As America’s oldest inland city, Lancaster City is full of surprises! Take a leisurely stroll downtown and discover a perpetual renaissance, more than 300 years in the making. Georgian, Federal and Victorian accents merge into an alluring skyline. Once stalwart factories and warehouses are ingeniously repurposed into galleries, bistros and shops. Reflections of a distinguished past seamlessly fuse with a progressive sensibility to create an urbane and cosmopolitan experience.
Lancaster City traces its roots to 1709 when a group of German immigrants created a settlement known as “Hickory Town”. By 1733 the area was deeded to James Hamilton, who designed the uniform grid layout of streets which survives to this day. Unlike most colonial cities, Lancaster was not located near a navigable river or coastal waterway. Still the city prospered because of its strategic location at the intersection of the King’s Highway (now the Old Philadelphia Pike) and trade routes that connected to frontier settlements.
By the Revolutionary War Lancaster City was a thriving trade center that played an important role in the formation of our new nation. Colonial Lancaster produced renowned patriots like signer of the Declaration of Independence George Ross and George Washington’s Adjutant General Edward Hand. The famed Pennsylvania Rifle was invented in Lancaster. Lancaster’s thriving economy provided munitions and supplies to the Continental Army. British and Hessian prisoners were housed in Lancaster and many adopted Lancaster as their home when the war ended. Lancaster City even became the capital of the United States for one day when the Continental Congress was forced to flee Philadelphia in September 1777.
Today, Lancaster City’s renaissance continues and emanates from the famous Penn Square. On the southeast corner stands the Lancaster County Convention Center. The grand entrance reclaims the striking Victorian façade of the historic Watt & Shand department store. The dramatic interior assimilates a restored city block featuring the Montgomery House Mansion. Cross the street and visit the Lancaster Central Market, the oldest farmers market in the country that sees close to 20,000 weekly visitors inside it’s beautiful historic walls that date back to 1889. Explore in any direction. You’ll find charming restaurants, dynamic art galleries and one of a kind shopping experiences. Visit Lancaster City and witness its remarkable transformation for yourself!