Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor Driving - Franklin County
Featuring sites along Pennsylvania's Lincoln Highway in Franklin County, PA
The Totem Pole Playhouse has been bringing entertainment to Franklin County summers since 1950. After converting a decommissioned auto shop into their theater, Karl Genus and wife Muriel Benson practiced a perseverance that would set the culture of the playhouse. With big names such as Jean Stapleton and Bill Putch, the Totem Pole Playhouse has gained national prestige through unshakable determination.
Situated at the corner of Vine Street and Riddle Alley on the eastern side of Conococheague Creek, Henninger Field was home to Chambersburg’s local baseball team from the field’s construction in 1895 to the team’s disbandment in 2010. The field is all that remains of a much larger complex known as Wolf Lake Park, an amusement park, manmade lake, and residential neighborhood built by local businessman Augustus Wolf for his employees at the turn of the twentieth century. Renamed in honor of longtime local baseball coach Clay Henninger in 1920, the field is notable as the site of an exhibition game between the New York Yankees and their Chambersburg feeder team in 1929 (during which Babe Ruth hit a home run over center field). As the only surviving remnant of August Wolf’s vision, Henninger Field stands as a testament to the lasting legacies of industrial paternalism’s rise and fall over the course of the early twentieth-century. As an athletic venue, it is a window into the ebb and flow of community pride and competitive recreation in the same period. Since spring 2019, the borough of Chambersburg and Wilson College have operated the field jointly as part of a contract in which they shared the renovation costs and agreed to use the facilities on a seasonal basis (Wilson in the spring and fall and the borough over the summer).
Mary Ritner's Boarding House is best known for its role as the temporary headquarters of John Brown, the radical abolitionist who launched a raid on the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry as part of a plan to arm and free the slaves of Virginia. Brown's intention was to create a well-armed community and force in the mountains that could defend itself and launch raids on slave plantations throughout the region. If successful, Brown hoped that slaves would rise up and join his community in ways that would lead to the end of slavery in America. Brown stayed at the Ritner Boarding House from June to October in 1859. From this location, Brown and his supporters planned the raid, received supplies, and prepared for their ill-fated mission. The historic boarding house is now a small museum operated by the Franklin County Historical Society.
Richard Alsina Fulton Center for Sustainable Living
Franklin County Historical Society operates several historic properties throughout the county including this Georgian-style brick building that was once home to the Franklin County Jail. The historical society has been active since 1898, and the former jail which now serves as its headquarters has stood at this location since 1818. Notable attractions at the site include a poem scrawled by a prisoner on the wall of their cell, a reconstructed gallows, and an annual haunted house. The jail held a number of prominent prisoners throughout its history and also survived the burning of the town by Confederate raiders in 1864. At the time of the building’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, it was one of the country’s oldest penal institutions still in operation. The building ceased operations as a prison when the new county jail on Franklin Farm Lane opened one year after its nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. At that time, the historical society assumed ownership of the property. The Franklin County Historical Society operates a museum and genealogical library at this site and also offers tours of the old jail and other properties around the county including the John Brown House which is less than a block away. The historical society also operates Brown’s Mill School, St. Thomas Toll House, and Carrick Furnace.
As Chambersburg, Pennsylvania’s oldest church, The Presbyterian Church of Falling Spring represents a living conduit to the past stretching back to the town’s founding era. Named after the nearby Falling Spring (which at one time featured a nearly 25-foot waterfall), the congregation that built the church had been meeting in the area – known itself at the time as Falling Spring – since shortly after the settlement’s founder, Colonel Benjamin Chambers, arrived in 1730. Chambers, who was himself Presbyterian, hosted religious services at Fort Chambers (the site of his home and gristmill at the confluence of Falling Spring and Conococheague Creek) for several years before building a log schoolhouse on the plot adjacent to his own in 1739 for the use of his congregation. This building lasted until 1767, when the congregation replaced it with a considerably larger wooden structure. The following year, Chambers deed the land upon which the church stood to his congregation in exchange for the payment of a single rose to him, his wife, and their descendants every year in perpetuity (an agreement that is upheld to this day). Chambers also deeded land to the church for use as a graveyard, which over the course of the congregation’s history has come to serve as not only his final resting place, but the final resting place of a number of prominent politicians and four Delaware Indians from the colonial era. Over this same period, the congregation replaced their wooden church with one built from local limestone (completed in 1803), opened a Sabbath school in 1816, added two towers to the building in 1856, and established a school for refugee former slaves living in the town as a result of the American Civil War. The church is still in operation today and is open for regular religious services and extracurricular activities, and upon advanced request.
Located at the confluence of Conococheague Creek and Falling Spring, Chambers Fort Park occupies the site once home to the stone house, mill, and wooden palisade that made up the fort of Chambersburg founder Colonel Benjamin Chambers. Chambers arrived to the area in 1730, and over the course of the next fifty years built his namesake town around the 25-foot waterfall at Falling Spring that powered the gristmill and sawmill that made his fortune. While the site may have been the center of town for much of its early history, it also stood at the epicenter of a struggle for control of the Pennsylvania borderlands during the Seven Years’ War that revolved around the fort’s very existence (in particular the presence there of two cannons). The area where the Falling Spring and Conococheague Creek attracted a number of entrepreneurs after Chambers’ death in the 1780s, who used the water to power a series of mills that drew Chambersburg into the industrial networks that emerged over the course of the nineteenth century. The borough of Chambersburg announced its intention to purchase a portion of the site in its master plan for the downtown area in 1995, a location it went on to open as Chambers Fort Park in 2008. The park hosts concerts and movies throughout the summer months, and features a replica water wheel, reconstructed log cabin, the Founding Family statue, and several veterans’ memorials that are open to the public year-round.
Several historical markers and plaques near the Franklin County Courthouse relate the tragic fate of Chambersburg, which was destroyed by Confederate raiders on July 30, 1864. Cavalry under the command of General John McCausland occupied the city and demanded the payment of a ransom, threatening to destroy the city in retribution for the destruction of Virginia homes, families, and food stores should his army not be provided with a large ransom payment. While pro-Confederate raiders also destroyed Lawrence, Kansas, the destruction of Chambersburg was unique in that it was conducted by an official army of the Confederacy.
The Chambersburg Heritage Center on Memorial Square in the historic Valley National Bank Building provides educational resources on the history of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and the surrounding area of Franklin County. The Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce opened the center five years after the Chambersburg Area Development Corporation purchased the building on its behalf in 1999. The center houses a gift shop, children’s activity room, and exhibits on the frontier history, architectural history, transportation history, and Civil War history of the city. While the center may be a cornerstone of the historical community in Chambersburg, the building itself is also of significance as the work of Frank Furness, an architect whose designs have become widely celebrated in the last few decades. The Chambersburg Heritage Center is open year-round from Monday to Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM, and on Saturdays, 10 AM to 3 PM, May to October. The center can also provide guided walking tours upon advance request.
Built in the Greek Revival architectural style which flourished in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, Franklin County Courthouse was completed in 1865 and incorporates portions of the previous courthouse that stood at this location and was burned by Confederate raiders under Brigadier General John A. McCausland on July 30, 1864. The courthouse is located just to the east of Memorial Square at the intersection of US-30 and US-11 in downtown Chambersburg and is the third county courthouse that has stood at this site. Because it includes structural elements from the second courthouse built in 1842 and attempted to replicate its basic features, the current Franklin County Courthouse of 1865 is a uniquely visible example of the change in architectural tastes from the Greek Revival to Victorian periods. The courthouse also stands as a testament to the experiences of the lone northern community to be destroyed by Confederate troops during the American Civil War, an event that spurred a nationwide aid campaign in response and resulted in the reconstruction of much of the original core of the town. The current courthouse houses the 39th Judicial District Court of Common Pleas for Franklin and Fulton Counties and is open from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM from Monday to Friday unless it is a county holiday.
Founded in 1927 by the Pottstown Theatre Company, the Capitol Theatre is a historic and quaint entertainment center in downtown Chambersburg, PA. Designed in the ornate style of the Italian Renaissance, the theater was built to give Americans a fun venue to spend their leisure time and to forget the worries of the day. Currently, the theater offers visitors a variety of classical movies and performing art shows from the twentieth century. This place gives members of the local community an opportunity to create happy and life-long memories with their families and friends. The Capitol Theatre is the only old-fashioned theater of the twentieth century that still exists in Chambersburg today.
The current, original structure of Mrs. Carrie Stevenson’s Tourist Home in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history. From 1938 to 1940, the home was listed in The Negro Motorist Green Book, a traveler’s guidebook for African Americans during the dangerous Jim Crow era. Very importantly, of three sites originally listed in the Green Book in Chambersburg, Mrs. Stevenson’s Tourist Home is the only Negro Motorist Green Book site left in Chambersburg remaining intact; urban renewal of the 1960s saw the demolition of the other two sites. It stands as a testament to the work of African Americans like Mrs. Carrie Stevenson and those who arranged the Negro Motorist Green Book. It is a significant site for understanding African American history, our country’s past, and the narratives and physical locations we must preserve for our future.
This is a reconstruction of historic Fort Loudoun. The original fort was built in 1756 during the French and Indian War to protect settlers and to stage troops and supplies for the western campaign. A tragic event occurred a short distance from here, as referenced in the book, "A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison."