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History of Lancaster, PA

Note: For a detailed description of historic structures and important narrative themes encompassed in the convention center complex and associated Stevens and Smith Historic Site, see “A complex that helps bring American history to life” on the Convention Center page of this website.

The thriving urban city of Lancaster was founded back in 1709 by German immigrants who would come to be known as the Pennsylvania Deutsch, or “Dutch.” A prominent citizen, John Wright, named the city after Lancaster, England, where he formally resided. During the late 1700s, Lancaster's Penn Square was the civic, social and commercial hub of the city. This four-mile stretch along King and Queen Streets was bustling with commerce until the close of the 19th century.
The historic revival and preservation movement, which began in the early 1970s, centered on the Old Town Lancaster district. East Vine Street is considered to be one of the earliest commercially developed sections of the city, with some of the structures dating back nearly 300 years.

Buildings on South Queen Street have dated to events that occurred during the American Revolution and the Civil War, while North Queen Street has been an important commercial area for more than 275 years and greatly expanded with the start of the Industrial Revolution.

On nearby Chestnut Street, is the city's most densely-populated section of Victorian-style houses and mansions. This style, which was popular from 1840 to 1910, was sustained by the industrial boom of the mid-19th century.

Today, a charming and sophisticated Downtown Lancaster continues to thrive and evolve as it preserves its exciting former chapters of history via respected museums and cultural attractions. The Heritage Center Museum, Lancaster Quilt & Textile Museum, Central Market, Fulton Theatre, Demuth Museum, President James Buchanan’s Wheatland, and the Historic Lancaster Walking Tour are just a sampling of the many exciting and culturally rich attractions here.

View more historical and cultural attractions in Downtown Lancaster

View historical and cultural attractions throughout Lancaster County

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