Strasburg Historic District
The Strasburg Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
Strasburg Borough is located 7 miles southeast of the city of Lancaster, developed in a linear fashion, east to west, for a distance of approximately 2 miles along the old Conestoga Road which is now Route 741.
Consequently, the early streets, East Main, West Main, and Miller (the latter a continuation of West Main) constitute nearly the entire Historic District. South Decatur Street, which bisects Main Street at Center Square, also contains about an eighth mile of the district. The entire Historic District consists of approximately 82.5 acres, containing 193 buildings. These buildings represent a mixture of ancient log, brick, limestone and sandstone buildings, nearly all in use today as private residences.
One of the most significant aspects of Strasburg is the survival rate of these early buildings. Of the structures known to exist in 1815 at least 12 of the 29 brick structures survive, all four of the stone houses are still intact, and approximately 50% of the log structures remain.
There has been almost no new construction on East and West Main and South Decatur Street since the turn of the century.
As in many very old villages, the buildings in Strasburg's Historic District are very close to one another, with many of the oldest being "built right on the street"..., with almost no setback. Some of the old brick sidewalks are still in use, with the bricks running from the curbing to the very front of the buildings. Some of these have been replaced in recent years, with concrete walks and generally in such instances, a grassway has been created between the curb and the walk, and between the walk and the buildings. This lack of uniformity in walks, although unintentional, contributes to the charm of the area.
Strasburg is a well preserved Pennsylvania linear village which illustrates early development along the first major transportation routes in Lancaster County. Strasburg's architecture and lay-out is reflective of the road and its prosperity. The village has undergone little alteration and retains a high percentage of 18th and 19th century structures.
The Great Conestoga Road developed as an early route for pack-horses and wagons traveling west from Philadelphia to Lancaster and western Pennsylvania. This road was the forerunner of the Lancaster Pike (the Lincoln Highway). When the Lancaster Turnpike was chartered in 1792 Strasburg was by-passed four miles to the north. The town would have suffered and probably declined, but a new route from Philadelphia through West Chester to York was chartered in 1793. This route passed through Strasburg and was soon known as the Strasburg Road. During the first half of the 19th century a line of stages ran along the Strasburg Road, and the road continued to be used by Conestoga wagons and private carriages. Thus Strasburg continued as an stop on an important Pennsylvania transportation route through this period.
The architecture of Strasburg is a well preserved collection of early structures, illustrating the community's growth and prosperity. An unusually large number of late 18th and early 19th century buildings retained their original integrity as alternate transportation routes, bypassing Strasburg, slowed the development of the town. Development continued through the second half of the 19th century although at a greatly reduced pace, and the town retains a sense of the 19th century period.
The town contains a large number of older residential structures, including early German vernacular as well as Georgian and Federal styles. The district also includes some later residential and institutional structures built during the early 19th century.
The 1769 tax returns list 19 houses and lots in Strasburg Township. These probably comprised the largest portion of Strasburg village. In 1815 Strasburg consisted of 90 houses, of which 53 were log, 29 were brick, and 4 were stone. Approximately half of the buildings were two-story. The high percentage of two-story brick structures is indicative of the affluence of Strasburg, which in the late 18th century was second only to Lancaster Borough in terms of relative wealth and size for Lancaster County towns.
Two influences predominated during the first century of Strasburg's architectural development. These were essentially the Medieval architecture brought to this country by the Swiss Mennonites, Germans, and Huguenots, and the Georgian architecture of Renaissance England. Throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries, these styles both co-existed, each in its own right, as well as intermingling with one another. Within Strasburg's Historic District are almost pure examples of Georgian and Germanic architectural styles, and are a blend of these two diverse cultures.
Ellis & Evans. "History of Lancaster County" Published by Everts & Peck, Philadelphia, 1883.
Spotts, Dr. Chas. D. ,D.D. "They Called it Strasburg," 17th and 18th Centuries. Published by Community Historians, Lancaster, Pa., Vol. 7, No. 6, 1968. Dr. Spotts was a Professor at Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster Theological Seminary, Millersville State College. Historian of note. Holder of Honorary Degree, Catawba College. Founder and former President, Historic Schaefferstown.
Ferguson, Mrs. Mabel. "A Brief History of Strasburg." Published by Lampeter-Strasburg High School. 1963, as a Class Project. Ohn M. Silknitter, Instructor. Mrs. Ferguson was a teacher for half a century and an active member of Community Historians, Lancaster.
Lainhoff, Thomas A. "The Buildings of Lancaster County, 1815 B. S. Degree, Pennsylvania State University 1973. M.A. Degree, Pennsylvania State University, 1981. Historic Site Manager, Hope Lodge, Fort Washington, Pa.
Miller, Mrs. J. Franklin. Editor-Publisher-Owner, "The Strasburg Weekly News," A. B. Degree, West Chester State College.
Wright, Chas. A. Pennsylvania Magazine, Charter Issue, 1981. "In Merry Penn-Mobiles."
Groff, Clyde L. Writer-historian. Community Historians, Lancaster, Pa. Officer, Lancaster County Historical Society. Publisher of numerous pamphlets on local history.
Williams, Fred A. Editor of this presentation to the Bureau for Historic Preservation, PHMC. A. B. Degree, 1931, Westminster College, Pa. Graduate student at Washington & Jefferson College and the University of Pittsburgh.