Last updated: February 3, 2023
New Philadelphia National Historic Site was established as a national park on December 29, 2022. In the coming months, the National Park Service will develop plans to welcome visitors. Visit partner organization New Philadelphia Association for more information on the townsite, which is located two miles east of Barry in western Illinois.
New Philadelphia was the first known town planned and legally registered by an African American before the Civil War. Frank McWorter, a formerly enslaved man from Kentucky, founded the town in 1836 and bought his freedom and the freedom of 15 family members. The rural community situated near the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers flourished at first, but later declined when the railroad bypassed the community in 1869. The community dissolved in 1885. By the 1940s, nothing of the town remained above ground. New Philadelphia disappeared as plows turned over the soil and buried any material remains left behind. Today, historical documents, oral histories from town descendants and community members, and artifacts keep the town's story alive.
The New Philadelphia site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, designated as a National Historic Landmark, and included in the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
Several organizations and individuals have worked together for years to protect and interpret the New Philadelphia site and conduct archeological and historical research. Most active among them are nonprofit organizations including the New Philadelphia Association, the Archaeological Conservancy, the Philadelphia Land Trust, the McWorter family, and the faculty and students from the Universities of Illinois and Maryland. New Philadelphia Association manages a website and social media, an informational kiosk, and an “augmented reality” cell phone tour of the history of the site. The National Park Service will work to establish a presence at New Philadelphia National Historic Site so that visitors can journey to the park and learn from the legacy of Frank McWorter.
Additional National Park Service Resources: