Located in Governor Printz Park, the Printzhof is the structural remains of a 17th-century residence of the governor of New Sweden, Johan Printz. The stone foundation of the structure is all that remains from the first European settlement in what would later become Pennsylvania. Printz relocated the capital of New Sweden from Fort Christina, in present-day Wilmington, Delaware, when he arrived in the New World in 1643. His first home was destroyed by fire along with most of the surrounding buildings in 1645. The structrue was rebuilt, but all that now remains of the Printzhof is its stone foundation and artifacts excavated from the site during archeological digs in 1937, 1976, and 1989. The Printzhof was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961.
Just 31 years
after the English arrived at Jamestown and 18 years after the Pilgrims landed
at Massachusetts Bay, the Swedish sailed up the Delaware River and established
a colony at what is now Wilmington in 1638.
The Swedish, like the other colonizing European countries, hoped their
colonies would benefit them economically.
However, that was not the case with New Sweden as the Swedish found
re-supply difficult and the colonists were more concerned with survival rather
than turning a profit. Thus, the Swedish
government dispatched a new colonial governor, Johan Printz, to turn things
around in 1643.
instructed to increase trade relations with the local Native Americans and to promote
the growing of profitable grains and tobacco, the fishing industry and the
raising of sheep for wool. To do this,
he decided to expand the colony by moving its capital further up the Delaware
River, despite the presence of both the English and Dutch in the region. He decided to set up shop on Tinicum Island
within the Delaware. The island has
since been reclaimed by the mainland.
instructed the colonists to build Fort Gothenburg on the island. The fort came to enclose settler homes, a log
chapel, barns, and the new capitol building which came to be known as the Printzhof. Constructed of Swedish lumber and brick, this
structure was destroyed by fire, along with almost all the fort’s other
buildings, in 1645. The colonists
immediately began to rebuild, to include a new Printzhof. This new structure featured a stone
foundation and was again constructed of Swedish materials, to include
glass-paned windows and drapes. It also
housed Printz’s library.
By the early-1650s,
New Sweden was under threat on several fronts.
The colonists accused Printz of being a cruel and authoritarian leader. It had not been re-supplied in years as a
Swedish ship was lost at sea and Sweden was at war with Denmark. Lastly, the expanded colony had drawn the
attention of both the Dutch and English.
By 1653, Printz had endured enough and returned to Sweden. His replacement, Johan Rising, promptly
provoked the ire of New Netherland and its leader, Peter Stuyvesant. By 1655, New Sweden was no more, having been
fully incorporated into New Netherlands.
that remains of the Printzhof is its stone foundation which was first excavated
in 1937 under the auspices of the New Deal Works Progress Administration. The Printzhof’s remains reside within the seven-acre
Governor Printz Park along the Delaware.
The park contains historical markers that describe the settlement and a life-size
bronze statue of Governor Printz.