The borough of Media is the county seat of Delaware County, Pennsylvania and is located 12 miles (19 km) west of Philadelphia. Media was incorporated in 1850 at the same time that it was named the county seat. The population was 5,533 at the 2000 census. It is also the first of two fair trade towns in America, the second being Brattleboro, Vermont.
The history of the town goes back to William Penn, but the area remained predominantly rural until the twentieth century, and is suburban today. The Delaware County Institute of Science was founded in Media in 1833, while the Pennsylvania Institute of Technology, a two-year technical college, Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades and Delaware County Community College, a two-year liberal arts college, are located nearby. Media promotes itself as "Everybody's Hometown."
In 1683 the Court of Chester County approved the construction of "Providence Great Road" (now Pennsylvania Route 252). The road, which runs north from Chester to within a few blocks from today's downtown, is shown on a 1687 map along with the names of local landowners. It forms the eastern border of the borough.
Thomas Minshall, a Quaker, was an early Media resident, settling just outside the small village then known as Providence, along the Providence Great Road. The village then included a tailor shop, blacksmith shop, wheelwright shop, barn and other buildings.
Minshall bought from William Penn and arrived in 1702, building his house across from the Providence Friends Meeting. The original meetinghouse was built out of logs in 1699 and the current building dates to 1814. Minshall’s house still stands and was given to the citizens of the borough in 1975.
The area remained rural through 1850. On March 11, 1850 the State of Pennsylvania by Special Act of Assembly incorporated the Borough of Media, and made the sale of malt and spirituous liquors unlawful within its borders. At the same time the county seat of Delaware County was moved to Media from Chester. The borough was formed from four farms purchased by the county, totalling only . The borders of the borough have not changed since that time.
Streets were plotted in a rectangular grid around the location of the new courthouse, lots were sold at public auctions, and the construction of houses began. Sources agree that Minshall Painter, a descendent of Thomas Minshall, suggested the name "Media," but do not agree on the reason. The name may come from the city’s central location in Delaware County, or from the biblical area of Medea.
The John J. Tyler Arboretum occupies part of Thomas Minshall’s original . This farm was used by the underground railroad The land was donated to a public trust in 1944 by an eighth generation descendant. The arboretum was started as a private collection by brothers Jacob and Minshall Painter. In 1825 they began systematically planting over 1,000 varieties of trees and shrubs. Over 20 of their original trees survive including a giant sequoia.
Minshall Painter was also a leader of the Delaware County Institute of Science, which was formed on September 21, 1833 with just four other members: George Miller, John Miller, George Smith, M.D., and John Cassin. The Institute was incorporated in 1836. About 1850, Painter gave the Institute the land where its building currently stands at 11 Veteran's Square, and the building was constructed in 1867.
In the second half of the 19th Century, Media was a summer resort for well-to-do Philadelphians. The borough's large vacation hotels included the Idlewild Hotel (1871) on Lincoln Street at Gayley Terrace, Chestnut Grove House or “The Colonial” (1860) on Orange Street, and Brooke Hall on Lemon Street and Washington Ave. (now Baltimore Ave.). The Chestnut Grove was used for a year by nearby Swarthmore College due to a fire on their campus.
The West Chester and Philadelphia Railroad was built through Media on October 19, 1854. Electrified service was opened on December 2, 1928. Up to 50 trains passed through each day. The railroad became part of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad and eventually the Penn Central. SEPTA took over operations in 1983. Woodrow Wilson spoke at the Media Station in 1912 during his first election campaign. Trolley transportation lines spread to and through Media in the 1890’s and early 1900’s.
The Media Theatre opened as a vaudeville house in 1927. The first talkie film, "The Jazz Singer", was shown there. It remained a popular cinema through the 1970s. In 1994, the theater was refurbished by Walter Strine, Sr. and reopened as a professional live music theater. Shows produced there include "The Full Monty", "Carousel", and "Miss Saigon". Tony Award winners Judy Kaye and David Miller have performed there.
In June 2006, Media became the first US town to follow over three-hundred towns in Europe in attaining fair trade certification. To meet the criteria for certification, Media passed a council resolution in support of fair trade, serve fair-trade coffee and tea in local government meetings and offices, ensure that a range of fair-trade products were available in local restaurants and businesses, raise popular support and provide media coverage for the fair-trade campaign, and convene a fair-trade steering committee to ensure continued commitment.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 0.8 square miles (1.9 km²), of which, 0.8 square miles (1.9 km²) of it is land and 1.33% is water.
There were 2,782 households out of which 14.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 27.2% were married couples living together, 9.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 60.0% were non-families. 49.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.85 and the average family size was 2.73.
In the borough the population was spread out with 13.7% under the age of 18, 8.3% from 18 to 24, 34.3% from 25 to 44, 23.0% from 45 to 64, and 20.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 83.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.9 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $42,703, and the median income for a family was $58,065. Males had a median income of $42,121 versus $31,904 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $28,188. About 6.1% of families and 7.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.7% of those under age 18 and 11.2% of those age 65 or over.
The population in 1900 consisted of 3,075 people, whose numbers grew to 3,562 in 1910, and to 5,351 in 1940.
U.S. 1 formerly ran through the borough until the "Media bypass" was completed in 1960. The bypass has an unusual "volleyball" or three-level diamond interchange with Interstate 476. The old route is known by an even older name, Baltimore Pike.
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), the 10th busiest airport in the world , is driving distance (about 19 minutes) from downtown Media, following Baltimore Pike east, then Interstate 476 south and Interstate 95 northeast.