Historic Information


Explore America's early history at Colonial homesteads, marvelous museums, important industrial sites, and quaint communities. Choose from natural attractions ranging from underground caverns to lush gardens, from wildlife preserves to spring-fed trout streams. Hike, bike, camp, hunt, fish, canoe, and ride horseback in the great outdoors. Sample local specialties such as our world-famous Lebanon Bologna and Pennsylvania Dutch delicacies. Play a round of championship golf on one of several area golf courses and thrill to the excitement of thoroughbred horse racing or championship equestrian competition. Enjoy classical concerts or professional theatrical presentations. Shop till you drop at area outlets, antique shops, and friendly farmers' markets. Spend the night in an historic bed & breakfast and attend lively ethnic festivals. Chances are you'll be surprised by just how much fun you can pack into your visit to the Lebanon Valley.



Old-Fashioned Hospitality

In a modern world where tradition often takes a back seat to technology, it's refreshing to discover a place where old-fashioned hospitality and time-honored customs continue to play important roles in everyday life. South-central Pennsylvania's Lebanon Valley is just such a place. While conveniently close to major northeastern metropolitan areas, the Lebanon Valley nevertheless is well isolated from the hectic pace of city life. It's winning combination of friendly folks, charming traditions, easy accessibility and relaxed recreation never ceases to impress visitors and keep them coming back for more.


The Lebanon Valley's history can be traced to early Colonial times when German settlers came to the area seeking religious and political freedom. They brought customs and beliefs of their forefathers, guiding principles that helped ensure strong family and community bonds. They built small farming communities and simple churches, some of which survive today. Yet the Pennsylvania Dutch, as they have come to be known, built far more than homes and places to worship; they constructed a complete cultural framework by which to live. Today the primary reason travelers visit the Lebanon Valley is to experience an authentic taste of an era that's past but not forgotten.


Get To Know The Pennsylvania Dutch

The Pennsylvania Dutch name actually is something of a misnomer, since it derives from the German word " Deutsche." The Lebanon Valley's first Pennsylvania Dutch settlers emigrated in the eighteenth century from what is now Germany, where they had been persecuted because of their religious beliefs. Over time, other groups arrived, each contributing to the religious landscape. Today Pennsylvania Dutch communities are divided roughly into "plain" and "fancy" sects. The former still adhere closely to their ancestors' customs, shunning modern ways and avoiding anything that might be considered worldly or vain. "Fancy" groups have adopted some of the trappings of contemporary society, yet remain faithful to their guiding religious principles. They operate many of the craft shops and home-style restaurants that visitors find alluring.

The most traditional of plain people, the Amish, follow customs that date back more than two centuries. Their traditions focus on faith, family and an agrarian way of life; principles that have enabled them to survive virtually unchanged. On a typical day you will see our Amish neighbors dressed in simple clothing traveling to market in horse-drawn buggies. With all the conveniences we take for granted, it's easy to admire their steadfast devotion to a traditional way of life.

Visitors quickly discover that the Lebanon Valley offers an unspoiled look at Pennsylvania Dutch Country, where the Amish are viewed as neighbors, not as tourist attractions. Here you will find Amish farms with small signs hanging by the road sides, offering produce and home baked goodies or special services. These signs are invitations for visitors to stop, shop and chat with these gentle people. It's a genuine interaction that takes place in a truly uncommercialized atmosphere, giving you an unspoiled view of our Pennsylvania Dutch neighbors. But, please, we ask that you respect their beliefs and right to privacy. Amish tradition specifically forbids posing for photographs, so it's best to refrain from taking snapshots in favor of returning home with lasting memories, tasty treats, and keepsake crafts.


Over 200 Years Of History

Boasting a rich history spanning more than two centuries, the Lebanon Valley is a treasure trove of important historical sites and cozy Colonial communities. Be sure to take time out to explore some of these fascinating attractions.

As with many regions in Pennsylvania, the Lebanon Valley's early growth was fueled by its abundant natural resources, namely iron ore, timber, and limestone. Plentiful supplies of these materials led to the establishment of Cornwall Iron Furnace in 1742 in the southern section of the Lebanon Valley. This massive stone charcoal-burning furnace, stoked by steam-powered blast machinery, operated day and night until 1883. The vast industrial plantation produced pig iron and domestic products, as well as cannons, shot, and shells for George Washington's army during the Revolutionary War. Local mining operations continued until the early 1970s, capitalizing on what are to this day the largest iron-ore deposits east of Lake Superior.

Today the Cornwall Furnace represents one of the world's best-preserved nineteenth-century iron-making facilities. A visit to the site is a trip back in time to the iron industry's heyday, when the furnace supported a complete, self-contained industrial community. Besides the furnace and blast machinery, visitors can view related outbuildings, coal bins, and roasting ovens. Through informative displays, a visitors' center offers insight into mining operations, iron-making techniques, and the daily life of workers. Remnants of the ironmasters' mansions and the workers' homes still dot the surrounding countryside. Administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Cornwall Iron Furnace is open every day except Mondays and most holidays.

Colonial history comes alive near Myerstown at Tulpehocken Manor Inn and Plantation, headquarters for the Hanover Rifle Battalion, a re-created Revolutionary War unit. Established in the 1730s by Palatine pilgrim Christopher Ley, the plantation grew from a single stone house to encompass several homes and farm buildings. In 1769, Ley's son Michael built an eight-room Germanic stone house on the property, which was visited by George Washington on three occasions. In addition to the original limestone-arched home built by Christopher Ley, a perfect example of Germanic Swiss bank architecture, and the Michael Ley Mansion, expanded in the mid-1800s to a Victorian manor, visitors can explore the beautiful plantation grounds and view typical Colonial structures such as the old smokehouse, bake house, cob house, and barn at this National Historic Site.

Perhaps nowhere else in the Lebanon Valley is the early German influence more evident than at Fort Zeller Museum in Newmanstown. The present structure originally served as a homestead for the Zeller family, who emigrated in 1710 from present-day Germany. Dating to 1745, the Zeller home functioned as a fort during the French and Indian War. With its mortar-covered limestone exterior, two-and-a-half-foot-thick walls, original embellishments, and massive Queen Anne fireplace, it provides an authentic glimpse at an architectural style that survives today only in Europe's Rhine Basin. Fort Zeller Museum is open year-round by appointment.

Bindnagle Church, three miles north of Palmyra, was built on land donated by Hans Bindnagle in 1753 to the local Evangelical Lutheran congregation, with the 1803 red brick structure replacing a log church that occupied the site. Modeled after classic Greek design, it stands as a fine example of Colonial architecture. Bindnagle Church still serves an active congregation today, nearly two centuries after it was constructed. The sexton cordially welcomes visitors for a tour, which he starts by displaying the hand wrought iron lock and key, dated 1803 made in Lebanon. Call (717) 533-6037 for current tour times and dates.

For an overview of local history, be sure to stop by Stoy Museum and Hauck Memorial Library in Lebanon, headquarters of the Lebanon County Historical Society. Built in 1773 as a home for Dr. William Henry Stoy, a minister and Revolutionary War doctor, the structure later served as Lebanon County's first courthouse when the county was established in 1813. James Buchanan, United States President from 1857 to 1861, practiced law as a young attorney in the upstairs courtrooms.

Dedicated to preserving and displaying Lebanon County history, the Stoy Museum chronicles local life since Colonial times with a series of carefully constructed exhibits showcasing historical artifacts and implements, period clothing, and Pennsylvania Dutch furniture and quilts. Displays include a one-room schoolhouse, old-time drug store, doctor's office, glass and china shop, music store, dress shop, barbershop, and general store. Railroading, firefighting, and World War I memorabilia also are exhibited. Of special interest to baseball fans is the Babe Ruth uniform display. The museum is closed on Saturdays and holidays.

Near the Stoy Museum off State Highway 72 north, the Union Canal Tunnel is noteworthy as America's oldest existing transportation tunnel. Completed in 1827 for the seventy-eight-mile canal linking Reading and Harrisburg, it was designated a National Historic Engineering Landmark in 1970, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, and made a National Historic Landmark in 1994.


And So Much More.....