Chester County plans to strengthen historic tourism to help rebound from the pandemic

Chester County has numerous sites of historical significance, including this building, which was the site of the first Pennsylvania Women’s Rights Convention in 1852. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Chester County has numerous sites of historical significance, including this building, which was the site of the first Pennsylvania Women’s Rights Convention in 1852. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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Chester County Commissioners have approved a $156,000 contract with Heritage Strategies LLC to strengthen historic tourism in the county — a sector that was heavily disrupted by the pandemic.

The Luzerne County-based contractor will work with county stakeholders to improve existing historic and cultural sites, create new information centers, develop the connectivity between the areas, and build a marketing strategy to increase the number of visitors.

“The plan here calls for our consultant to help us rebuild the lost tourism, especially as we lead up to, and prepare for Chester County’s celebration of our nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026,” Commissioner Marian Moskowitz said in a statement Tuesday announcing the contract.

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Funding comes by way of the Delaware Valley Regional Finance Authority as part of Chesco’s VISTA2025. It’s a public-private partnership that looks to find the balance between progress and preservation that stimulates economic improvement while maintaining the “sense of place” in Chester County.

The Chester County Planning Commission is partnering with the Chester County History Center, the Heritage Task Force, Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau, and America250PA Chester County Commission to work on the historic sites.

Brian O’Leary is the executive director of the county’s Planning Commission. He said they have been discussing the possibility of entering into a contract to tackle tourism for a few years.

The county was seeking a comprehensive approach rather than a fragmented one on the municipal level.

“Well, then the pandemic hit — and the pandemic certainly really hurt our businesses that are associated with heritage tourism,” O’Leary said.

This accelerated the process of finding a contractor. The plan that the county stakeholders alongside the contractor will complete will be an extensive one. After analyzing the capacity of the sites, the county will also be searching for themes to group some of them together.

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“The framework for our heritage efforts are outlined in our comprehensive plan, Landscapes3, and it’s got six goals and one is ‘appreciate.’ And that’s really about appreciating our history. This is helping implement that plan,” O’Leary said.

Commissioner Michelle Kichline is leading the county’s America250 semiquincentennial commemoration.

“The plan will give us clearer direction for the 250th celebration, and it will also encourage ongoing investment into the maintenance and preservation of historic entities, creating community pride in the unique history and identity of Chester County,” Kichline said.

O’Leary estimates the plan will take roughly 18 months to complete.

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