Greencastle Historic District, Greencastle Borough, Franklin County, Greencastle PA 17225

Greencastle Historic District

Greencastle Boro, Franklin County, PA

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The Greencastle Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]

The Greencastle Historic District consists of approximately 350 properties located along the town's three main streets, Baltimore, Carlisle and Washington as well as a few adjoining residential areas. The character of the Greencastle Historic District is mostly residential with commercial sections mostly in the first two blocks of East Baltimore Street, and the first block of South Carlisle Street. Small turn of the century industrial areas are included at the extreme north and south ends of the district. The Greencastle Historic District is further characterized by tree-lined streets, a square, brick paved sidewalks, and a collection of residential and commercial buildings representing the town's development from the late 18th century through the early 20th century.


Greencastle is a town of approximately 3700 people (3679, 1980 census) located near the center of the Cumberland Valley in southern Franklin County. The town was laid out with the two main streets intersecting at a public square. Carlisle Street was the main highway running the length of the Cumberland Valley. It became U.S. Route 11 and now bypasses the town to its west. The east-west route, Baltimore Street, is a highway which led to Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The commercial area of the district is found near the square and along the first blocks radiating from it in each direction.

The Greencastle Historic District consists of most of the older area of the town. It extends along Baltimore Street (PA route 16), from the elevated Pennsylvania Railroad tracks on the west, to the eastern town limits, and along portions of Carlisle, Washington, Madison, Franklin and Allison Streets. Central in the district is the town square where Carlisle Street crosses Baltimore. The district boundary has been drawn to include the older residential, commercial and industrial areas while excluding areas of recent development.

In typical southern Pennsylvania town fashion, buildings are placed directly against the sidewalks. The Greencastle Historic District is generally a commercial and residential area consisting of two and three story log, brick and frame buildings with dates ranging from the late 18th century through the early 20th century. Some buildings combine both commercial and residential uses, and there is a small industrial area consisting of late 19th century foundry and mill buildings, and a 1908 hatchery at the southern end of Carlisle Street.

The older buildings in the commercial area of the district are two stories in height and have the appearance of residences with, perhaps, a small shop or commercial space added on the first floor. These buildings are generally three to five bays wide with gables at the sides and inside end chimneys. Construction materials include log or balloon framing covered with historic or more recent siding, brick veneer or solid brick construction. Most of these late 18th and 19th century buildings are vernacular adaptations of various styles current when they were constructed, principally Georgian, Federal and Italianate. On diagonal corners of the square, northeast and southwest are two brick Federal style houses with first floor commercial space. Both buildings are distinguished by parapet gables with large semi-elliptical fanlights. Both also have early 20th century added storefronts. The example in the southwest corner, said to have been built in 1812 also has its original residential entrance on South Carlisle Street with an elaborate elliptical fanlight.

Later buildings in the Greencastle Historic District are generally of brick construction with the Italianate and Classical Revival styles predominating. There are also notable Second Empire style buildings, one on the north side of the first block of East Baltimore Street and one in the southeast corner of the square, and several scattered through the residential areas. They have the characteristic mansard roof with dormers. There are several Italianate structures, most notable being the First National Bank building in the northwest corner of the square with its landmark clock tower dating from 1874. Other Italianate buildings with varying degrees of elaboration include large, three story brick buildings with flat sloping roof lines with massive cornice treatment usually embellished with paired brackets. Buildings such as this include two former hotels, the "Adams House" at 15 North Carlisle Street and the "Hays Hotel" on the southwest corner of the square.

From the early 20th century are several imposing Classical Revival style buildings. They are of brick construction with cut stone trim and embellished with such classical features as quoins, arches with keystones, swags and urns. Notable among these is the Brendle Building, 1914, on the south side of East Baltimore Street, the Antrim House, 1904 (formerly the McLaughlin Hotel), at 100 East Baltimore Street and the Hostetter Building (ca. 1910) at 38 Center Square, in its northwest corner.

Most of the older residential buildings are located on the streets where commercial development also took place. Generally, these buildings are vernacular with Georgian or Federal influence, of sided log or brick construction. Several mid-19th century houses were built in the Gothic Revival style. These older buildings are generally found the first blocks of East and West Baltimore Street, North and South Carlisle Street and the first block of West Franklin and East Madison Street. Remaining residential buildings from the late 18th through the first half of the 19th century are one-and-a-half to two stories high, often three bays in width with side gabled roofs.

Later residential buildings are found in the 200-400 blocks of East Baltimore Street, the farther blocks of North and South Carlisle Street, Washington and Allison Streets. The American Foursquare and Queen Anne-influenced styles prevail with examples of Colonial Revival included as well. Later residential buildings are situated on large landscaped lots with old shade trees. It seems that by the turn of the century, the practice of building directly against the sidewalks had been abandoned.

At the extreme edge of North and South Carlisle Street between it and Washington Street are Greencastle's late 19th and early 20th century industrial areas. On South Carlisle Street is the office building of the Emerson Brantingham Company, a hip roofed square brick building with elaborate corbelling, and the accompanying foundry building, a long one story brick industrial building which now houses the Greencastle Antique Mall. This complex began as the Crowell Manufacturing Company. Nearby is the cast stone building of the L.R. Walck Hatchery, established in 1908.

On the north edge of the Greencastle Historic District between North Carlisle and North Washington Streets is a large complex of ca.1900 frame structures including a grain elevator and lumber warehouse and numerous sheds now occupied by Antrim Building and Farm Supplies and Agway.

The types of buildings described above dominate the Greencastle Historic District. There are also churches, built of brick, and the stone and brick former Pennsylvania Railroad Station dating from ca.1909. Brick sidewalks with stone curbs and tree-lined streets are also important character-defining features of the district. Some of the late 19th and early 20th century resources in the Greencastle Historic District are actually renovations of earlier buildings. Non-contributing elements include only a few properties such as the Rescue Hose Company Fire Hall at the northeast corner of Franklin and Carlisle Streets and the 1959 Post Office on the northwest corner of Washington and Baltimore Streets, and occasional scattered houses dating from the late 20th century. The buildings in the Greencastle Historic District are generally in excellent condition.

Contributing sites in the Greencastle Historic District include two cemeteries, the German Reformed cemetery in the second block of South Carlisle Street and the Lutheran cemetery in the second block of North Washington Street. Both cemeteries contain the remains of 18th and 19th century residents, mostly of German descent. The third prominent denomination in Greencastle was the Presbyterian. The early Presbyterian cemetery at Moss Spring is located just northeast of the town.

Historical Narrative

The Greencastle Historic District which includes the original plat of the town laid out in 1782, reflects the community's early history with numerous buildings dating from the 1780-1820 period. Particularly notable among these are excellent examples of the Federal style embodied in brick buildings which served throughout their history both residential and commercial functions. Also significant are 18th and early 19th century log or brick vernacular structures suggesting the town's early character. Contrasting with these older resources are the later, larger and more monumental buildings dating from the period between the Civil War and World War I. These structures include commercial buildings, banks, and hotels and represent a period of industrialization and urbanization that was occurring nationwide at the time. This development boom was in a large part the result of growing prominence of railroads. In Greencastle's case the Cumberland Valley Railroad was constructed to the town in 1840 and extended on to Hagerstown, Maryland, a major rail center in 1860. The town flourished with manufactory of farm equipment and machinery. Commercial/industrial growth also resulted in residential areas developing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in the east half the town. The great number of public works developments near the turn of the century, e.g. public water, electricity, telephone and public transportation systems attest to this growth. Greencastle was visited by President George Washington returning from the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794; by John Brown in 1859 and by General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army in 1863 en route to Gettysburg.

Historical Context

Although Greencastle as a town was established in 1782, settlements in the immediate vicinity occurred nearly 50 years earlier. Antrim Township, in which Greencastle is located, is named for a county in Northern Ireland and was established in 1741 as part of what was then Cumberland County. According to local historian, the late G. Fred Ziegler, "Jacob Snively, a Swiss, and Joseph Crunkleton had established homes near the site of Greencastle (in the 1730s). They were followed by many Scotch-Irish families, fleeing from persecution in Ireland, some of whom in 1738 established the East Conococheague Congregation of Presbyterians and built a church at Moss Spring, northeast of what was to become Greencastle."[1]

The site of the town was the intersection of two 18th century highways, one the King's Highway from Harris' Ferry on the Susquehanna to Williams' Ferry on the Potomac; and the other a road leading from Baltimore to Pittsburgh. The surrounding area, the Cumberland Valley, contained some of the richest farmland in America. Although there are stories of a tavern at the intersection of these two roads as early as the mid 18th century, the town developed as a planned effort by Col. John Allison beginning in 1782. He acquired from his father, 300 acres of land in the crossroads location, divided it into 256 lots and sold them for $8.00 each with the lot numbers assigned by a lottery drawing. He named the town Green Castle presumably after a village located in County Donegal, Ulster, Ireland.

The settlement began to grow and by 1805 when the town was incorporated, it had approximately 400 people.[2] Greencastle prospered as a trade center for the surrounding agricultural area. Its position at the intersection of two important roads also fostered a thriving tavern and hotel business. In 1837, the Waynesboro, Greencastle and Mercersburg Turnpike was completed and by 1840 the Cumberland Valley Railroad was completed from Harrisburg to Greencastle. As a result, Greencastle became a natural trade center for the surrounding rural community and by the later 19th century had developed several important industries, including a brick yard, woolen mill and farm machinery manufacturers.[3]

Situated as it was on main north-south and east-west routes, Greencastle has been touched by history. During his presidency George Washington led a contingent of troops into western Pennsylvania to suppress an uprising over taxes on whiskey production. Returning from the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, Washington is said to have stopped at a tavern on the southeast corner of the square in Greencastle. The present building is a large two story Italianate structure but could contain parts of an earlier building. Another hotel on the southwest corner of the square hosted John Brown prior to his raid on Harper's Ferry in 1859. Then in June of 1863, Robert E. Lee led his northbound confederate army through Greencastle on its way to Gettysburg.

A description in Rupp's History (1846), describes the town as containing nearly two hundred dwellings, five stores, three taverns and five churches. There were five schools, one of which was a "Classical School" and the following occupations were represented: 3 blacksmiths, 3 wagonmakers, 4 saddlers, 3 hatters, 2 druggists, 5 tailors, 2 coopers, 1 bluedyer and weaver. There were also 5 physicians.

The Cumberland Valley Railroad did much to enhance Greencastle's growth and prosperity. Among the oldest railroads in the nation, it was begun in 1835. Its arrival in Greencastle and later extension to Hagerstown, Maryland, facilitated development and construction projects in the mid and late 19th century. Among Greencastle's industries was the Crowell Manufacturing Company. Begun as a foundry in 1845, it later produced grain drills and hay rakes. A steam saw mill was established in 1860. It was eventually incorporated into the Crowell Manufacturing Company which then produced engines and farm equipment. In 1887 the company employed 100 people.

Another industry was J.A. Harper's Carriage Works which began in 1881 and sold carriages locally and in the south. Other contributors to the local economy included the Greencastle Stockyard established near the turn of the century. It became one of the most important livestock centers in Pennsylvania. In 1908 the L.R. Walck Hatchery was founded and was among the first to be operated in the United States. In the 1920s the Hershey Creamery established a milk processing plant. These industries portray Greencastle's role as a commercial center with its economy based on the surrounding agriculture in the l8th, 19th and early 20th centuries.

Resource History

The central downtown area of Greencastle became a commercial center early in its development, due to established crossroads of two major highways. Within 50 years of the town's establishment stylish large brick houses were being built along Carlisle Street with shops and businesses incorporated into them. The Federal style brick house on the southwest corner of the square was for many years in the 19th century, the home of Col. B.F. Winger. It was built in 1812 by John McLanahan, a member of one of the founding families of Greencastle. The house was one of the first commercial establishments as well, being the home of the Farmers Bank of Greencastle prior to 1818. It later served as printing office for the Valley Echo in the late 19th century and housed law offices and barber shops.[4]

Prior to the establishment of the town, there is said to have been only one building at the crossroads, a log tavern at the southwest corner. The site was later occupied by the National Hotel, a three story Italianate structure which may incorporate an older structure. This was also known earlier as the Union Hotel where John Brown visited in 1859.

When the Cumberland Valley Railroad laid its tracks down the middle of Carlisle Street in the 1830s, the commercialization of the downtown was further encouraged. In 1865 the First National Bank was established and housed in a brick Federal style building where its parking lot now is. In the 1870s the present First National Bank building was constructed in the Italianate style with its now landmark clock tower. Another hotel, the Antrim House was opened in 1859 on the northeast corner of Baltimore and Washington Streets. The original clapboarded building was remodeled and refitted in 1877. Then in 1904 the older building was removed and replaced with the present Classical Revival brick structure and became known as the Hotel McLaughlin. The Adams House, later known as the Franklin Hotel occupied the three story brick Italianate building at 15 North Carlisle Street.

Merchants like G.W. Ziegler who dealt in dry goods, hardware, groceries, queensware, boots, shoes and notions on the northeast corner of the square; and Jacob Hostetter who maintained a grocery, drug and later a fine china business on the square flourished in the downtown area. The Hostetter Grocery maintained its own railroad car which was loaded with flour and local produce and run to Baltimore to return with fresh seafood and other merchandise which supplied not only customers in Greencastle, but other grocery stores in nearby towns. About 1910, Samuel Hostetter, Jacob's son, built the Hostetter building on the northwest corner of the square, an elaborate Classical Revival commercial block into which he put his chinaware business. He kept a large inventory of fine china which he shipped throughout the U.S.

In 1871 the town hall was erected, a three story Italianate building on the southwest corner of Washington and Baltimore Streets. The town hall was later moved to the southwest corner of Washington and Madison Streets and the former building converted to apartments with the addition of projecting bay windows in 1913.

In 1908 the railroad was moved to its present location, the "high line" west of Jefferson Street. The new passenger station was built and remains as part of the Greencastle Historic District. In 1901, a second bank, the Citizen's National Bank was established and in 1903, a trolley line to Chambersburg, Greencastle and Waynesboro was established. Its tracks were laid down Baltimore Street. Other improvements included a public water system in 1895 and electric lights in 1896. Telephone service became available about the same time.

Enterprising merchants like the Hostetters reflect the spirit of early 20th century commercial development in Greencastle, made possible by improved transportation, communication and increased prosperity. This prosperity is reflected in a group of elaborate Classical Revival commercial buildings and residential development of much of the east side of town. Streets with Second Empire, Queen Anne, Foursquare and Colonial Revival houses on spacious lots dominate the eastern blocks of the Greencastle Historic District.

In 1902, Greencastle founded a tradition which continues today, "Old Home Week." Begun as the "Old Boys Reunion," Old Home Week is held every three years with pageants and festivities commemorating the town and its citizens, past and present. This festivity has become a community institution and captures the spirit of the town.

After World War II, rail traffic declined and passenger service eventually was eliminated. The old King's Highway, now U.S. Route 11 was relocated to a bypass west of town and Interstate 81, paralleling Route 11, was constructed to the east. As a result commercial development shifted to the bypass and interchange areas, reducing economic activity in the downtown. While this type of development is typical in older towns, Greencastle retains a viable downtown with two banks, the ELM department store in the northeast corner of the square, a variety of small specialty shops and the Antrim House Restaurant in the old hotel building.

Resource Analysis

The Greencastle Historic District largely retains its early 20th century appearance achieved when the town was at the peak of prosperity. Non-contributing elements are at a minimum and restricted mostly to non-historic surface treatments. The general form, character, and function of the resources in the district remain intact, enhanced by features such as trees along the side walks and areas of surviving brick pavement with stone curbing. The Greencastle Historic District tells the story of the growth and development of a prosperous trade center in a rich agricultural valley.

Greencastle is one of six boroughs in Franklin County. They include, in order of size, Chambersburg, the county seat, Waynesboro, Greencastle, Mercersburg, Orrstown and Mont Alto. Chambersburg and Greencastle have been linked historically by U.S. Route 11 which runs down the center of the Cumberland Valley, and the Cumberland Valley (later Pennsylvania) Railroad. Greencastle, Chambersburg and Waynesboro were also linked by trolley in the early 1900s. These three towns form a triangle in the southeast corner of the county. All three were characterized by rapid growth and development during the late 19th century, due to proximity to rail lines. Chambersburg, having been burned by Confederates during the Civil War, also underwent large scale rebuilding during the late 19th century so that its downtown commercial core is predominantly late 19th century in character. Greencastle is distinctive in that its late 19th and turn-of-the-century growth and prosperity resulted in an outstanding collection of Second Empire and Classical Revival style buildings without progressing to the extent that most or all of the early 19th century buildings in the downtown area were removed or altered beyond recognition. Therefore, Greencastle's architecture reflects an unusual degree of multiplicity or variety of expression representing several time periods of its history.


[1]G. Fred Ziegler, "Greencastle Bicentennial," Franklin County Footnotes. (Chambersburg, PA: Kittochtinny Historical Society.) vol. 3, no. 1, 1982, p. 2.

[2]W.P. Conrad. A Town Grows in Antrim: History of Greencastle Borough Government, 1805-1876, 1877-1976. (Greencastle: Lilian S Besore Memorial Library, 1977.) p. 1.

[3]Zeigler, "Bicentennial" p. 3.

[4]I.H. McCauley, Historical Sketch of Franklin County. (Chambersburg, PA: D.F. Pursel, 1878). p. 228.


Bates, Samuel P. History of Franklin County, Pa. (Chicago: Warner, Beers & Co., 1887.)

Conrad, W.P. A Town Grows in Antrim: History of Greencastle Borough Government, 1805-1876, 1877-1976. (Greencastle: Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library, 1977.) p. 1.

________, Conococheague: A History of the Greencastle-Antrim Community, 1736-1977. (Greencastle: Greencastle-Antrim School District, 1977.)

McCauley, I.H. Historical Sketch of Franklin County. (Chambersburg, PA: D.F. Pursel, 1878.) p. 228.

Ziegler, G. Fred. "Greencastle Bicentennial," Franklin County Footnotes. (Chambersburg, PA: Kittochtinny Historical Society.) vol. 3, no. 1, 1982, p. 2-3.

  1. Reed, Paula S., PhD, Preservations Associates, Inc., Greencastle Historic District, nomination document, 1992, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Carlisle Street • Franklin Street • Madison Street • Washington Street

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