Originally occupied by Algonquin Indian Tribes, the Lebanon Valley was part of a 1681 land-grant by King Charles II of England to William Penn. Pennsylvania was described as a place to go for religious sovereignty and inexpensive land. First settled in 1723, Lebanon County’s initial colonists, prior to 1720, were Scotch-Irish. By 1729, the predominant settlers were German. Some worked as missionaries and others seeking religious freedom came for the land.
The Lebanon Valley went through a terrible period during the French-Indian War. Forts were constructed in an attempt to stop attacks, but Indian attacks continued until 1763. The Revolutionary War was significant in Lebanon history as well. British and Hessian prisoners were held captive in the region and worked for the Cornwall Furnace, making cannons and munitions.
By 1790, most of the German settlers who had immigrated to Lebanon County for religious freedom, were of the middle class. These Germans became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, and they included such groups as the Mennonites, the Dunkers, the German Reformed, the Lutherans and Moravians. The Pennsylvania Dutch built farming communities and churches, bringing ministers and educators to the community. These people and their way of life had a great influence on the industry, farming, religion and other qualities of life that Lebanon knows today.
George Steitz is given credit for laying out the present city of Lebanon in the 1740s. The town was located in what was then Lebanon Township in Lancaster County and was commonly called Steitz Town or Steiza, after its proprietor. The village was renamed Lebanon in 1758 and became the county seat when Lebanon County was created by an Act of Assembly in 1813 from portions of Dauphin and Lancaster Counties. Lebanon received its charter as a borough in 1821 and as a city in 1885.
Our walking tour will begin at the former Market Square at Cumberland Street and Ninth Street where you find free parking in the municipal lot...
Municipal Parking Lot
southeast corner of 9th Street and Cumberland Street
This was Market Square in Lebanon, which was lined with wooden sheds into the late 19th century. The market stood on either side of Cumberland Street, making available the finest of Lebanon County produce. The parking lot is the site of the annual Bologna Drop every New Year’s Eve.
BEGIN ON S 9TH STREET, ACROSS FROM THE PARKING LOT AND APPROACH CUMBERLAND STREET FROM THE SOUTH.
25 S 9th Street
Now an assisted living facility, the American House was long a public hostelry. Its fine stone front elevation still bears two stones which tell much of the story of its erection before the American Revolution in 1771, inscribed in German. The third story was added in 1855 when it was owned by John Gloninger.
Lincoln Republican Club
17 S 9th Street
The Lincoln Republican Club was established in 1935; the brick Federal-style building dates to 1941.
Standard Motor Car Company building
15 S 9th Street
This building was once the dealership of the Standard Motor Car Co. that was organized in 1922 from the old Standard Steel Car Company that was in existence from 1913.
9 S 9th Street
Founded by actors just after the Civil War, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was originally known as the Jolly Corks. This building once served as the lodge for the BPOE.
southwest corner of Cumberland Street and S 9th Street
This corner was the site of Philip Greenawalt’s home. A native of Germany, Greenawalt came to America in 1749 and settled first in Lancaster County. At the outbreak of the Revolution he was commissioned Colonel of the first battalion of Lancaster County and fought alongside George Washington at Trenton and Princeton and Brandywine and Valley Forge. Greenawalt died in 1802 and afterwards the double-story frame building was converted into a string of stores and businesses. Its current appearance dates to extensive improvements made in the 1890s for Filbert’s wholesale liquor house, absent a corner turret.
TURN LEFT ON CUMBERLAND STREET.
Stoy Museum/Cumberland County Historical Society
924 Cumberland Street
The original front portion of the Stoy Museum was built in 1773 as a home for Dr. William Henry Stoy, a local minister and prominent Revolutionary War doctor. The upstairs rooms were used as Lebanon County’s first courthouse when the county was established in 1813. James Buchanan, fifteenth President of the United States, practiced law there as a young attorney. John Andrew Shulze was the new county’s first prothonotary and later became the sixth Governor of Pennsylvania.
1002 Cumberland Street
This Revolutionary-era hostelry was the Swan Tavern when George Washington slept here during the summer of 1792. For much of the next two hundred years, it took on the name of its famous patron - the George Washington Tavern.
TURN RIGHT ON S 10TH STREET.
29 N 10th Street
The Moravian Church in Lebanon County dates to 1747. On December 19, 1848, just 100 years after its formal organization, the congregation moved to the center of Lebanon. Within its first year a sanctuary at 10th & Spring streets was consecrated. On June 2, 1853, the parsonage built on the north side of the building was completed. The church was completely destroyed by fire on June 29, 1858 but within a year a second building was completed and consecrated on June 5, 1859. The congregation moved to South Lebanon Township in 2005.
930 Willow Street; southeast corner of S 10th Street
Stevens Towers, a state-of-the-art place for Lebanon County seniors to live incorporates the old bell tower from the Stevens School.
TURN RIGHT ON WILLOW STREET.
931 Willow Street
Nevin Hall, with a Second Empire mansard roof, dates to 1886.
St. John’s Reformed Church
925 Willow Street
This handsome brownstone church was built in 1859.
901 Willow Street
Now an assisted living facility, the ornate Neoclassical brick building was the YMCA when it opened in 1906.
New Life Chapel
100 N 9th Street
The main section of this church building dates to 1867.
TURN RIGHT ON N 9TH STREET.
Zion Lutheran Church
28 N 9th Street
This lovely brick church on a rough-faced stone base dates to 1874.
RETURN TO WILLOW STREET AND TURN RIGHT.
Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church
northwest corner to Willow Street and N 8th Street
On this site in 1766 was erected the first church and school house in the City of Lebanon. On the tower of this building hangs a bell cast in 1773 which proclaimed in Lebanon County the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The first regular pastor of this church, Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, was president of the convention that adopted the constitution of the United States and Speaker of the first House of Representatives. The cornerstone of this building was laid in 1796 and consecrated two years later. It was renovated to a two-story structure in 1848.
TURN LEFT ON N 8TH STREET.
Salem Lutheran Church/Schmauck Memorial Chapel
119 N 8th Street
The cornerstone for this Tudor-Gothic structure was laid in 1898 and it was built entirely of stone, steel, copper, and slate. It provides lofty arches and a vaulted roof. The altar, stair and balcony rails, pulpit, baptismal font, and lectern were all hand carved. In 1928, the chapel was renovated and the Skinner organ installed. The organ was modernized in 1995.
Cornwall and Lebanon Railroad Station
161 N. 8th Street
The operation of the Cornwall iron ore mines - one of the world’s great iron mines and oldest continuously operated mine in the New World - and furnaces were acquired by Robert Coleman, who later passed controlling interest to his great grandson, Robert Habersham Coleman. As production increased and the markets expanded, the Coleman family acknowledged the need for rail service. In 1853, R.W. Coleman, William Coleman, and G. Dawson Coleman formed the North Lebanon Railroad, later renamed the Cornwall Railroad Company, to connect the ore hills to the Union Canal landings in Lebanon. In 1883, as even wider markets were sought, R.H. Coleman built the Cornwall and Lebanon Railroad which ran from Lebanon to Cornwall and through the Conewago Hills to Elizabethtown. The railroad was built to connect holdings to the Pennsylvania Railroad at Conewago, thereby opening Cornwall and Lebanon to markets in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and west. Both of these lines provided passenger service throughout the county and to two favorite local picnic and recreation areas, the Mount Gretna Park and Penryn Park. The 1883 station was designed by architect George Watson Hewitt, in partnership with his brother William. William created many Philadelphia landmarks including the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, Academy of Fine Arts, and Hahnemann Hospital. The wealth of the builder, Robert Coleman allowed an architectural quality unique among small town railroad stations. It is also unusual that a grand structure such as the Cornwall and Lebanon Station was built for a railroad with only 22 miles of track.
TURN AND WALK BACK SOUTH ALONG 8TH STREET TO CUMBERLAND STREET AND TURN LEFT.
First National Bank
760 Cumberland Street
This Neoclassical bank with engaged fluted columns was built in 1914.
718 Cumberland Street
The Wertz family has been churning out hand-made candies since 1931 when William Wertz made his first chocolates. Wertz is famous for its Opera Fudge, a Lebanon tradition that dates to the days when the City had an Opera House and patrons would routinely stop in for candy while walking down Cumberland Street. Opera fudge is not a fudge at all. It is a deliciously rich, creamy fondant made with heavy cream from local dairies, delicately flavored with vanilla and coated in pure chocolate liquor. Wertz Candies was featured on the popular television series, Dirty Jobs.
TURN AROUND AND RETURN TO 8TH STREET. TURN LEFT.
northwest corner of Cumberland Street and 8th Street
This trademark building of downtown Lebanon featured the City’s first elevator when it opened.
Sirro’s Italian Ice
7 S 8th Street
This brick building dating to 1876 is typical of the Italianate commercial structures that sprouted in downtown Lebanon in the years following the Civil War. Note the fanciful cornice.
Lebanon Farmers Market
35 S 8th Street
This was the site of the Lebanon County courthouse and jail that gained national notoriety in 1879 during the trial of the Blue Eyed Six, a band of business associates who conspired to murder an indigent neighbor for $8,000 in insurance money. At the time it was common to purchase assessment life insurance on people in whom one had no legal interest, a practice which was ended by law after this case. The six conspirators, who coincidentally all had blue eyes leading to the catchy moniker in the press, were all convicted after a six-month trial. Five were hanged in the courtyard here. Fire destroyed the structure just a few years later. After the fiery destruction of the Lebanon County Jail, construction began on the Market House. In 1892 after nearly a two-year construction process the Lebanon Farmers Market was dedicated. Chickens, fresh produce, eggs, beef and milk were easily available and farm fresh at the Lebanon Market since it was one of the first places in Lebanon County to offer cold storage and refrigeration.From the Lebanon Family Theatre featuring almost daily Vaudeville performances in the early days to being the home of the Crestview Secretarial School in the 1950s, the Market House has been home to many. But its longest tenant was the S. Kantor Sewing Company that operated in the building from the 1930s until just a few years ago. Lebanon had over 60 sewing factories at one time, but the S. Kantor is one of only a handful of survivors. In 2007 the 30,000-square foot historic facility. occupying nearly one-half the block, was restored to its original 1892 Farm Market Building appearance.
37 S 8th Street
An attractive terra-cotta facade marks this 1888 commercial building.
RETURN TO CUMBERLAND STREET AND TURN LEFT.
815-817 Cumberland Street
This ornate commercial building was constructed in 1900 and housed the Farmers Trust Bank for many decades.
Lebanon National Bank
northeast corner of Cumberland Street and 9th Street
On this corner William Moore lived in a stone house in the early 1800s. Moore was instrumental in establishing the first bank in Lebanon, and became its first president. A substantial brick bank was erected here in the 1880s, eventually replaced with the present Neoclassical building.
YOU HAVE NOW RETURNED TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.