As evidenced by a Delaware County Historical Society (DCHS) map, Chester Creek and the Delaware River followed different courses in 1682, which explains why the William Penn Landing monument is so far from the shoreline today.
In its collection, DCHS has a map named “Chester as William Penn Knew It, 1701” , which was prepared by Clarence R. Fryer of the Delaware County Trust Company and Chester F. Baker a city planner and a member of Delaware County Historical Society.
On Sept. 25, 1933, the framed, 23-inch by 26.5-inch map was presented at the DCHS annual meeting. The drawing depicts a comparison of 1932 Chester street grid with how the area appeared in 1791.
Even though Penn arrived in Pennsylvania 19 years earlier than the time the map depicts, it is believed to be a close representation of what the state’s founder saw when his feet stepped onto land.
In 1681, King Charles II gave Penn the land grant as a way to eliminate the debt he owed the Quaker’s father, Admiral Penn.
During his lifetime, Penn made two visits to the New World, the first of which was in October 1682.
The Delaware River and Chester Creek in the 1700’s were much wider with the shoreline on Front Street. It was here, near Penn Street, that Penn actually set foot, and where in 1882 Chester constructed a monument commemorating his arrival.
The DCHS map clearly depicts Penn’s landing point as well as showing the creek and river position against the street layout of 1932.
Also noted on rectangular and square parcels are many landowners, such as Caleb Pusey, John and Francis Wade, David Lloyd and Jonas Sandelands.
Other landmarks are highlighted, including the Swedes’ burial ground on James Street and the Friends’ Meetinghouse on Front Street.
Students who visit DCHS are sometimes perplexed by how Penn’s landing spot is so far from the water. A quick look at this map easily displays how the courses of the river and creek changed over time.
This map is on display at the home of Delaware County Historical Society, located at 408 Avenue of the States in Chester. It is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday; 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Parking is free in the lot behind the building or across the street in the city’s municipal lot.
For more information or for ways to get involved, please call 610-359-0832.