This parish was founded in 1638 when a group of Swedes first settled this area. The first Swedish colony in America was founded in what is now the City of Wilmington, and a fort was erected on the banks of the Christiana River. The original Swedish Lutheran church was located within the walls of Fort Christina, near the site where the Swedes landed. Religious services were conducted in the Fort until 1667 when Swedish settlers built a wooden church at Cranehook near the mouth of the Christiana River. As more Swedes made the voyage to the new colony, a larger church was needed. Foundation stones for the present Old Swedes Church located at 800 East 7th Street in Wilmington were laid in 1698, and the Church was consecrated in 1699 as Holy Trinity Church.
With changes in immigration patterns, the congregation changed, too, and what had been founded as a Lutheran church became a parish of the Church of England. The last Swedish pastor departed in 1791, and jurisdiction of the Church was transferred by the Swedish Missionary Society to the Protestant Episcopal Church. The second General Convention of the Episcopal Church was held at Old Swedes Church.
Both Wilmington and the congregation grew, and the need for another church became clear. The congregation decided to build on an uptown site, moving in the direction of Wilmington's expansion.
In 1830, the congregation moved to a newly built Trinity Chapel at the northeast corner of Fifth and King Streets. With a rector called to serve the larger Trinity congregation, the first vicar was installed at Old Swedes in 1847, and the present parish organization with two congregations worshiping in two churches began.
The Chapel congregation sold the King Street property in 1882 and bought the present site, erecting a small stone chapel for services until the present structure was completed. The cornerstone was laid on May 1st in 1890, and the new church was blessed, its first service held on January 29, 1891. The building debt was paid off on Easter Sunday in 1906, and Trinity Church was formally consecrated on May 15, 1906.
In addition to 370 years of rich history, Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church and Trinity Church, now called Trinity Episcopal Parish, share the distinction of being one parish in two churches, defined by our city surroundings in Wilmington, Delaware. We have witnessed our city's many changes and have been a significant contributor to its continued growth. Today approximately one-third of the City of Wilmington stands on land purchased by our early Swedish founders, who sailed from Sweden aboard the Kalmar Nyckel to establish the first Swedish colony in the New World.
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