Penn's Landing_Philadelphia_NEPA Aerial Photography

Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia, PA

The area today known as Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia, PA stretches along the Delaware River for about 10 blocks from Vine Street to South Street, and encompasses the spot where William Penn, Philadelphia’s founder, first touched ground in his “greene country towne.” After Penn’s arrival, this area quickly became the center of Philly’s maritime soul and the city’s dominant commercial district. Today, Penn’s Landing is a riverside park where Philadelphians gather in the summer to hear music and on December 31 to usher in the New Year.

William Penn first sailed up the Delaware River in the fall of 1682 aboard the ship Welcome, an aptly named vessel, for in Penn’s progressive vision of his colony, all religions would be welcome to pray as they pleased. Penn arrived in Philadelphia by barge from the downriver town of Chester where the Welcome had moored. He alit near a tidewater basin called the Dock fed by a creek of the same name. At the time of Penn’s arrival, the area was inhabited, though sparsely, by some landowners in his “holy experiment,” as well as by Swedes, Dutch, and Indians. Many of these locals gathered to welcome Penn near the Blue Anchor Tavern, an inn being built along Dock Creek.

Nineteenth-century historian John Fanning Watson, author of the nonpareil “Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania,” believed that the landing of Penn in Philadelphia rivaled the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in importance and should have been similarly canonized. Writing in 1842, a time when the Penn’s Landing area was a web of wharves and commerce, he rhapsodized fancifully about what Penn might have seen in 1682: “the creek adorned with every grace of shrubbery and foliage, and beyond it…a few of the natives’ wigwams, intermixed among the shadowy trees.”

Penn himself, mindful of the salubrious effect of greenery and open space within a city, had intended to have a tree-lined promenade planted along the area today named for him. Economics dictated otherwise.


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