Perhaps the most obvious change is the different physical appearance of Upland. The great homes of the Crozer family have either been put to private use or swept aside in the name of progress. Everything from private and public housing to schools and nursing homes has evolved from the Crozer estates.
It was during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s that changes were made in the street system of the borough. One of the earliest targets for change was the junction of Kerlin Street and Upland Avenue. As early as 1927 the council passed an ordinance to widen Kerlin Street from Upland Avenue to the Kerlin Street bridge. The legal problems involved with this project resulted in inaction at the time. Instead council concerned itself with the use of traffic lights and stop signs to control the flow of traffic.
During the 1930’s the borough leaders pondered the question of what to do with the road situation on Upland Avenue from Kerlin Street to 6th Street. The trolley line was no longer in use, but the tracks remained. Should the borough pay the expense of the track removal, or would the Transportation Company or state assume the financial burden? Needless to say the council did all that was possible to get some other agency to remove the tracks. Finally the borough had to carry these costs.
In the spring of 1929 the Upland Borough Council discussed the possibility of providing public sewers to the borough. Two years later a plan for linking these sewers with Chester’s was approved. With all of the legal entanglements resolved, a contract was awarded at a bid of slightly over $46,000 in 1932. For a few years many of the borough streets were closed to traffic as the sewers were being installed. As is the case today, costs ran higher than anticipated and the total cost was over $82,000.
In 1934 other changes in the appearance of Upland came about as the Philadelphia Electric Company was granted a contract to install street lights in the borough. This public improvement, along with the sewer system and traffic light changes, did much to alter the physical appearance of the borough.
Understanding our history requires more than a description of public improvements. Sooner or later discussions of the borough’s past turn attention to the Great Depression and its effects on Upland.
The full effect of the depression can be recognized from several facts mentioned in the Minutes of Borough Council. In 1928 the borough treasury contained over $11,000. By 1932 the balance was slightly over $1,000. Much of the reason for this sharp decrease is that while the expenses of the borough continued, the ability of its citizens to pay taxes lessened. For example, there were 30 citizens exonerated of taxes in 1930 and 290 citizens exonerated in 1932.
The financial situation brought about by the depression gave rise to a taxpayers association in Upland. The views about a tax reduction were presented by this group to Borough Council in 1933. The tax rate was reduced from 13.5 to 12 mils. It had been as high as 15 mils from 1928 to 1931. In 1934 the sewer assessments were also lowered.
Another insight into the financial situation of the borough during the depression centers around attempts to maintain or increase the taxable areas within the town. An example of council’s attempt to maintain a steady tax base is their reaction to the sale of the Chessauque Mill in 1934 and the possible removal of the Collins and Aikman firm from the borough in 1940.
Borough leaders attempted to broaden its tax base by examining the possibility of taxing the Crozer Seminary properties in 1930 and new lands purchased by the Salvation Army in 1938. It was found impossible to tax these institutions, but the Seminary agreed to give $60 per month to the Upland Boy’s Club. In 1939 the council passed an ordinance prohibiting additional tax-free land in the borough in reaction to the 1938 Salvation Army land purchase. In 1947 the Seminary donated $250 for a police car radio.
In the late 1930’s war clouds were gathering in the world. Five months before Pearl Harbor was attacked a local committee of civil defense was established. The start of World War II brought this report in Council, “Officer James Ilg, of Parkside, informed council of the urgent need for the immediate organizing of Civilian Defense Groups and told of the procedure which had been followed in Parkside. The minimum requirements of the plan were ten fire policemen to be badged. . . . one fireman to be sent to Edgewood Arsenal to receive instructions in handling incendiary bombs. He also pointed out that our fire apparatus would be called to help handle any fire in defense industries in the Delaware River Area, which would leave the problem of combating local fires entirely on the auxiliary group.”
Within the next few months, the borough purchased six practice incendiary bombs for public instruction and decided to rent films of instruction. In June of 1943, as the American effort in the war increased, a flag pole and honor roll was erected at 6th and Church Streets to honor those men of Upland who gave their lives in the war effort.
When our nation became involved in the Korean War, military operations had changed so instead of civil defense consisting of public instruction on incendiary bombs, it consisted of air-raid drills in the schools and evacuation plans for the borough. The borough had a civil defense unit composed of no less than eight different divisions. There were even plans to build a footbridge across Chester Creek at 3rd Street in case evacuation became necessary.
The early 1940’s brought a federal housing project to the borough. The industries along the Delaware River, with their increasing labor force, created a need for such housing in the area. The population growth in the borough from 1940 to 1950 reflects the importance of the federal housing. Also of importance to the borough was the type of housing established by the federal government. By 1946 the Borough Council had enacted a zoning ordinance forbidding future row homes in the borough.
This zoning ordinance was soon the subject of much public and private discussion in Upland. Another of the Crozer estates, the J. Lewis Crozer tract, was the target site for a development of row homes. In 1947 the owners of the J. Lewis Crozer tract asked the Borough Council to change the zoning code to allow business on Upland Avenue and permit units of 15 instead on 6 for row homes. Council did amend the ordinance to allow 8 homes in a row and would permit a total of 162 units. The only immediate result was the erection of the Merton-Price building in 1948. Five years later the talk of an 8 row home unit in that area resulted in citizens petitioning council to disapprove any such plan. Council did reject the row home idea and the tract remained undeveloped until the current Upland Shopping Center was erected in 1967.
Upland was changed physically in 1951 when a housing development on Mulberry Street was begun by the Nessen Building Company. This development of double homes extended beyond the Upland-Parkside boundary line. By the mid 1950’s, Upland had grown physically in its northern and western areas.