A Sense of Place

By Amy Grant, Board Member

Many local residents may not realize that the neighborhood known as Queen Village is actually older than the City of Philadelphia. “Philadelphia’s First Neighborhood” was settled in 1638 by Swedish immigrants, predating William Penn and the founding of Pennsylvania by over 40 years.

These early Swedish settlers laid the foundation for a residential community that continues to thrive to this day. And yet, walking the densely-packed streets of Queen Village, one would be hard-pressed to find evidence of their time here. Centuries of development have turned grassy knolls into unadorned intersections. The vast wilderness that once laid to the west of the Delaware River is now a thicket of streetscapes. Long gone are the large parcels of land dotted with wooden structures and fruitful gardens that our ancestors called home.

For many Queen Village neighbors, the highway that divides Front Street from Columbus Boulevard is a barrier that is rarely crossed. But one merely needs to walk under the Christian Street overpass to discover architectural and historic relics dating back to some of our earliest residents.

Established in 1677, the Gloria Dei Swedish Lutheran Congregation served the families that resided by the waterfront. Records indicate that the churchyard began receiving burials that year. Take a stroll through the grounds and you will discover several recently restored early 18th century gravestones. Hailed as a great edifice, the church was completed in 1700 and is still standing. Take a tour of the building and you will discover a Swedish-style marble baptismal font from 1731. This artifact, nestled amongst other treasures, serves as a beacon to understanding our own sense of place in this historic neighborhood. But like all historic sites battling the tests of time, Gloria Dei is in desperate need of preservation, repair, and restoration.

You can help maintain this treasure-trove of Queen Village history by lending your support today.

Written by Amy Grant

Amy Grant is a graphic designer and web developer. She is the founder of the Southwark Historical Society, a volunteer based group that studies the Southwark Historical District located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.