May 7, 2016 · 1:00pm



African American Heritage Walking Tours Kickoff

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Historic City of Lancaster African American Heritage Walking Tours kickoff Saturday May 7.        

Learn about Abolitionists, Underground Railroad Agents, Religious Leaders & Entrepreneurs.


A new series of walking tours of historic Downtown Lancaster with a focus on African American heritage will being with a kickoff event Saturday May 7 at Tellus 360, 24 East King Street, Lancaster from 1 until 5 PM.

Regular tours of 12 historic sites and buildings will begin on the first Saturdays of the month from June through October (June 4, July 2, August 6, September 3 and October 1).

This tour series is co-sponsored by the African American Historical Society of South Central Pennsylvania and is a collaborative effort with the City of Lancaster Office of Promotion (LOOP) and in partnership with Historic Lancaster Walking Tour, which has been conducting history tours of Downtown Lancaster since 1976.

Other community group co-sponsors are:; Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology; Shreiner-Concord Cemetery Foundation and Crispus Attucks Community Center of Lancaster.

The public is invited to attend the free kickoff event at Tellus 360, where organizers will give a brief presentation about the tour series and guests will be given the opportunity to take a free guided tour. Participants will be invited back to Tellus 360 for snacks and refreshments to hear reactions from guides and guests about their tour experience.

This kickoff event is also a call to community to join in and to help develop this program for this first year as a test of the tour focus and public interest.  To help establish the tour series, the public is invited to try out for tour guide positions and to help recruit potential guides.  Event organizers, who will train and schedule the guides, are seeking involvement from people from all backgrounds and interests, especially young people 18 years of age and up. Guides will receive stipends based on the number of paying guests that they conduct on the five days of regular tours, June through October.

Guides and guests will visit 12 historic sites and properties, departing from the Lancaster City Visitor Center, 38 Penn Square. Tours will begin at 11 AM and 2 PM and will last from 60 to 90 minutes. The area to be covered is mostly level. Guests should wear comfortable shoes

Fares are the same as those charged by the Historic Lancaster Walking Tour this year: Adults $8. Seniors (62 & older) $7. College Students $5. Youth (6-18 ) $2 and children under 6 are free.

Contact the City of Lancaster Office of Promotion at (717) 291-4758, or visit Also, for more information contact Randy Harris at 717-808-2941 or at Or visit


Tour sites and background information:

Start at City of Lancaster Visitor Center, 38 Penn Square.  Generally tours will be conducted in groups of 10 to 15 guests, depending on volume; departures shortly after 11 AM and 2 PM on given first Saturdays.

  • Black Businesses on Penn Square

On the threshold of the Civil War numerous black-owned businesses on and near this square.  Many owners active in public affairs: Robert Boston, a trustee and later pastor, Bethel A.M.E. Church, who operated a business here for two decades. With Edward H. Rauch, Boston secretly worked with U.S. Congressman Thaddeus Stevens to thwart slave catchers, whose office was on the first block of East King Street near present day Annie Baileys.

  • Elite Hotel, Originally site of Fountain Inn, 30 South Queen Street

Established by caterer Samuel Sanders, this was the only hotel open to visiting African Americans in the early 20th century.

  • Thaddeus Stevens & Lydia Smith Home, 45 & 47 South Queen Street

Stevens was a leader of Radical Republicans during the Civil War who pressed for equal rights for African Americans.  Lydia Hamilton Smith, a woman of color, was Stevens’ property manager and political confidante, both here and in Washington D.C. Oral tradition has long held their support for freedom seekers on the Underground Railroad.  Their property, along with the adjacent Kleiss Tavern (now within Lancaster County Convention Center), was verified in 2011 as an authentic Underground Railroad safe house, circa 1850.

  • Trinity Lutheran Church, Duke at Mifflin Street

An early house of worship in City of Lancaster; ministered to free persons of color and the formerly enslaved. Rev. Christian Endress gave the dedicatory sermon at the African Church (today’s Bethel A.M.E.), February 1821.

  • Lancaster County Courthouse, corner of King and Duke Streets

Site of Thaddeus Stevens’ famous speech on Reconstruction, 1865 and celebration of the enactment of 15th Amendment to U.S. Constitution, May 1870, granting voting rights to all men, regardless of race.

  •  Hamilton Club, corner of Duke and Orange Streets

William G. Payne, well-known African-American chief steward, also owned the Lancaster Kitchen and Caterers’ Supply Co. at nearby 135 E. Grant Street, and operated other restaurants in the City during the early 20th century.

  • St. James Episcopal Church and Cemetery, Est. 1744, corner of Duke and Orange Streets

Enslaved Africans, free Blacks and slave owners worshipped here.  African-American members established a separate congregation in 1817; became Bethel AME Church. Dinah McIntire, a fortune teller, owned property in the 300 block of West Vine Street, which became known as “Dinah’s Hill.”  She was enslaved by Revolutionary War Col. Matthias Slough, owner of the White Swan Hotel on Penn Square.  Dinah was buried here May 5, 1819, reportedly at the age of 113. Rev. Samuel Bowman (1800-1861) planned for his black maid, Louisa Wells, to be buried in family plot, 1867.

  • Site of Lancaster Train Station, Chestnut between Queen and Christian Streets

City’s main train depot from 1834-1930 was part of the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad, the second railroad chartered in the US.  By 1838, box cars fitted with false ends owned by Columbia’s noted black entrepreneurs, William Whipper and Stephen Smith, transported former slaves to Lancaster, Philadelphia and destinations north, thus becoming a key pathway of the Underground Railroad. Right of way relocated to northern City line, circa 1930.

  •  Shreiner-Concord Cemetery, corner of West Chestnut and North Mulberry Streets, Est. 1836

The only public cemetery in Lancaster that accepted burials of all people, regardless of race or religion. Stevens chose his burial place here, along with U.S. Colored Troops and other veterans, mostly from the Civil War. Stevens chose a plot adjacent to an area of the cemetery where indigent people were buried, often in unmarked graves.

  • Fulton Hall/Old County Jail, 12 North Prince Street

Fulton Hall, now Fulton Opera House, built in 1852 on the foundations of county jail, c. 1750. Prison yard site of 1763 massacre of last of Conestoga Native Americans. In 1835 two women were imprisoned, illegally detained by slave catchers, aided in their escape by abolitionist Sheriff David “Dare Devil Dave” Miller. Stevens gave a pioneering speech in 1858 advocating women’s suffrage at Fulton Hall.

  • Lancaster Central Market, 23 North Market Street

As late as 1910 African Americans owned $58,200 in property in rural areas of the county (in the City of Lancaster it was $65,000). Central Market was one of the markets where they sold their produce and other farm products.

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