Fort Christina

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Fort Christina
Model of Fort Cristina.jpg
Model of Fort Christina, (Location of Model unknown)
Fort Christina is located in Delaware
Fort Christina
Location East 7th St. at the Christina River, Wilmington, Delaware
Coordinates 39°44′13.64″N 075°32′18.46″W / 39.7371222°N 75.5384611°W / 39.7371222; -75.5384611Coordinates: 39°44′13.64″N 075°32′18.46″W / 39.7371222°N 75.5384611°W / 39.7371222; -75.5384611
Built 1638
Governing body State
NRHP Reference # 66000260
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHL November 5, 1961[2]

Fort Christina (later renamed Fort Altena; Swedish: Fort Kristina) was the first Swedish settlement in North America and the principal settlement of the New Sweden colony. Built in 1638 and named after Queen Christina of Sweden, it was located approximately 1 mi (1.6 km) east of the present downtown Wilmington, Delaware, at the confluence of the Brandywine Creek and the Christina River, approximately 2 mi (3 km) upstream from the mouth of the Christina on the Delaware River.


The Dutch, as part of the New Netherland colony, maintained a factorij at Fort Nassau. A settlement along south side of Delaware Bay at Zwaanendael (near present-day Lewes) was attempted in 1631, but the colony was attacked and destroyed the following year by Native Americans. Following plans by King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden to establish a Swedish colony in North America, the Swedes arrived in Delaware Bay on March 29, 1638 aboard the ships Kalmar Nyckel and Fogel Grip under the command of Peter Minuit, the former director of the New Netherland colony. They landed at a spot along the Christina River at the present site of Old Swedes Church in Wilmington. Minuit selected the site on the Christina River near the Delaware as being optimal for trade in beaver pelts with the local Lenape.

At the time, the Dutch had claimed the area south to the Delaware (then called "South River"). The Swedes claimed an area for the Realm of Sweden on the south side of the Delaware that encompassed much of the present-day U.S. state of Delaware, eventually including parts of present-day southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey on the north side of the river.

Swedish log cabin on the site
Plan of the Town and Fort of Christina, 1834
Illustration for Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle"

The colony remained in constant friction with the Dutch. In 1651, the Dutch under Peter Stuyvesant established Fort Casimir at present-day New Castle, only 7 mi (12 km) south of Fort Christina, in order to menace the Swedish settlement. In 1654, the Swedes captured Fort Casimir, but the following year in 1655, the Dutch took control of New Sweden, ending the official Swedish colonial presence in North America and renaming the fort 'Fort Altena'. The land remained as part of New Netherland until it became part of the English possessions when an English fleet invaded the area in 1664.

The site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961. It is now preserved as Fort Christina State Park on E. 7th Street in Wilmington, along with a replica of the Kalmar Nyckel. The Fort Christina monument, designed by Swedish sculptor Carl Milles, stands on the site.[2][3]

Literary references[edit]

American author and essayist Washington Irving (1783-1859) refers to Fort Christiana in the opening pages of his short story Rip van Winkle, describing the genealogy his Pennsylvania Dutch protagonist:

“In that same village, and in one of these very houses, (which, to tell the precise truth, was sadly time-worn and weather-beaten), there lived many years since, while the country was yet a province of Great Britain, a simple good-natured fellow named Rip Van Winkle. He was a decedent of the Van Winkles who figured so gallantly in the chivalrous days of Peter Stuyvesant and accompanied him to the siege of Fort Christina.” [4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ a b "Fort Christina". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  3. ^ Richard Greenwood (July 21, 1975). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Fort Christina" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-06-22.  and Accompanying 2 photos, from 1975 PDF (685 KB)
  4. ^ Oates, 1992, p. 19


  • Irving, Washington. 1819. Rip van Winkle in The Oxford book of American short stories, Carol Joyce Oates, editor. Oxford [England]; New York, Oxford University Press, 1992. ISBN 978-0-1950-7065-1

Additional reading[edit]

  • Johnson, Amandus. The Swedish Settlements on the Delaware 1638–1664 Volume I (1911)
  • Johnson, Amandus. The Swedish Settlements on the Delaware 1638–1664, Volume II (1927)

External links[edit]