Is Wawa a Real Town?

The state of Pennsylvania is home to a unique community known as Wawa. Located in Greater Philadelphia and partially in Middletown Township, Wawa has been around since the 1940s. Eight weeks before June 15, 1989, Wawa Inc. announced plans to expand its dairy farm, which sparked a reaction from the local residents. Walter Kirby, head of the Wawa Farm Association, alerted the community and a meeting was held to discuss the expansion.

Kirby said that while the residents didn't want the dairy to expand, they preferred it to other types of development. Wawa is located in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, partially in Middletown Township and partially in the Chester Heights district. Cynthia Mayer of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted that Wawa doesn't fit neatly into either municipality as it predates both. In 1989, Wawa had several open fields, farms, and the corporate headquarters of Wawa Inc., as well as what Mayer described as the last dairy farm in Delaware County.

Mayer said that the dairy gives Wawa flavor and retains it as a neighborhood, but also threatens it according to some residents. Baltimore Pike divides Wawa into East and West sections and traffic obstructs it. In 1989, population estimates ranged from five families to 265 families according to Cynthia Mayer of the Philadelphia Inquirer. A resident of Wawa Road estimated five families while Walter Kirby estimated 265 families.

Bruce Clark, manager of Middletown Township, said that the municipality does not recognize Wawa as anything more than a neighborhood. The district of Chester Heights is located in the Garnet Valley School District while Middletown Township is in the Rose Tree Media School District. Bruce Clark said that no one has drawn a line on a map that says this is where Wawa starts and ends. The municipality includes the main population center of Wawa as well as smaller communities like Michipicoten and Michipicoten River which are small coastal settlements on Lake Superior. In 1989 Cynthia Mayer of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted that there was an indignity associated with being from a town now associated with convenience stores (Wawa Inc.). Walter Kirby recalled that in 1940, the Wawa dairy began selling 5-acre (2.0 ha) lots of its farmland.

In the second half of the 1950s, the city's name was temporarily changed to Jamestown in honor of Sir James Hamet Dunn but was later returned to Wawa at the request of community residents.

Tristan Gagliardo
Tristan Gagliardo

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