Lancaster City

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

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Lancaster City Hall is located at 120 North Duke Street, Lancaster PA 17608.
Phone: 717‑291‑4785.

Perry-McIlwain-McDow House

The largest city in Lancaster County, Lancaster City [†] was also the largest of the early colonial inland cities in America. It was a very early commercial and service center to the rich farm areas which surround it. Set on gently rolling hills, Lancaster is today a city of brick: block after block of rowhouses, shops, warehouses, offices, and public buildings line its streets. There is a decidedly urban appearance to its downtown areas, but one which is conservative and reflective of its colonial period of prominence and nineteenth-century growth. Increasingly, however, industrial complexes have sprawled around the city's perimeter and numerous pockets of light industry have become interspersed with workers' housing close to the city's core. It is a city of contrasts: elegantly remodeled townhouses share a block with deteriorated nineteenth-century brick rowhouses now sadly sheathed in Permastone; shiny modern buses stop to pick up Mennonite farmers and their wives dressed in traditional garb; the busy downtown traffic is monitored by policemen and policewomen mounted on horseback; and in patches behind old rowhouses, along alleyways near abandoned warehouses and factories, are found carefully tended flower gardens.

Lancaster City, earlier the village of "Hickory Town," was laid out in 1728. It officially became the county seat in 1730. In 1742 it became a borough, and was incorporated as a city in 1818. For a brief time in 1777 Congress convened here; from 1799 to 1812 it was the capital of Pennsylvania. In 1800 Lancaster City's population was 4,292; by 1880 its numbers had grown to 25,769. In 1929, toward the,end of this period of study, the population was about 60,000.

The city was laid out as a 4.0 square mile grid (sometime after 1929 its boundaries, particularly to the north, began to change it is presently about 7.3 square miles). The plan of its streets and blocks is rectangular; at its heart is a central open square, Penn Square, located at the intersection of the main east and west, north and south streets. Outside of the one-half mile central core of the city, the square grid plan is relieved at the corners by radial thoroughfares extending to the principal towns in the area to the northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest. The orderly growth of the city on the original grid and radial plan met with disruption only after the advent of the railroads and factories in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

† Adapted from: Gloria 0. Becker, Ph.D., Preservation Director. Historic Preservation Trust, Tobacco Buildings in Lancaster City, nomination document, 1990, National Register of Historic Places, Wasgington, D.C.


Nearby Towns: East Hempfield Twp • East Lampeter Twp • East Petersburg Boro • Lancaster Twp • Manheim Twp • Millersville Boro • Pequea Twp • West Lampeter Twp •

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