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Annville Historic District

Annville Twp, Lebanon County, PA

The Annville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]

Annville Historic District


The Town of Annville is located on the north bank of the Quittapahilla Creek. The Quittapahilla meanders through the Lebanon Valley and in the Annville area was easily dammed as a source of water power. The original impetus to settlement was the location of several gristmills which served the surrounding agricultural community.

The area was originally settled by Scotch-Irish squatters in the 1720s, but it was not until 1763-64 that the town was formally laid out. The land encompassing the present town was owned by Andrew Miller, Adam Ulrich and Abraham Raiguel and each laid out his plots somewhat independently of the other. Street widths and alignment irregularities are particularly noticeable where the three sectors meet at Main and Lancaster Streets. The basic lot size was 66' by 200', the 66 foot measurement being the length of Gunter's chain, a measuring device invented in 1620 by Edmund Gunter, an English mathematician. Building specifications were established with the building line established so that 8 feet were allotted for sidewalks. Homes were built with no front yards so that the optimum size back yard could be used for gardens. Alleys ran behind the lots allowing for access to barns and carriage sheds.

Early houses were generally constructed of log. These were principally located along Queen Street on the west end of town near the Herr mills. In the late 18th century other mills were constructed by Abraham Raiguel on the south side of the Quittapahilla and on the creek at King Street. Captain Alexander Graydon in 1789 tabulated the number of houses in the villages of the county. At that time Annville had 35 houses.

The development of Annville proceeded in a linear fashion east along Queen and Main Streets. Small factories were established in the 19th century for the manufacture of silk and felt hats and several hotels were constructed along Main Street to service travelers along the Berks-Dauphin Turnpike which was built through the town in 1817. The coming of the railroad and the opening of large limestone quarries west of town in 1860 brought a new prosperity to the town. Factories were built along the railroad north of town for the manufacture of shirts, handkerchiefs and shoes and the new industrialists built their Victorian mansions along East Main Street.

The historic district encompasses the residential core of 18th–19th century Annville with the building styles ranging from primitive 18th century log houses to imposing neo-classical and Victorian mansions. Approximately 30 log houses still survive in the west end of town. The extensive limestone deposits in the area permitted the construction of a large number of stone houses. These were generally constructed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and are sometimes of imposing size.

Of particular note is the, Abraham Herr Manor House at the end of West Queen Street. This very large 2 1/2 story, 5 bay, bank house was constructed circa 1795. It has beautiful Greek key trim, pent eaves, twin recessed openings for datestones and original paneled doors.

Brick was not used in Annville to any extent till after 1840. Prior to that date there were only 3 brick houses in the town. A basic mid-19th century style house replaced many of the earlier log houses. This style is a 2 1/2 story gable roof house with a story rear wing which usually has a 2-story balcony porch on the rear wing and a 1-story hipped roof porch on the facade. Woodwork and trim are generally of Victorian design and rather uniform throughout the district with the same basic design pattern being used. The houses of East Main Street were built after 1850 and are of a variety of Victorian designs. The most prominent style is a modified Queen Anne.

In the district there are approximately 300 houses and commercial buildings, not counting the numerous sheds, garages, and small barns that run along the rear property lines. Of this number less than 10% could be considered intrusions. Intrusions are generally modern commercial structures, the major concentrations being the intersection of Main Street and White Oak Street and a one block area on West Queen Street. Aside from the main intersection, these buildings do not seriously detract from the overall appearance of the district. The 18th and early 19th century west end presents a picture of an early Germanic linear community which as it moves eastward reflects the changes in architectural style and planning until one reaches the late 19th century Victorian mansions.

A number of the buildings in the district are of special note. The Biever House on South White Oak Street was constructed in 1814. This 2 1/2-story limestone house with a two-story rear wing has a fine classical doorway. The pilastered and reeded doorway as well as the wide cornice are decorated with a fine pickwork pattern. The Golden Swan Inn at 202 West Main Street also has excellent detail in its woodwork. This classical ornamentation includes dentil work and beaded molding as well as classical entablatures and a fine corner doorway. Most of the late 18th century and early 19th century houses and inns still have their original woodwork and exterior decoration. This woodwork is generally of a classical nature with pedimented entrances, molded or boxed cornices with dentil work, and pent eaves.

A number of fine examples of vernacular log houses also are evident particularly in the west end of town. The log house at 437 West Main Street is a simple 1 1/2 story structure with small square windows and gable chimneys. The log houses of West Queen Street are more substantial in size being generally 2 1/2 stories. Most of these have had Victorian porches and cornice decorations added to their facades.

Many of the earlier houses had Victorian decorations added to their facades. There are generally two styles, both of which appear to be standardized through the town. One style shows Italianate influence with heavy brackets and molded window hoods. The other style is a modified Gothic gingerbread with decorative bargeboards and ornamental porches. The same pattern for this woodwork was used throughout the town.

The east end of Main Street has a distinct Queen Anne influence, The most outstanding example is the Light House at 243 East Main Street. This house has numerous projecting bays and gables, 2nd and 3rd story porches and decorative woodwork. [There are many other notable examples throughout the district.]


The Annville Historic District is an excellent example of those linear communities which developed along early roads and waterways. It contains a wide variety of examples of the architectural styles and building practices prevalent in Central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of the buildings are outstanding examples of their type and merit individual recognition. Collectively, the buildings present an outstanding picture of the settlement and growth of the small town from the primitive log cabins to the Georgian stone houses and taverns, to the standard frame workers' houses to the imposing Victorian mansions of the 19th century industrialists.

Annville was formally laid out in 1763-64 by Andrew Miller, Adam Ulrich and Abraham Raiguelo. Prior to that date the settlement pattern was erratic with houses clustered near the mills located along the Quittapahilla Creek. The oldest remaining building is the small 1 1/2 story stone house (1753) known as the Mary Gass house at Cumberland and King Streets. The earliest western and eastern boundaries were the Quittapahilla and White Oak Street. About this time the name Annville replaced the earlier name for the settlement, Millerstown. Legend has it that the town was named after either Miller's wife or Queen Anne, patroness of the Palatine Germans who constituted many of the original inhabitants.

The town originally functioned as an agricultural service community for the rich farmland to the south. Small manufacturing establishments developed in the 19th century and for a short time Annville was an important center for the manufacture of silk and felt hats. A number of hotels were built along Main Street. Of particular note was the Golden Swan Inn (now Rich's Bar) which has exquisite classical doorways and woodwork.

In 1840 Annville had 600 people, 120 houses (only 3 of which were brick), 5 stores, 5 taverns, 4 churches, 3 schools and 1 academy. The Annville Academy was established in 1834 and in 1866 under the aegis of the United Brethren Church became Lebanon Valley College The mid-19th century saw the development of large limestone quarries west and north of town. These plus the proximity of the railroad brought a new prosperity to the community. The development of East Main Street with its many fine Victorian homes was a direct result of this new prosperity.

Some of the local citizenry served as elected officials in federal and state governments. Aaron S. Kreider and John W. Killinger were U. S. Congressmen. George W. Hoverter, Theodore Kline, John Imboden, and E. Benjamin Bierman served in the Pennsylvania House and John H. Kinport, merchant and first president of the Annville National Bank, served as a judge in the county courts for 10 years. The writer in Beer's Atlas predicted that Annville was a village "destined to be a place of considerable importance before long, as it has excellent manufacturing facilities and plenty of room to grow." A modest growth did continue until the end of the century, but after that date development dropped off rapidly as the manufacturing establishments moved to other nearby locations. Even the train station was removed to New Cumberland. The community today is largely residential with most industry and commercial services located in nearby communities. The absence of extensive 20th century development has preserved the 19th century appearance of Annville.

Bibliographical Data

  1. Watson, William K., Annville Historic District, nomination document, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Beaver Street North • Beaver Street South • Benner Street • Birch Street • Cherry Street North • Cherry Street South • Chestnut Street North • Chestnut Street South • Concord Street North • Concord Street South • Fir Street • Grant Street • Hower Street • Killinger Street • King Street North • King Street South • Lancaster Street North • Lancaster Street South • Lebanon Street • Main Street • Main Street East • Main Street West • Manheim Street South • Marshall Avenue • Mill Street North • Mill Street South • Myer Street • Poplar Street • Queen Street East • Queen Street West • Railroad Street North • Rand Street • Route 422 • Saylor Street • Sherman Street • Ulrich Street • White Oak Street South • Ziegler Street