The next park in the tour of Nether Providence is Hepford Park.
What’s at Hepford Park
Hepford Park is a small park lying at the center of Garden City Manor surrounded by houses off of New Jersey and Pennsylvania Ave. Its small parking lot is off New Jersey Ave. The park is primarily used for sports for small children. It has space for multiple little league baseball and children’s soccer fields. Near the main entrance is a small playground and small snack bar building. Around the perimeter of the park is a paved walking trail that is very handy for young children learning to bike.
Who was Hepford?
Charles Hepford Jr. was born in 1908 in Glenolden. He attended Swarthmore College and in 1933 he joined Sun Oil in Marcus Hook as a maintenance engineer. In 1942 he moved to Nether Providence. 1952 was a big year for Mr. Hepford as he was promoted to assistant chief maintenance engineer with Sun Oil (it made the paper!) and he was appointed to the Nether Providence Board of Commissioners. He was a fairly unglamorous commissioner taking care of sewer and highway work, including a major sidewalk project along Providence Rd. and a multi-municipal sewer effort working with neighboring townships. During his tenure, Nether Providence first established its Planning Commission. By 1962 he was vice-President of the township’s board of commissioners. In 1962 just a month before the township established what was to become Hepford Park, he died suddenly of a heart attack. I imagine at the time it was a no-brainer to name the park after him. Mr. Hepford was also a trustee at Wallingford Presbyterian Church.
Mrs. Charles Hepford, as the newspapers referred to her at the time, was Mary Hepford. Mrs. Hepford was a former elementary school teacher and active in the Women’s Club of Media, eventually as its President and later the vice-President of the DelCo Federation of Women’s Clubs. She was active until at least 1967, after which the newspaper record of her seems to stop.
History of Hepford Park
Hepford Park’s development starts with the acquisition of land owned by the Aberfoyle Manufacturing Company in 1941. In 1938 the Delaware County Housing Authority was formed to provide low-cost housing for residents and clear the slums in nearby Chester City. In 1941, the federal government started searching for properties for emergency wartime workers in the area, establishing multiple sites in Delaware County, including the one in Nether Providence later called Crum Creek Manor. In June of 1941 the defense department had proposed 300 homes in Nether Providence. The residents of nearby Garden City couldn’t stop the project so they asked the government to make the homes demountable so they wouldn’t become permanent. That’s not how it worked out.
The homes were built by 1942 and the development called Crum Creek Manor, with a 1955 report saying there were 113 buildings – 48 singles, 61 two family and 31 four-family homes, just under the 300 planned. In 1944, rents for these homes started at $37/month for residents engaged in war work, primarily migrants. DelCo residents had to get a special waiver proving an urgent need for housing to move into Crum Creek Manor. In Feb 1944 a child care facility opened at 74 New Jersey Ave and the newspapers have numerous references to life in Crum Creek Manor.
After the war, the housing was taken over by the Delaware County Housing Authority. By 1949 the DCHA was trying to sell the homes, but the price they were being offered at was apparently far too high for buyers. In 1955, however, Nathan Seltzer purchased the temporary housing for $1,071,000 and formed Garden City Manor, Inc. to develop the property. By 1959 he was selling the houses to families. Apparently there were problems bringing the houses up to Nether Providence’s building codes. The township Board of Commissioner heard complaints between 1959-1961 about poor quality work, work delays and so on. Sometimes there were dozens of residents coming to meetings to complain. Bringing the old “dismountable” homes up to code was apparently not an easy task – requiring work on crawl spaces, sewer lines and other improvements.
In November of 1962, Nathan Seltzer seems to have been mostly finished with the project and he donated the remaining ~5 acres to Nether Providence for a new park. A few days later Charles Hepford, Jr. died of a sudden heart attack and in December the board named their newest park after him. Since that time, the park seems to have been used pretty consistently as a sports field for generations of children. This year the township has applied for a CBDG for improvements to the park, so we may be seeing changes coming before long.
Hepford Park in 2021