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Port Penn

St Georges Hundred, New Castle County, DE

Beginnings [1]

Port Penn, on Delaware River at the head of Delaware Bay, is an old village of wistful and lonely charm, long resigned to being the ghost of its robust youth and vigorous middle age. The green river-marshes extend nearly to the backyards of old brick and frame houses and taverns that were standing when Port Penn was an important shipping point for grain and a port of entry with a custom house. As one of the best deep-water ports of the Delaware shore, the village was often full of deck-hands who joined the drivers of grain wagons in roistering in the taverns. Later, Port Penn became noted as a center for shad and sturgeon fishing and continued as such for decades until pollution of the water from the north paralyzed the industry after 1920. A few hard-bitten fishermen, whose ancestors "followed the bay" before them, still go out hoping that by some miracle they will encounter a run of fish like old times, but they usually return in disgust with only a few shad flopping in the bottom of the skiff. A tomato cannery is operated here in summer.

Tradition says that William Penn once landed here for a supply of water hence the name. No record of his stopping here has been found. Since the name Port Penn does not appear on maps prior to 1780, it is probable that the name was first applied in 1774 when the Philadelphia port authorities ordered piers built in this vicinity. Another legend without apparent basis is that the Polish Count Casimir Pulaski, a general in the American Revolution, built a house and lived in Port Penn.

Among the old dwellings is the brick Stewart House (private), on the S. side of the Presbyterian Church. Erected about 1750, it has been the home of most of the seven Drs. David Stewart who from century to century maintained the medical tradition of their family. The house is said to have been hit by a cannonball from a British man-of-war during the invasion of the river in 1813.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Congress Street • Liberty Street • Market Street • Merchant Street • Stewart Street