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Lancaster and Vicinity

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Lancaster was laid out by James Hamilton in 1730, the year after the county was established. It is the most important architectural center of its region and well worth visiting for the concentration of buildings in its downtown. At various times during the Revolution, Lancaster housed the national government, and between 1799 and 1812 it was the state capital. Until 1800 it was the largest inland city in the United States. Recalling William Penn's scheme for Philadelphia, Lancaster is laid out on a north–south grid with a central square named for Penn ( LA7). In the eighteenth century, the square was the site of a cruciform courthouse that looked rather like an oversized version of Carpenters’ Hall ( PH12.7) in Philadelphia. The street names tie the city to the English ruling classes, Penn's children having returned to the Anglican faith. King Street, the principal east–west avenue, joins eventually to the Lancaster Pike, while Queen Street runs north and south. The second tier of east–west streets follows the Philadelphia model of tree names, Vine, Chestnut, and Walnut, while the north–south streets are a mix of royal titles, Duke and Prince, along with local names, Shippen and College. The city's principal businesses are located near the center square while its most important college, Franklin and Marshall ( LA24), is in a handsome suburb to the west. Recent public buildings have been located to reinforce the old center. The historic churches of the community, located within a block or so on surrounding streets, are interspersed with handsome Georgian, Federal, and Victorian houses that create a splendid walking city. Secondary centers developed along the railroad lines.

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas

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