Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings
Ownership and Administration. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
Significance. The site and remains of the Printzhof, home and headquarters of Gov. Johan Printz and the "capital" of New Sweden during the period 1643-53, comprise one of the most notable preservations relating to the story of Sweden in America. The site is also significant as the first permanent white settlement in what became Pennsylvania.
The first Swedish expedition to America, in 1638, planted a settlement on the banks of the Minquas Kill, now the Christina River, at the site of modern Wilmington. The infant colony of New Sweden limped along for a few years, virtually ignored by the homeland, until the energetic autocrat Johan Printz arrived in 1643 to direct affairs. After exploring the Delaware River as far north as the site of Trenton, N.J., "Big Guts," as the Indians admiringly called the Governor, chose small Tinicum Island as the best location for his dwelling place because of its fertile soil and because it was well protected by the surrounding Darby and Bow Creeks, and the Delaware itself.
Printz immediately erected a fort, New Gothenburg, and within it a commodious log house, the Printzhof, for himself and his family, as well as a log chapel, storehouse, and brewery. Two years later, in 1645, a fire and the explosion of the fort's powder magazine destroyed the buildings. With characteristic energy, Printz rebuilt the fort and the Printzhof. Until his departure from New Sweden in 1653, he ruled his struggling colony with an iron hand. At Tinicum Island he held court; acted as prosecutor, judge, and jury; and conducted a holding action against the claims to the Delaware of his Dutch counterpart in New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant. At Tinicum were located the first mills, church, and school in the territory that would one day be Pennsylvania.
Present Appearance. The site of the Printzhof and a portion of the surrounding settlement has fortunately been spared from the intensive modern development on the banks of the Delaware, and is preserved in the 7 acres of Governor Printz Park. Archeological investigation in 1937 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission disclosed the stone foundations of Printz's house, and uncovered thousands of artifacts of Swedish origin. The foundations of the Printzhof are the only visible remains of the settlement. The present park was created through the donation of land by the Swedish-Colonial Society to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Sweden in 1938. The park was formally dedicated by Prince Bertil of Sweden on June 29, 1939. 
NHL Designation: 11/05/61
Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005