Old Swedes Church joins First State National Park [video]

 (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

(Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Built in the late 1600’s, the Wilmington church is now officially part of Delaware’s long awaited national park.

Swedish colonists started building the church in 1698 and it was completed a year later. It is the oldest church in the United States that still stands as originally built, and is still in use as a house of worship. 

“When visitors tour these grounds they are linked with that past,” said Rev. Patricia Downing, Rector of Trinity Parish which holds services at the church. “Old Swedes Church is not a monument to the past only. It is a vibrant living place.”

Although it is more than three centuries old, park superintendent Ethan McKinley said it’s been very well preserved. “It has remarkable stewards and what they’ve done here over the past 300 years to preserve this place so that we can help preserve it today is remarkable.”

Downing signed a cooperative easement agreement that will add Old Swedes Church to the First State Historical Park. The church joins the Old New Castle Courthouse which was originally part of the First State Historical Monument. Other properties in the park include Fort Christina in Wilmington, John Dickinson Plantation near Dover and Ryves Hold House in Lewes. 

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Help us get to 100% of our membership goal to support the reporters covering our region, the producers bringing you great local programs and the educators who teach all our children.