In 1850, the voters of Delaware County chose Media as the County Seat, moving it from Chester City to the geographical center of the County. Media means “middle.” In its early days, many Philadelphia residents maintained “summer” homes in Media. The town was served by several trolley lines, buses and the R-3 train line, which made Media very accessible. Many of the buildings and homes were built in the 1880’s, which gives Media’s architecture its Victorian feel and charm.
A courthouse was erected and, although modified over the years, the original structure remains today. A town by design grew up around the courthouse. It was a mixture of shops, offices and homes and quickly became the commercial hub of central Delaware County. At the Centennial of Media in 1950, there were five grocery stores, four shoe stores, six auto dealerships, two department stores, two movie theaters, furniture stores, bakeries, toy stores, 5-and-10-cent stores and numerous restaurants which served the courthouse and office clientele. It resembled and was the iconic “Main Street, USA” depicted in today’s Disney World.
In the late 1960’s and early to mid 70’s, Media began a noticeable decline. The Route 1 By-pass opened that diverted traffic around and away from downtown Media. Then, two shopping malls opened on the eastern and western sides of Media along Baltimore Pike. Retail shopping was changing. Media’s downtown was going out of fashion. Along came the big box stores and giant retailers. The traditional retailers simply could not compete. One by one, State Street lost its beloved retail shops. Worse yet, crime seemed to become commonplace. Media was at a crossroads.
Beginning in the 1980’s, the people of Media began to meet the modern challenges of saving its town. An application was made and Media was designated as a Main Street USA community, receiving the advice and expertise of the National Endowment for the Preservation of Main Street. After a study of the strengths and vulnerabilities of the downtown, the Media Business Authority was formed with a dedicated funding stream. This enabled Media to hire an executive director to implement marketing and promotions to take advantage of what Media had to offer, to attract new businesses and to sponsor events. The MBA adopted “Media, Everybody’s Hometown” as its theme.
A successful effort was made to make Media a safe place by the modernization of its police department. Physical enhancements were made to State Street. New businesses were recruited to locate in downtown Media. The Media Movie Theatre was renovated and is now the home of the acclaimed Media Theatre.
Annual events like the Media 5 Mile Run and the Food and Crafts Festival were created. Regular marches on State Street like the Halloween Parade and the Veteran’s Day Parade are mainstays and the welcoming of Santa at Christmastime attracts many. A successful Music Series (Blues, Jazz and Americana Roots) was created, filling every eatery in Media with singers and other artists. Media just wrapped up the 8th year of its highly successful “Dining Under the Stars.”
Media is not perfect, no place is. And it does face its challenges. But there is a palpable sense of optimism as the town continues to evolve. Rest assured, this evolution will be true to the historic character of Media, Everybody’s Hometown, a town where everyone is welcomed and feels appreciated. So visit State Street in Media. It’s the reality that Disney tries to recreate, where the Media Trolley still proudly traverses State Street, just like it used to do “back in the day.”
— Frank Daly, Esq.
Current MBA Board Member
Former Council President and Former Mayor of Media