Holy Trinity Church (Old Swedes)

Coordinates: 39°44′18.7″N 75°32′26.0″W / 39.738528°N 75.540556°W / 39.738528; -75.540556
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Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church
Holy Trinity Church (Old Swedes) in June 2013
Holy Trinity Church (Old Swedes) is located in Delaware
Holy Trinity Church (Old Swedes)
Holy Trinity Church (Old Swedes) is located in the United States
Holy Trinity Church (Old Swedes)
LocationE. 7th St. and Church St., Wilmington, Delaware
Coordinates39°44′18.7″N 75°32′26.0″W / 39.738528°N 75.540556°W / 39.738528; -75.540556
Built1698 (1698)
NRHP reference No.66000261
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHLNovember 5, 1961[2]

Holy Trinity Church, also known as Old Swedes, is a historic church at East 7th and Church Street in Wilmington, Delaware. It was consecrated on Trinity Sunday, June 4, 1699, by a predominantly Swedish congregation formerly of the colony of New Sweden.[3] The church, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, is among the few surviving public buildings that reflect the Swedish colonial effort. The church is considered part of First State National Historical Park. The church, which is often visited by tourists, remains open for tours and religious activities.

The church appears on the obverse of the 1937 Delaware Tercentenary half dollar.


The church was built in 1698–99 in territory that had been the colony of New Sweden until 1655. The building materials were local blue granite and Swedish bricks that had been used as ship's ballast. The church is situated on the site of the Fort Christina's burial ground, which dates to 1638. The church claims to be "the nation's oldest church building still used for worship as originally built". There are reportedly over 15,000 burials in the churchyard. Lutheran church services were held in the Swedish language well into the 18th century.[4]

John Hansson Steelman provided significant donations which enabled the construction of the church, including £320 for the purchase of land for the church at Fort Christina and for the building of the church, £220 by loans and £100 by gift he received in return the promise that he and his wife would be buried within the church, which was not done, as they moved to Pennsylvania in the 1730s.[5]

In 1697, the Church of Sweden renewed its commitment to Swedish settlers in the Delaware Valley and sent three missionaries, Jonas Auren, Eric Bjork, and Andreas Rudman, to the area.[6] A total of three churches with similar architecture were built or established by Swedish communities in the area about the same time. All are generally known as "Old Swedes" and later joined the Episcopal Church. Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church in Philadelphia was founded in 1697 and the building was completed in 1700. Trinity Church in Swedesboro, New Jersey was founded in 1703, with its current building completed in 1784.

HABS architectural drawing of the church

Five other Swedish churches were founded in the 18th century: St. Mary Anne's Episcopal Church in North East, Maryland; Old St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church in Douglassville, Pennsylvania; St. George's Episcopal in Churchtown, New Jersey; St. James Kingsessing in Philadelphia; and Christ Church (Old Swedes) in Upper Merion Township, Pennsylvania.[6]

Holy Trinity in Wilmington has housed an Episcopal parish since 1791 and is now part of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware. An earlier church in New Sweden was built in Swanwyck, near New Castle about 1662, which was replaced by a combined church and fort at Crane Hook in 1667.[7] In 1958, the historic Hendrickson House was moved to the grounds of the church. The church building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961.[2][8] Trinity Parish operates two church buildings in Wilmington, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places: the main building on North Adams,[9] and Old Swedes at East 7th and Church Streets.

Burials in churchyard[edit]

Notable burials include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. ^ a b "Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on December 6, 2007. Retrieved October 2, 2007.
  3. ^ "Holy Trinity (Old Swedes') Church". Archived from the original on October 18, 2012. Retrieved April 6, 2008.
  4. ^ "Old Swedes Episcopal Church, Wilmington, DE". Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
  5. ^ "Peter Stebbins Craig, "The John Hans Steelman House At Elkton, MD Falling To Ruins," Swedish Colonial News, Volume 1, Number 10. Fall 1994". Archived from the original on January 29, 2009. Retrieved November 22, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Winquist, Alan; Jessica Rousselow-Winquist (2009). Touring Swedish America, Second Edition: Where to Go and What to See. Minnesota Historical Society. p. 10. ISBN 9780873517041.
  7. ^ "Sacred Reminiscences in the Old Swedes' Church (by The Rev. John W. McCullough, Rector of Trinity Church (Wilmington, Del.: Printed by Porter & Naff, 1842". Archived from the original on March 2, 2010. Retrieved October 2, 2009.
  8. ^ Richard Greenwood (July 22, 1975) National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church, National Park Service and https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/NHLS/66000261_photos Accompanying 6 photos, exterior and interior, from 1967 and undated
  9. ^ The Episcopal Church in Delaware | Trinity Parish Delaware

External links[edit]