The Oldest House in Pennsylvania Is More Than 300 Years Old

log cabin in Pennsylvania
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Written by Ava Peluso

Updated: November 8, 2023

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The Lower Swedish Cabin is the oldest house and building in Pennsylvania. This log cabin is located in Upper Darby, PA, and is thought to have been built around 1640 by Swedish or Finnish settlers. Read on to learn more fascinating facts about the Lower Swedish Cabin.

The oldest house in Pennsylvania was once used as a meeting place by the Girl Scouts until the 1960s.

Description

The Lower Swedish Cabin is made of logs that are fitted together by notches cut into them. This building style allows the builder to attach the logs without the use of nails. The spaces between the logs are filled with clay, and the cabin’s two fireplaces are made of stone. A visible seam separates the larger left side of the cabin from the smaller right side. This indicates that the right side was a later addition, possibly built to accommodate a new farmhand or an adult son of the original owners. The whole cabin has two stories, though originally only the right side had two stories. The second story on the larger left side is a relatively recent addition.

History

Log cabin in Pennsylvania
Swedish immigrants built the Lower Swedish Cabin around 1640.

Swedish or Finnish immigrants built the Lower Swedish Cabin sometime between the 1630s and the 1650s. It was part of the colony known as New Sweden, which included parts of what are now Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. It originally served as both a farmstead and a trading post to exchange furs and other goods with Native Americans. The settlers chose its location near the Upper Darby River because of the area’s fertile soil and its proximity to the Great Minquas Trail. The trail was useful as both a trade route and a way to access mills where farmers could grind their grain. Throughout the 1700s and 1800s, as the surrounding land changed ownership, various groups of settlers used the cabin.

In the early 1900s, filmmaker Siegmund Lubin used the Lower Swedish Cabin as a movie set. Throughout the rest of the early 20th century, various tenants lived in the cabin. Later, the Upper Darby Township purchased it, after which local Girl Scouts used it as a meeting place. The Girl Scouts stopped using the cabin sometime in the 1960s, after which it fell to neglect and vandalism.

Around the time of the United States Bicentennial in 1976, a historical society called Friends of the Swedish Cabin formed to restore and preserve this historic location. The Lower Swedish Cabin was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and it was fully restored in 1987. Today, authorities keep it preserved as a historic site, and it offers tours to visitors on Sundays from April to October.

Location

township building in Upper Darby, PA

The township of Upper Darby is located near the city of Philadelphia.

The Lower Swedish Cabin is located on Creek Road in Upper Darby, PA. Upper Darby is a township in Delaware County, PA, near the city of Philadelphia. It is the sixth largest municipality in Pennsylvania with about 85,000 residents.

The Upper Darby area is also home to several other historical sites. One of these is Collen Brook Farm, which consists of eight acres and an 18th-century farmhouse. Like the Lower Swedish Cabin, Collen Brook Farm is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Upper Darby Historical Society restored the property and converted the farmhouse into a museum that offers tours. Upper Darby also offers a self-guided tour called the Underground Railroad Trail. This tour includes the historic homes of several families who helped guide enslaved people to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Aside from historic sites, Upper Darby is home to several theaters and entertainment venues, as well as parks and outdoor spaces.

Where Is the Lower Swedish Cabin Located on a Map?

The Lower Swedish Cabin sits near Darby Creek at 13 Creek Rd in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. It’s part of the greater Upper Darby area, which is a suburb of Philadelphia.


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About the Author

Ava Peluso is a writer at A-Z Animals where her focus is on wildlife and locally relevant topics. She has a Bachelor's degree in Communication from DeSales University, which she earned in 2021. She also has experience volunteering with animals and caring for numerous personal pets. A resident of Pennsylvania, Ava enjoys reading about animals and watching birds and other wildlife.

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