Norristown is a is a small residential borough in Montgomery County, in the Philadelphia-Camden metro area. The town is about 6 miles outside of Philadelphia, between two greater communities of King of Prussia and Plymouth Meeting, with latitude of 40.121N. and longitude of -75.34W. Occupying approximately 3.5 sq. miles of land, it is considered the county seat or administrative center of Montgomery County nestled right alongside the Schuylkill River. The demographic census in 2003 counted for a population of 31,069, which is about 200 less than it was in 2000.
Norristown was named after Isaac Norris, who was mayor of Philadelphia in 1724 and was named trustee of the province of Pennsylvania in the will of Willaim Penn. Before Penn faced legal issues involving his arrest in 1706, Norris brought the land from Penn which subsequently was named after Norris after the purchase. In his lifetime Norris was greatly successful in politics and business which he carried over in the development of Norristown. Today, with a number of old cigar and lumber factories still standing, Norristown shows much of the aftermath the rich history in agriculture manufacturing that began there, but is no longer prominent.
To understand Norristown is to understand its residents. Many people have a misconception or false stereotype about Norristown and its people, yet none of these ideas are true. Because it is a suburb of Philadelphia many outsiders assume that it is a rural area occupied by suburban neighborhoods. But because the diverse ethnic population has always been larger than that of surrounding townships (Methacton, East Norriton, Upper Merion, etc.), many people mistake the town for a "ghetto" where "other" races reside. This concept is supposedly reflected in the learning ability of the students and job opportunities for the residents, because all are working class.
Norristown is a center for emerging diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds. The students of the schools in the Norristown Area School District are above average, with over half ranging from proficient to advanced in math and reading assessments. The crime level is very low and though do not keep your door unlocked at night. It is a safe community in which to raise a family. The town is very family-oriented and is mostly residential, with several business districts scattered throughout, particularly on Main Street between Swede and Markley Streets and on Marshall Street west of Markley Street. Main Street is the central east-west corridor in town, and Markley is the main north-south route.
Norristown hosts major annual celebrations such as Community Day and the Food Family and Fun Festival. A farmer's market operates on Main Street near the County Court House on Thursday afternoons in the summer.
The main east-west route to Norristown is Ridge Pike, also known as Main Street within the boundaries of Norristown and part of West Norriton Township. (Ridge Pike is the same as Ridge Avenue once it enters Philadelphia.) The main north-south routes are US 202, which becomes Dekalb Street once it enters Norristown northbound from King of Prussia. The alternate route is Markley Street, which runs both north- and southbound in Norristown.
Most people own their own vehicles, but a large percentage rely on public transportation run by SEPTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (www.septa.org). The main transportation hub in Norristown is the Norristown Transportation Center at the intersection of Lafayette and Swede Streets. SEPTA offers three public transportation choices to and from Norristown: buses from most surrounding towns and Philadelphia, the Manayunk/Norristown regional rail line to Philadelphia, and the Norristown High Speed light rail line, which travels from Norristown to the Main Line (Bryn Mawr, Haverford, etc.) to 69th Street in Upper Darby and continuing on to Philadelphia via the Market-Frankford El.
Norristown has a long historic background. The settlement was established with a few homes and businesses in the late 1700s and was incorporated as a borough in 1830. It one of the oldest towns in Pennsylvania. On the Schuylkill River, Norristown was named a Central Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. It still features 19th- and 20th-century structures, both homes and industrial buildings. Most of the original 1784 Town of Norris is included in the old business and government center, whose focal point is the Montgomery County Courthouse. The past and present vitality of the borough's core is indicated by the variety of buildings in this part of the District: the County jail, the YMCA, the mid-19th-century Odd Fellows Hall, three historic 19th-century churches, and a number of old commercial buildings.
One of Norristown's main modern attractions is the Elmwood Park Zoo on Harding Boulevard. The zoo is clean, safe, and a manageable size to take in for an afternoon. Visitors can get close to the animals (most of which are North American species). The otter exhibit is a particular favorite with children. In June 2010, the zoo opened a walk-through butterfly exhibit where butterflies fly about freely and land on one's clothes.
Norristown is not a very happening place when it comes to activities, although the Marshall Street shopping corridor can get very lively, with many stores and restaurants open relatively late. Because Norristown is mainly residential, most people find their entertainment just beyond the borders. Norristown is nestled between King of Prussia and Plymouth Meeting, no more than 15 minutes from either. These two towns are major entertainment and shopping districts in the area. King of Prussia has the second largest mall in the United States, the King of Prussia Mall (Plaza and Court). The Plymouth Meeting Mall on Germantown Pike is smaller but has been expanded. During this expansion the mall opened a number of stores that are not included at King of Prussia, as well as an "outdoor lifestyle section" of culturally inspired restaurants, little shops, a Whole Foods grocery store, and various chain restaurants such as Dave & Busters and P.F. Chang's. Both malls have AMC/United Artist movies theaters on the property, and the surrounding businesses cater to food and entertainment needs.
Norristown is a quick drive or train ride from Center City Philadelphia, which offers a wider variety of food, shopping, and cultural activities than the malls.
On the Schuylkill River Trail, Norristown also provides excellent walking and bicycling routes to Valley Forge National Park (approximately 3.5 miles) and eastward to the attractions of Manayunk (11 miles) and the Philadelphia Art Museum (approximately 18 miles).
In the general area of Norristown there is much to do especially spending wise. With the King of Prussia Mall in close range of the area there is always a large number of people who tend to take their money into the area. The large population creates a great influx of new stores and retail lots that create a nice revenue to the county. Places such as Designed Treasures, Larry's Thrift Shop, Main Line Hobbies, Main Changes Changes Clothing and Caliente Boutique are great examples of some of the great shopping that can be done in Norristown.
Food is never hard to come by in Norristown. It is hard to go wrong with the wide variety of ethnic cuisines. The opening of so many new restaurants has established Norristown as a food-lover's dream. Here is a break down of some of the different choices you have if you are looking into dining in the Norristown area:
- Taqueria La Michoacana, ☏ .
- El Puerto Jarocho, ☏ .
- LA Poblanita Mexican Bar, ☏ .
- Alfredo's Restaurant, ☏ .
- Maggiano's, ☏ .
- T'Dori, ☏ .
- Rey Azteca, ☏ .
- Lucky Dog Saloon & Grille, ☏ .
- Famous George's Pizzeria, ☏ .
Local pizzerias Via Veneto (Markley Street, Norristown) and Franzone's (Dekalb Street, Bridgeport) have established loyal customer bases for decades.
The bar scene in Norristown is one of depth but also one of up rising. Bars were not very common in the area in the past. There are some hot spots, like any town, that bring in the money and the customer base. These bars are top knotch and do their jobs. With an abundance of cab companies, train stops, and bus availability there is definitely a big need for good and enjoyable drinking areas or bars. Some solid choices include:
- Steppy's Sports Bar & Grill ~ +1 610 272-6547
- Sunrise Bar & Grill- +1 610 277-4090
- Frank's Pub- +1 610 539-9822
- Black Horse Tavern- +1 610 279-1928
- Francesca's Main Street Pub- +1 610 674-1744
- Papa Guidos 637 West Main Street, +1 610 275-7272
A wider variety of nearby hotel options are available in King of Prussia and Plymouth Meeting.
- Norristown Budget Inn, 830 W. Main St., ☏ . Only motel in town. Decidedly mixed reviews.
|Routes through Norristown|
|Doylestown ← Blue Bell ←||N S||→ Bridgeport → King of Prussia|
|END ←||NW SE||→ Conshohocken → West Philadelphia|
|END ←||N S||→ Bridgeport → Upper Darby|