Saturday, March 31, 2012 was the Municipality of Norristown’s 200th birthday. The original town, when founded in 1812, was about 500 people in the area just around the where the county courthouse stands now. It was later enlarged in 1853 and again in 1900 and then its borders were redrawn yet again when West and East Norriton broke ties with the area. It is now about 2 ½ square miles hosting many of the county offices as well as many churches along with a community of about 30,000 people. A section in Wikipedia explains best how it was and how it got to where it is now:
Norristown was one of the largest communities under Pennsylvania's borough form of government. Now, the official name is Municipality of Norristown, operating under a Home Rule Charter with that designation since 1986. Located on the Schuylkill River, it was established as a mill town and as a seat of county government.
At one time Norristown was a retail center for the rural areas outside of Philadelphia. With the growth of suburban communities and large shopping malls including the King of Prussia Mall and the Plymouth Meeting Mall in the outlying townships, Norristown's retail sector steadily declined and eventually collapsed.
The seal of the town features a bee hive on a small platform with the words “Fervet Opus”, which is Latin for “always working” or “always busy”. Back in its heyday it was a teaming place with people going to and fro – a very busy place hence the name. Norristown also has a lot of history including many firsts and notable people. Over the years, as indicated above, there have been many changes which have caused the town to decline. However, there have been many caring people who have tried, albeit not to successfully to date for a number of reasons, to revitalize the town.
On Saturday the Bicentennial Kick Off was held at the Elmwood Park Bandshell. It started in the morning and went through the day, and despite the questionable weather, which was wet and often raw-feeling, most people appear to enjoy themselves. I was there for several hours helping to pass out fliers about the Norristown Preservation Society History Day in June. I talked to a number of people, heard the opening ceremony and went on a bus tour that went around part of the town and talked about the history of the town.
So here’s to Norristown. I hope that our descendants will take care of you and work to keep you going, stronger and better for the next 200 years.