The Notorious Riverfront of Marcus Hook

Plank House in Summer
NEWS FLASH: On April, 2017, The Plank House was inducted into The National Historic Register which is the official Federal list of districts, sites, building, structures and objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture.  National Register properties have significance to the history of their community, state or the nation.

The Plank House is now the 87th place in Delco to have received the honor. 

In honor of this event we would like to invite the public to the Plank House, located at 221 Market Street in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania on Saturday, April 29, 2017 starting at 9am for our first dig of the year!

Dr. David Orr, (retired), of Temple University will be joined by Dr. Mitchell Rothman of Widener University for a dig in the area located behind the Plank House.  The Plank House and the Artifacts Library, in which Dr. Mitchell Rothman has been working with his undergraduate students, will be open for tours. (Click Here for a complete site listing of all of the places in Delco on the Historic Register.)

Plank House as it looks today
In early times, Marcus Hook was a major Lenape settlement that became a New Sweden trading post in the 1640s. Small ship construction and fishing were its early industries.  In fact, the only iron-hulled American merchant schooner still sailing, the Pioneer, was built in Marcus Hook in 1885. Later, Marcus Hook became a resort and amusement center. The convergence of rail, roads, a deepwater port, and the nation's growing thirst for petroleum gave rise to the refineries that became the borough's dominant industry.

221 Market Street, The oldest house in Marcus Hook,
alleged to be owned
by Margaret, Blackbeard's favorite mistress
Much of Marcus Hook’s historical significance comes from its identity as a maritime town. Marcus Hook was the first port of call for Philadelphia from its earliest days, and later would become the farthest upriver that large ships could safely navigate without knowledge of the local shoals and ties.

The Hook was also a haven for pirates in the early 18th century, when piracy plagued the lower Delaware River. The market at Marcus Hook provided sea-rovers with a place to sell plundered goods and re-supply for their next voyage while remaining a safe distance downriver from the watchful eyes of the authorities and customs officials in Philadelphia. In fact, the early maps show that what is now Second Street was originally called Discord Lane apparently because it was the location of much of the pirates’ revelry while they were in town.

Although there is currently no evidence to support it, there is a local oral tradition that the Marcus
Statue of Mickey Vernon,
two time batting champion of the Washington Senators
and a Marcus Hook native.
Hook Plank House was once the home of a mistress of the notorious pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. Blackbeard is known to have operated in the Delaware River during his piratical career and to have probably visited Marcus Hook. Ashmead’s 1884 History of Delaware County mentions Blackbeard frequenting Marcus Hook and John Watson’s 1898 volume, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, tells us of a “traditional story, that Blackbeard and his crew used to visit and revel at Marcus Hook, at the house of a Swedish woman.”

This landscape of the past began to be rediscovered when historians and archaeologists, both amateur and professional, became interested in the Marcus Hook Plank House. The Plank House itself is a one-and-a-half story,
Pirate Days is an annual event in Marcus Hook
hall-plan house featuring a finished upper level and full cellar. The house is constructed using sawn planks fitted together with dovetail joinery and caulked with oakum in a manner similar to that seen in one of the only other plank houses known in the region, the Christopher Vandergrift House in New Castle County, Delaware. Some of the original riven lath remains on the interior of the house and it is felt that the walls were finished with plaster at the time of construction or soon thereafter. A stone and brick relieving arch in the cellar supports the fireplaces and chimney stack. The upper level of the house, accessed via a winder staircase located in the northeastern corner of the structure essentially mirrors the main room below except that it has an inclined garret ceiling, which follows the peak-pinned rafters. The upper room also features a fielded panel fireplace surround which is felt to be original. Both the architecture of the house and the archaeology indicate a probable construction date of circa-1735.

The Plank House provides an ideal place to get the public involved in archaeology and train volunteers in archaeological field and laboratory methods. The stratigraphy in the excavation units consists of a series of fills deposited to fill and level the area following the demolition of the north wing of the house. These layers of fill are loaded with artifacts dating from the 17th through 20th centuries, so the thrill of discovery is a constant presence for workers at the site.

Market Square Park stretches along the Delaware Riverside and provides a gathering place and beautiful view in all seasons.

For more information, call 610-587-740, or visit