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Click on the links below to find out more about historic Mechanicsburg...
Named for a settlement of mechanics who repaired and made wagons in the early 1800's, Mechanicsburg's continued growth was also attributed to the Cumberland Valley Railroad (CVRR). Another part of Mechanicsburg's growth occurred when the Naval Support Activity was built on 840 acres of land in Hampden Township.
Completing its line in 1837, Mechanicsburg was designated as a water station where workers could restock the locomotive's wood and pump water. The train became the town's link to the world of business and industry.
Grain and feed companies, lumber yards and numerous factories were purposely built along side the railroad tracks. Archives show that, at one time, there were twenty-five trains chugging through the town daily carrying travelers, coal, feathers, fruit, ice, mail and newspapers. During the Civil War, the railroad was an invaluable method of transporting troops and supplies.
Today, approximately two trains travel through Mechanicsburg each day. Although automotive technology changed the town forever, today's residents cannot dismiss the vital role the railroad played in its development.
The Stationmaster's House ~
4 Strawberry Alley
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055
This two-story building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1863 for $5,044 by the Cumberland Valley Railroad for stationmaster George Zacharias and his family.
The house had fallen into disrepair after serving for many years as a railroad baggage building by the Cumberland Valley Railroad and Railway Express Agency.
In 1976 MMA began restoring the home and furnishing it with antiques and reproductions from the period. The restored building typifies homes belonging to middle class families in provincial Pennsylvania in the late 1860s.
The Stationmaster's House at one time was owned by the Mechanicsburg borough and leased to the Mechanicsburg Museum Association for an annual "rent" of four strawberries, in recognition of the home's Strawberry Alley address.
Click here to take a virtual tour of the Stationmaster's House.
The Cumberland Valley Railroad was originally incorporated on April 2, 1831. The railroad was finished within a half mile of Harrisburg and within one mile of Carlisle by August 1837. Adam Riegel, Henry Ford and Lewis Zearing of Mechanicsburg and nine other men acted as commissioners and took subscriptions for stock at $50 a share.
The railroad bought the land on which the
Passenger Station and the Stationmaster’s House now stand on April 7,
1866. The Passenger Station was erected in 1866.
Freight Station ~
3 West Allen Street
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055
This two-story freight station was built around the 1870's by the Cumberland Valley Railroad to house incoming and outgoing freight and was used as such until the 1950's.
The Mechanicsburg Museum Association purchased the station in 1987 to complement the town's "historic district." Now known as the "Museum at the Freight Station". The museum offers many exhibits throughout the year which focus on areas of community and local interest.
Additionally, collections relative to the CVRR, Civil War, early town business and Native Americans are periodically exhibited.
The Freight Station is also home to the Museum Store, which carries distinctive specialty items and heritage crafts from Mechanicsburg.
This simple wooden structure offered Mechanicsburg’s travelers a place where they could board a train, or in inclement weather, a place of shelter from the elements. The interior furnishings were very basic to the needs of the persons staying only a short time. The switchman who worked here had to “throw” the switch to move trains from one track to another. A self-guided exhibit is planned for this historic building.
Frankeberger Tavern ~
217 East Main Street
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055
One of Mechanicsburg's first residents was George Frankeberger, who in 1801 applied for a license to open his newly built log home for the "convenience" of travelers. In exchange for a small fee, Mr. Frankeberger offered cattle drovers a warm meal and a place to sleep. The tavern has a rustic charm that transports visitors back in time.
Believed to be the oldest building in the borough, the tavern has undergone extensive renovation but is not yet completed. A third-story addition was removed and the roof replaced with wooden shingles and the fireplace was rebuilt to comply with 20th century regulations. Several doors, the stairway and the wavy glass panes are original.
In 1983, the tavern was moved 100 feet from its original location to accommodate the construction of "Frankeberger Place", a small business building. The owners, Dr. and Mrs. John Capello, donated the tavern to the community.
Currently, MMA is selling deeds to square foot or square inch sections of the Frankeberger Tavern. One square foot of floor is $100 while a square inch is $1. Each contributor receives a deed to the Tavern.
To buy a piece of local history, please send your your name and address along with your payment to:
Union Church ~
Built in 1825, Union Church never had a permanent congregation or a regular pastor.
Many of Mechanicsburg's congregations used the Union Church as a meeting place until they could afford their own place of worship.
Union Church is the town's oldest public building.
Mid to Late 1700's Leonard Fisher purchased 100 acres from Joseph Heynes tract (No. 1442 of an original grant of 267 acres from William Penn)
1790 Actual dates being obscure, there may have been two houses in the late 1700's in the Pinchgut
1792 The Trindle Road (The Great Road) and Simpson Ferry Road (Road to Simpson Ferry) were built passing through land that is now in our borough.
1801 George Frankeberger applied for and received a license to operates a tavern.
By 1807, there were enough houses (five or six) to call it a village. It was known as either Pinchgut or Drytown.
1807 Henry Stauffer built his house on a large tract of land that is now the center of town.
1808 The Kinsey family built a home at the corner of Locust and Frederick Streets.
April, 1812 John Gusweiler gave land to build a school on the northeast corner of Walnut and Simpson Street. It is questionable if a school was ever built. He later gave later at the corner of Chestnut and Locust Streets where a school was built.
The name Mechanicsburg started to appear as early as 1811 / 1812 because the mechanics who set up shops all along Trindle and Simpson Ferry Road.
1816 First brick house was built by Lewis Zearing at the corner of Main and York Streets. It was referred to as "The Mansion."
1818 John Coover built the home at Frederick and Main Streets.
1819 John Gusweiler laid out the first lots in the eastern part of the town.
1820 Henry Stauffer laid out his land into building lots. He provided for a public square. This are was referred to as Staufferstown.
1820 There were about 20 houses in the town.
April 12, 1828 The State Assembly at Harrisburg under a special act passed the Act of Incorporation "to erect the Town of Mechanicsburg, in the County of Cumberland, into a Borough." Mechanicsburg is located 8 miles west of Harrisburg and 10 miles east of Carlisle, the county seat.
May 16, 1828 First town council met and elected Henry Ford as the burgess.
April 2, 1831 The Legislature passed an act to provide for the incorporation of the Cumberland Valley Railroad.
December, 1831 Major Henry Leas and David Brenizer purchased 8 to 10 acres from George Stonespring and laid out 33 lots on the south side of Main Street. From that time forward the town continually grew.
NEWSPAPERS IN MECHANICSBURG
1835 The Microcosm, first newspaper in Mechanicsburg. Editor, Dr. Jacob Weaver,
* Denotes that the newspapers were listed in Mechanicsburg Directories of that year
1834 The Free School Law required that all children attend school until they received an elementary education.
1835 Professor McCron started first public school in the basement of the Methodist Church.
1835-1855 "Old Brown School House" in back of the Union Church was used for elementary education. It was a four room school house.
August 19, 1837 350 people boarded the "Cumberland Valley" for the first ride " on the rails" from Bridge port (Lemoyne) to Carlisle. The Cumberland Valley Railroad became an institution in the economic importance of the town.
1840 A "select school" was established by F.M.L. Gillelen.
1859 Girls were admitted to Cumberland Valley Institute.
1854 Founding the Mechanicsburg Gas and Water Company.
1855 Keystone Coronet Band founded
1856 The Water Works was built.
By 1858, there were four public schools from elementary to high school.
1858 Irving College was founded by Solomon P. Gorgas. The State Legislature granted the charter in 1857. Discontinued education in 1929.
1858 Washington Fire Company was founded.
1858 Borough patrol was formed and a small jail called "the lockup" was built.
1859 Merkel, Mumma & Company was founded.
1860's CVRR passenger station, Stationmaster's house, and portion of the freight station were built.
Mar. 1, 1861 The Chestnut Hill Cemetery Association was founded.
1862 First cement pavement in front of Union Church.
June, 1862 Mechanicsburg residents saw the first of the war when 450 Confederate prisoners passed through on the CVRR on their way to Harrisburg.
June 28, 1863 Confederate troops led by General Jenkins. He demanded 1,500 rations for his men, grain for the horses to be collected in one and a half hours. Jenkins set up headquarters at the Railroad Hotel (our present day borough parking lot). By June 30, 1863 The troops began to withdraw to Carlisle. By Wednesday, July 1st, the last of the troops left town.
1863 Street lights fueled by coal oil. A few churches installed them earlier.
1866 Franklin Hall built. Demolished in 1926.
1872 Library and Literacy Association was incorporated. They met on the second floor of the Wilson Building every Tuesday and Saturday evenings.
1873 Dillsburg Branch of the Cumberland Valley Railroad at Trindle Spring was built.
1875 Town council approved fire police for Washington Fire Co.
1876 House numbers only on houses in center of town.
1884 First dog laws.
July 26, 1888 The Rescue Hook and Ladder Company was founded.
1891 Ordinance 88 established more efficient police force (one man police chief).
1872 - two story school built at Simpson and High Streets.
1875 first graduating class- one graduate.
1883 Mechanicsburg High Alumni Association was organized.
1894 Added the assistant police chief.
1895 Electric arc street lights (1600 candle power) were installed by Cumberland Light, Heat and Power Co. 1930 Upgraded electric street lights.
Jan., 1902 The Liberty Bell on a flat bed railroad car toured the country and came through Mechanicsburg. About 2,000 people gathered to see the bell.
1903 The Citizen's Fire Company was founded.
1903 Rakestraw's ice cream store was started.
1906 The first mention of repairs to the sewer system but no date was found for being installed. 1949 Residential sewers installed.
July 3 & 4, 1907 Centennial of the beginning of the town. Two big parades were held. The "Glorious Fourth Parade" had over 6,000 people viewing it. The "Industrial Parade" on Thursday had over 15,000 people viewing the parade and 1,500 people in the parade.
1909 Main Street was paved with bricks--1,000,000 bricks.
1919 CVRR was merged into the Pennsylvania Railroad.
1919 First football game.
1920 Boy Scouts of America was chartered in Mechanicsburg. Harry Mercer was first scout master.
Mid 1920's Girl Scouts of America were organized in Mechanicsburg.
1920 Stop signs were installed throughout the town.
1922 Sailors and Soldiers Memorial Park dedicated to the veterans of World War I was opened. There was a Recreation Department just for the park. The borough council approved the purchase of land in June, 1920.
1923 First Farmer and Merchants Jubilee Day- discontinues during World War II. Jubilee Day had events such as baby contests, Miss Mechanicsburg, craft demonstrations, livestock, cars, etc.
1926 First traffic light at the corner of Main and Markets Streets.
1929 Simpson Street School addition.
1936 Seidle Hospital opened. 1991 Hospital rebuilt.
1930's & 40's Romper Day at the Park- pet shows, doll shows, games.
1930's to'50's Dental Honor Roll Picnic at Willow Mill Park- for all students who had good dental hygiene.
1941 Naval Depot was started. The United States government bought 840 acres of farm land for $150.00 per acre.
1941 First parking meter.
1946 First Halloween parade.
1947 The football stadium was dedicated to those who lost their lives in World War II.
1952 Art Association was founded by a small group of local artists.
1952 Last commuter train service through Mechanicsburg
Early 1950's The Little Theater group was started with rehearsals in members homes and shows at the high school. In 1953, the Association purchased the Kohler Elementary School and in 1954, the first play was presented at their new place.
1957 Swimming pool opened. 1958, the bath house opened.
1961 Library was in a house on West Simpson Street.
1961 PRR removed its last passenger train, an overnight New York to Roanoke train, that passed through Mechanicsburg
1962 Library moved to corner of Frederick and Simpson Streets.
1963 Olympic pool built at the park.
1969 Mechanicsburg Area High School was built at Broad Street.
1969 The Recreation Board was created.
1975 Mechanicsburg Museum Association organized.
1990 Recycling began.
1996 Library moved to Walnut Street.
1999 The football field was dedicated to John H. Fredericks.
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