Built sometime between the 1630s and the 1650s, Pennsylvania’s Lower Swedish Cabin is one of the last remaining log cabins built by America’s Swedish settlers and still stands, relatively unaltered, from when it was constructed hundreds of years ago.
Sitting not far from the bustling 20th century construction surrounding it, the historic Lower Swedish Cabin seems like a house out of time. Built from local trees and featuring a simple, two pen plan, it was a farmstead and its occupants engaged in trade with the local Lenape native residents. When these settlers moved on, waves of new immigrants moved in during the 1700s and into the 1800s. As mills were built on Darby Creek, this cabin was one of many tenant houses for millworkers.
After 1900 it was a locale for area artists, including filmmaker Sigmund Lubin. Local residents had roles as “extras”. In 1941 Upper Darby Township bought the property intending to build an incinerator. Instead, it offered it to the Girl Scouts, who had a camp there for several years.
A series of Township tenants next lived there, up to the mid-1960s. Thereafter, it stood empty and was vandalized. A brief respite came around the time of the US Bicentennial in 1976. It was after this that concerned local citizens formed the caretaker group, The Friends of the Swedish Cabin – including members of DCVA’s Historic Sites Committee. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Lobbied Upper Darby officials then obtained state funding to restore the building. The work was done in 1988-89, and won several awards. The Cabin is open to visitors from 1 – 4 pm on Sundays from April through October. It is located at the end of Creek Road, in Drexel Hill.
This nearly 400-year-old building stands as a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of its builders, and its subsequent stewards. It is the oldest log cabin in the United States.
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