William Penn Touchdown Web site – Chester, Pennsylvania

Near the confluence of Chester Creek and the Delaware River, a small granite monument marks the site of one of the most significant events in the early history of Pennsylvania—the first disembarkment of its founder William Penn. 

In a plot of land that throughout history played host to a Swedish tobacco plantation, a Quaker meeting place, railroad waste, the governor’s daughter’s house, and Okehocking tribal land, the site, located in the now-city of Chester, was in the middle of Pennsylvania’s largest, oldest, and only city.

After a ravaging smallpox epidemic on Penn’s ship (he was immune), an archaic turnover ceremony in Delaware, and territorial discussions with Maryland, Penn disembarked and immediately had the town renamed Chester after a suggestion by a surviving Cestrian. Penn later founded Philadelphia, which is home to a neighborhood known as “Penn’s Landing” (the city bought the right to use it), 12 miles north of the actual site.

However, the actual location remains unclear. The landing site is, according to the historical marker, a block south from the park where the monument is, presumably at the mouth of Chester Creek. However, a block south from the park places the actual landing site along the railroad tracks, near an industrial waste site on the waterfront.

The state of the monument is rather poor. The park and the paths are overgrown, and the inscription on the monument is somewhat legible, as is the Penn family shield. The monument reads: “This stone marks the spot where WILLIAM PENN landed October 28/29 1682.” It was placed at this location in celebration of the event’s bicentennial. Unfortunately, all that remains from this celebration is the decrepit park and its forlorn monument. 

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