Hidden directly below the western flight approach to the Philadelphia International Airport is one of the key sites in Pennsylvania history.
After struggling for several years in their initial 1638 settlement at Fort Christina (now Wilmington, Delaware), the Swedes sent Johan Printz to reinforce the operation. After searching the area, he moved the capital of New Sweden from Fort Christina to his new fort, New Gothenburg, on Tinicum Island. Here, he created the first permanent settlement in Pennsylvania and governed New Sweden from the Printzhof from 1643 until 1653. Although the exact site of the Printzhof is in some question, the settlement is commemorated on a portion of its original site in the Governor Printz State Park in present day Essington Tinicum Township.
After Printz's departure in 1653, the Swedes only maintained control of the settlement for two more years until conquered by the Dutch in 1655. The Dutch maintained control until 1664 when it came under English jurisdiction. After Penn arrived in 1682, most development moved north toward Philadelphia and Tinicum remained primarily agricultural. Some additional early Swedish development still stands in the area as seen by the Morton Homestead at the original ferry crossing to Tinicum Island.
Activity in the area renewed in 1799-1800, when the Lazaretto was built just east of the present day park. The main building and several additional structures of this quarantine station are still standing and were built on a portion of the original Swedish site (possibly including the Printzhof site). The Lazaretto remained a quarantine station until the buildings were turned into a private club in the 1890's.
This site plus adjacent parts of the original Swedish development continued to be variously used as a seaplane base, airplane school, dry dock, and marinas. When the Lazaretto was threatened by demolition, Tinicum Township bought it in 2005 and has now mothballed the property. It has also built a new fire station and ballroom complex on part of the site while creating a separate organization to study the preservation and reuse of the original Lazaretto buildings.
Today the area is a mix of residential, industrial, and commercial development. As in much of the area, Tinicum Township has experienced the same rise and pullback in real estate home prices seen throughout the county. Recent activity peaked back in 2005 with 48 home sales with an average price of $140,000. Prices continued to rise through 2007 peaking with an average settled price of $161,000 with 40 completed sales. In 2008 this pulled back to 26 sales at an average price of $146,000. In 2009 we have only seen four sales for an average $122,000. This should rise when four additional pending sales settle which had an average list price of $167,000. There are currently an additional 12 homes on the market with an average asking price of $195,000.
Again confirming its strategic location, it is interesting to note that the site of the original 1643 Swedish settlement is today adjacent to one of the major international airports on the east coast and continues to be a major commercial hub. As seen for the last 350+ years, Delaware County PA has been and continues to be a prime location for homes and development. Should you have any questions, need any additional information, or be considering a move to the area, please feel free to contact me anytime.
(All statistics from the TrendMLS System and believed accurate but not guaranteed)