Keith Lockhart fills a room in his Ridley home with more than 500 local-history books, with topics ranging from foxhunting to high school graduation ceremonies to Henry G. Ashmead's
1884 History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania
, or "The Bible," as Lockhart calls it.
Still, the 56-year-old recently retired Ridley police officer and connoisseur of all things Delco isn't oblivious when it comes to the future, or leaving his own mark on history.
"I'd like to keep it running for a long time," Lockhart said of the Web site,
, which has seen steady, if modest, gains in popularity since he launched it earlier this year. "So after I go, I can give it to the Ridley library or somebody."
The Web site's main page says it's "intended for the serious researcher." And if you've ever wondered what happened to the Adamsford Post Office, how many slaves lived in Springfield in 1790, or what the average Aston man paid in taxes in 1763, then the site's for you. (For the curious non-researcher, the answers are: the post office was taken over by Aldan's in 1900; four; and around one pound.)
And if you haven't?
"Well, it's still for fun," said Lockhart, who gets the biggest kick out of seeing some of the old photographs.
"You're familiar with Swarthmore? OK, wait till you see this picture," Lockhart said, and then clicked on his laptop. Up came a black-and-white photo of a church with a large, round window on the second story. One tree, a house, a fence, and a whole lot of empty space stood in the background.
"It looks like the Little House on the Prairie. That's the Presbyterian Church in 1897, the original," Lockhart said. "But look at it. There's nothing."
Lockhart started collecting in his 20s, although back then, he wasn't always as conscientious about writing down information about the picture. "Some of them kind of slipped through the cracks," Lockhart said.
Now, he has a page with 23 unknown photographs on the site.
"I ask people to visit the site, see if they recognize anything. So some of them have been identified," he said.
The site had 208 visitors its first month, July; 818 when the Delaware County Government Web site linked to it off its main page in October; and 1,131 in November.
Amateur researchers with ties to the area, such as Donna Greenbarg of Hatboro, Montgomery County, frequent the site for its tax records, census data, and other information broken down by town that's useful for tracking ancestors.
Through Lockhart, Greenbarg found information and photos of her relatives from the 1800s. His census records also helped her become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.