Settler Jerry Church's donation of land made Lock Haven the county seat, and he laid out the grid plan for the city. The town was incorporated as a borough in 1840 and became a city by 1849. The west branch of the Pennsylvania Canal came into Lock Haven (actually, into Dunnsburg, across the river) in 1834, and was extended to Bellefonte in 1846 by the Bald Eagle branch, which followed the creek of the same name. That branch converged with the West Branch Susquehanna River just east of the foot of Jay Street. The canal boom was short-lived, however, because in 1859, the Sunbury and Erie Railroad (now the Philadelphia and Erie) arrived in Lock Haven, and the Bald Eagle Valley Railway opened along Bald Eagle Creek in 1864. The railroad boom brought prosperity and caused the business district to move from Water Street to Main and Church streets to be closer to the tracks.
Today, Water Street has an impressive concentration of churches, including the Church of the Immaculate Conception (1904; 310 W. Water Street), the Great Island Presbyterian Church (1872, Samuel Sloan; 12 W. Water Street), and the First Church of Christ (1923, J. C. Fulton and Son; 100 E. Water Street). The Gothic Revival Great Island Presbyterian Church follows Sloan's own pattern book designs. It has unfortunately lost its spire due to subsidence caused by changes in the water table. Sloan was a major influence on the nineteenth-century building stock of the city, designing the courthouse ( CN1) and the C. A. Mayer house (demolished). His pattern books were also popular with local builder-architects, such as Henry Hipple Sr. and Cephas Batcheler, and Sloan's ideas and details appear repeatedly in their work. A group of large frame and brick houses from the 1850s to the 1920s lines Water Street, including the David Carskaddon House (1857, Henry Hipple Sr.; 26 E. Water Street), with an unusual Y-shaped floor plan and a central entrance. The Lock Haven Market House (1871, Patrick Keefe; 142 E. Church Street) is reused as a restaurant.
Lock Haven is prone to flooding by the West Branch Susquehanna River. From 1992 to 1994, a major flood control project, overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers, built an eighteen-foot-high earthen and stone-faced levee along the river bank. Rather than awkwardly interrupting the landscape, the levee has become an asset with the addition of a grass-covered walking path along the ridge that offers a view of both the city and the river, and a riverside openair auditorium for summer performances.
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