Leaning on the Land

Governing: The Market-Frankford rail line curves past an empty lot in Millbourne, Pa., a piece of land that marks both the rise and fall of the small borough just west of Philadelphia.

A Sears store once stood on the lot. Taxes collected from the store’s real estate enriched the treasury of the borough for more than 60 years. The store’s tax payments were the single largest source of revenue for Millbourne, enough for its 1,200 residents to have their own full-time police force. But in 1989, Sears decamped from Millbourne, moving one town over to the much larger and more affluent Upper Darby.

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