish the 1927 NPHS building. Architectural elements from the NPSH facade will be incorporated into a stone wall. Strath Haven High School (SHHS), located directly across Providence Road from the Middle School, educates students in grades 9th through 12th.
Students from the neighboring boroughs of Swarthmore, Rose Valley, and Rutledge attend the district schools.