Day 266 - Governor Printz Park
Right at the Philadelphia Airport you find the turnoff for Governor Printz Park (at Taylor Avenue and Second Street in Essington, 610-583-7221) where you continue down to the river. You will find a statue of Johan Printz in the middle of the park. This is the site of the first European government within the borders of what we now call Pennsylvania. It was here that Governor Johan Printz - 300 pounds and all - established the seat of New Sweden and built his grand residence Prinzhof. There is not much to do on this archaeological site other than walk around and read about the governor’s trials and tribulations. There is also a hop-scotch game about the settlers that you and your children can play.
The industrious Printz arrived in 1643 with wife Maria, five daughters and a son, and detailed instructions to build forts, plant crops, buy livestock, uphold the doctrines of the Swedish Lutheran Church, build salt plants, open fisheries, hunt whales, plant vineyards, grow silk worms and outbid the Dutch and English when buying pelts. He succeeded in many of these endeavours and expanded New Sweden considerably, but in the end lack of funds and the 5 000 mile-long supply line took its toll and Printz returned to Sweden and a new job as governor of Jönköping in his native Småland.
A small marker at the water’s edge notes that Printz was America’s first yachtsman. His beautiful sloop was the first pleasure craft on the continent and it is also interesting to note that it was sailed by Anthony, the first black settler in North America. He arrived with the ship Vogel Grip in 1639 and later became a free man and worked for Governor Johan Printz, cutting hay and taking care of the sloop in what was to become an area particularily rich in African American history.
The Swedish settlers under the leadership of Printz, got along particularly well with the Native Indian population that is said to have preferred the Swedes to the Dutch and the English. One of the thirty clergymen who served the Swedish congregation translated much of the Bible to the Lenape Native Indian language.
The seven-acre park on Tinicum Island on the western shore of the Delaware River occupies the site of New Sweden’s capital from 1643 to 1654. The first European settlement in present-day Pennsylvania, it consisted of Fort New Gothenburg, a log chapel, simple settlers’ houses, and Printzhof, the hewn-log home of Governor Johan Printz (1592-1663). None of these buildings survive. An imposing bronze statue of Printz by Carl Lindborg looks over the waterfront park on the Delaware. Administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the park has sixteen interpretive display panels featuring key events and descriptions of life in the New World. A gravel path leads to a children’s board game embedded in a concrete sidewalk. The squares contain quotations from Governor Printz’s letters and journals.
To the east of the park is a yacht club at whose gate is a large stone monument commemorating Governor Printz. At the main entrance to the clubhouse stands a small plaque, attached to a porch column that notes the location of the chapel of Fort New Gothenburg and the burial ground. The large stone beneath the plaque was the step of the chapel. It is not widely known or advertised that this was the first regularly consecrated house of worship for Lutherans in America. Its few surviving artifacts are preserved in Gloria Dei Church in Philadelphia. A historic marker outside the Tinicum Township Memorial Building on Fourth Street (not far from the park) notes that Tinicum, the first permanent settlement in Pennsylvania, was founded in 1643 by Johan Printz.
Copyright © 2009 nordicway.com and Swedish Council of America (http://shop.mnhs.org/moreinfo.cfm?Product_ID=868 for copies of Touring Swedish America). All Rights Reserved.