Lebanon Historical Society Opens New Headquarters

Historical Societies: News and Highlights presents news and information about Pennsylvania's regional and county historical societies.

The Lebanon County Historical Society officially opened and dedicated its new museum building at 924 Cumberland Street, Lebanon, during week-long activities beginning April 16 [1977] and continuing through April 24 [1977]. Highlights of the week were the naming of the library the Samuel Hauck, Jr., and Sarah Hauck Memorial Library, and the auditorium the Catherine Killinger Reese Memorial Hall; musical programs were presented by a local high school chorus and band unit, the Lebanon Valley College string quartet and recorder-piano duo, and the Perseverance Band Concert, courtesy of Local 750, American Federation of Musicians. Six members made presentations: a talk on Pennsylvania German folk art, and slide presentations on Lebanon County churches, the Union Canal and Tunnel, photographs of old Lebanon, and log structures in Lebanon County. The week’s events closed with a hymn sing and explanation in Pennsylvania German dialect.

The Lebanon County Historical Society was founded in 1898 by fifteen citizens of Lebanon County who pledged themselves to the establishment of a society dedicated to the collection of historical data and articles from the county area for present edification and future preservation. The pledge has been, and is, a commitment of a member­ship that now numbers nearly one thousand. Due to the generosity of members and friends, an ambitious building fund drive was undertaken in 1973, over a three-year period, to make possible the purchase, restoration, and renovation of the society’s new home.

The beautiful two-and-one-half-story, five-bay, limestone house with pent eaves and three dormers has been restored, on the exterior, to its circa 1773 appearance. The house and its adjoining building were purchased from the Moose Club in 1972, owners of the building since 1902. Prior to that time, it had been a private dwelling, built about 1773 for the Rev. and Dr. William Henry Stoy, prominent local minister and physician. From 1813 to 1818, the house was used as Lebanon County’s first court­house; James Andrew Shulze, Pennsylvania Governor from 1822 to 1830, and James Buchanan, Pennsylvania’s only U. S. President, were among the practicing attorneys during that time.

The downstairs parlors and hallway have been reproduced, circa 1850, displaying some fine local period furni­ture and some appropriate reproductions.

The museum exhibits on the second floor and in the basement were arranged by a volunteer staff of men and women who cleaned, painted, sewed, and ultimately spent hundreds of hours over a period of eight months to complete the displays. Volunteers, including local scouts, cleaned the building before and after renovations and moved all the items from the society’s previous and only other home.

On the second floor, one finds a War Room with marvelous relics from the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War I displayed in fine antique cabinets. In that room one may also see the 1774 original hand-drawn and operated fire engine, the collection of twenty-two Henry Lehman Civil War rifles, and the Perseverance Band at Rest, a lovely display of instruments used by the band comprised of 93rd Regiment Civil War veterans.

A one-room schoolhouse interior is in the next room, followed by a Victorian parlor and a toy room featuring an 1898 furnished twelve-room dollhouse. The Victorian fur­nishings, all German made, were purchased at F. A. O. Schwarz toy store in Philadelphia; the furnishings were completed in 1910. Next one sees a drugstore, physician’s office, clothing exhibit, operating rug loom and tape maker, and the tools and machines necessary for making cloth domestically during colonial times. Adjacent to a colonial kitchen is a display of household items. On the balcony area of the auditorium, one finds two colonial pianos and two organs made by the Miller Organ Company, a thriving Lebanon industry in the late 1800’s. There is also an oper­ating nickelodeon, a toy circus, and a gallery of exciting old photos and period oil portraits.

On the stairs is an exhibit of big-game trophies, old knives and rifles, and a fine collection of Indian arrow­heads which were found in Lebanon County.

In the basement is another fire engine, antique firefighting equipment, a saddlery shop, and a Cornwall Rail­road exhibit, complete with watchman’s house, which was dismantled to be brought inside the building and then reassembled. Also found on a tour of the basement are blacksmith tools, mill equipment, carpenter’s shop, Union Canal artifacts, pumpmaker’s exhibit, a mineral collection from the Cornwall ore mines, the first printing press used by the local newspaper, and two rug looms. Many of the basement displays have beautiful backdrop mural paintings done by a local artist.

Housed on the first floor are the administrative offices, library, and museum store. Until eighteen months ago, there were no paid employees, but there now are two Com­prehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) employees, an assistant secretary-treasurer, and an assistant librarian. The Samuel Hauck, Jr., and Sarah Hauck Memorial Library is a complete research and reference facility, including work areas, storage area, rare-book room, microfilm reader, and copier. A volunteer genealogist is usually available Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons or by appointment. The volunteer librarian and genealogist and the assistant librar­ian were responsible for the moving and complete organi­zation of the new library.

The museum store, along with an annual contribution from the county commissioners, finances the daily opera­tion of the building. It is run by volunteers and items available are mainly local hand-crafts, such as pottery, slipware, tinware, woven pillows and coverlets, macrame, framed scherrenschnitte, and theorum paintings. Publica­tions of the historical society are also for purchase, includ­ing the recently published book, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, A History, a bicentennial project written by local high school students under supervision of the editor, Mrs. Edna J. Carmean. The most recent pamphlet includes two papers, The Life and Services of General John Philip de Haas, 1735-1786, by Abram Hess, and Revolutionary War Soldiers Buried in Lebanon County, by Christine E. Weaver.

Membership in the Lebanon County Historical Society is open to anyone who is interested. A newsletter is mailed bi-monthly and there is usually an annual publication. Meetings, which include a program, are held in the Catherine Killinger Reese Memorial Hall on the fourth Monday in January, March, May, September, and November unless otherwise announced. An annual banquet is held in Septem­ber and a society-sponsored bus tour of the Union Canal Tunnel and Lock sites is held in October. This tour is open to the public and includes lunch and, if possible, a visit to one or more other historical sites in Lebanon County. A fund-raising Victorian through Flapper era fashion show will be held in the fall and definite dates tor these programs will be announced this summer.

Museum and museum store hours are Monday, 1-4:30 and 7-9 P.M.; Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, 1-4:30 P.M.

Library hours are Monday, 1-4:30 and 7-9 P.M. and Wednesday and Friday, 1-4:30 P.M. with other times by appointment.

Guided tours of the museum are given, group rates are available, and group tours are given by advance appointment; telephone 717-272-14 73