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City of Lancaster
Rock Ford Plantation Lancaster Front 1456px.jpg
North Duke Street Lancaster.jpg Lancaster Pennsylvania downtown.jpg
Lancaster Central Market.JPG
Top to bottom, left to right: Rock Ford Plantation, North Duke Street, Downtown Lancaster, showing the Lancaster County Convention Center, Marriott Hotel, W. W. Griest Building, and Lancaster County Court House, and Lancaster Central Market.
Flag of Lancaster, Pennsylvania
The Red Rose City
Lancaster city's location in Lancaster County
Location in Lancaster County
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Lancaster
Founded 1729
Incorporated (borough) 1742
Incorporated (city) 1818
Founded by James Hamilton
Named for Lancaster, Lancashire, England
Seat Lancaster County
 • Type Strong mayor − council
 • City 7.4 sq mi (19 km2)
 • Land 7.39 sq mi (19.1 km2)
 • Water 0.01 sq mi (0.03 km2)
 • Metro
802 sq mi (2,080 km2)
368 ft (112 m)
 • City 59,322
 • Rank 8th in Pennsylvania
 • Density 8,020/sq mi (3,095/km2)
 • Urban
 • Metro
Demonym(s) Lancastrians
Time zone UTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP Codes
17573, 17601−17608, 17611, 17622, 17699
Area code(s) 717

Lancaster; is a city located in South Central Pennsylvania which serves as the seat of Pennsylvania's Lancaster County and one of the oldest inland towns in the United States (along with Hartford, Connecticut; Springfield, Massachusetts; Petersburg, Virginia; Albany, New York; Schenectady, New York, and several other early settlements). With a population of 59,322, it ranks eighth in population among Pennsylvania's cities. The Lancaster metropolitan area population is 507,766, making it the 101st largest metropolitan area in the US and 2nd largest in the South Central Pennsylvania area.

The city's primary industries include healthcare, tourism, public administration, manufacturing, both professional and semi-professional services, and home of the Park City Center shopping mall, the largest indoor retail facility in the region. Lancaster hosts more electronic public CCTV outdoor cameras per capita than cities such as Boston or San Francisco, despite controversy among residents. Lancaster was home to James Buchanan, the nation's 15th president, and to congressman and abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens.


Originally called Hickory Town, the city was renamed after the English city of Lancaster by native John Wright. Its symbol, the red rose, is from the House of Lancaster. Lancaster was part of the 1681 Penn's Woods Charter of William Penn, and was laid out by James Hamilton in 1734. It was incorporated as a borough in 1742 and incorporated as a city in 1818.

During the American Revolution, Lancaster was the capital of the United States for one day, on September 27, 1777, after the Continental Congress fled Philadelphia, which had been captured by the British. The revolutionary government then moved still farther away to York, Pennsylvania.

Lancaster was capital of Pennsylvania from 1799 to 1812, after which the capital was moved to Harrisburg.

In 1851, the current Lancaster County Prison was built in the city, styled after Lancaster Castle in England. The prison remains in use, and was used for public hangings until 1912. It replaced a 1737 structure on a different site.

The first paved road in the United States was the former Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike, which makes up part of the present-day U.S. Route 30. Opened in 1795, the Turnpike connected the cities of Lancaster and Philadelphia, and was designed by a Scottish engineer named John Loudon McAdam. Lancaster residents are known to use the word "macadam" in lieu of pavement or asphalt. This name is a reference to the paving process named for McAdam.

The city of Lancaster was home to several important figures in American history. Wheatland, the estate of James Buchanan, the fifteenth President of the United States, is one of Lancaster's most popular attractions. Thaddeus Stevens, considered among the most powerful members of the United States House of Representatives, lived in Lancaster as an attorney. Stevens gained notoriety as a Radical Republican and for his abolitionism. The Fulton Opera House in the city was named for Lancaster native Robert Fulton, a renaissance man who created the first fully functional steamboat. All of these individuals have had local schools named after them.

After the American Revolution, the city of Lancaster became an iron-foundry center. Two of the most common products needed by pioneers to settle the Frontier were manufactured in Lancaster: the Conestoga wagon and the Pennsylvania long rifle. The Conestoga wagon was named after the Conestoga River, which runs through the city. The innovative gunsmith William Henry lived in Lancaster and was a U.S. congressman and leader during and after the American Revolution.

In 1803, Meriwether Lewis visited Lancaster to be educated in survey methods by the well-known surveyor Andrew Ellicott. During his visit, Lewis learned to plot latitude and longitude as part of his overall training needed to lead the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

In 1879, Franklin Winfield Woolworth opened his first successful "five and dime" store in the city of Lancaster, the F. W. Woolworth Company.

Lancaster was one of the winning communities for the All-America City award in 2000.

On October 13, 2011, Lancaster's City Council officially recognized September 27 as Capital Day, a holiday recognizing Lancaster's one day as capital of the United States in 1777.


Lancaster is located at 40°02'23" North, 76°18'16" West (40.039860, −76.304366), and is 368 feet (112 m) above sea level.

The city is located about 34 miles (55 km) southeast of Harrisburg, 70 miles (110 km) west of Philadelphia, 55 miles (89 km) north-northeast of Baltimore and 87 miles (140 km) northeast of Washington, D.C.

The nearest towns and boroughs are Millersville (4.0 miles), Willow Street (4.8 miles), East Petersburg (5.3 miles), Lititz (7.9 miles), Landisville (8.6 miles), Mountville (8.8 miles), Rothsville (8.9 miles), and Leola (8.9 miles).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.4 square miles (19 km2), of which, 7.4 square miles (19 km2) of it is land and 0.14% is water.


Lancaster has a Humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfa) with hot or very warm summers.

Climate data for Lancaster, Pennsylvania (1981–2010 normals, extremes 1949–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 70
Average high °F (°C) 38.1
Average low °F (°C) 22.0
Record low °F (°C) −16
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.88
Snowfall inches (cm) 5.5
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 9.8 8.5 9.9 11.3 12.7 10.7 10.3 9.2 9.1 9.3 10.4 10.2 121.4
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 3.0 2.1 0.8 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.2 1.3 7.5
Source: NOAA


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 3,762
1800 4,292 14.1%
1810 5,405 25.9%
1820 6,633 22.7%
1830 7,704 16.1%
1840 8,417 9.3%
1850 12,369 47.0%
1860 17,603 42.3%
1870 20,233 14.9%
1880 25,769 27.4%
1890 32,011 24.2%
1900 41,459 29.5%
1910 47,227 13.9%
1920 53,150 12.5%
1930 59,949 12.8%
1940 61,345 2.3%
1950 63,774 4.0%
1960 61,055 −4.3%
1970 57,690 −5.5%
1980 54,725 −5.1%
1990 55,551 1.5%
2000 56,348 1.4%
2010 59,322 5.3%
Est. 2015 59,339 0.0%

As of the 2010 census, the city was 55.2% White, 16.3% Black or African American, 0.7% Native American, 3.0% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian, and 5.8% were two or more races. 39.3% of the population were of Hispanic or Latino ancestry.

As of the census of 2000, there were 56,348 people, 20,933 households, and 12,162 families residing in the city. The population density was 7,616.5 people per square mile (2,940.0/km²). There were 23,024 housing units at an average density of 3,112.1 per square mile (1,201.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 61.55% White, 14.09% African American, 0.44% Native American, 2.46% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 17.44% from other races, and 3.94% from two or more races. 30.76% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Ethnic groups

The largest ethnic groups in Lancaster as of recent estimates are :

In 2010, 29.2% of Lancaster residents were of Puerto Rican ancestry. The city has the second highest concentration of Puerto Ricans in Pennsylvania after Reading. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the "Spanish Rose." Lancaster celebrates its Puerto Rican heritage once every year with the Puerto Rican Festival.

There were 20,933 households, out of which 31.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.4% were married couples living together, 19.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.9% were non-families. 33.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.23.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 27.5% under the age of 18, 13.9% from 18 to 24, 30.5% from 25 to 44, 17.7% from 45 to 64, and 10.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 95.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,770, and the median income for a family was $34,623. Males had a median income of $27,833 versus $21,862 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,955. 21.2% of the population and 17.9% of families were below the poverty line. 29.2% of those under the age of 18 and 12.9% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line. Poverty in Lancaster is twice the state's average, and public school records list more than 900 children as homeless.


Lancaster, Pennsylvania - Housing. Stehli mills and houses in row inhabited by Stehli workers - rental $30.00 per month. - NARA - 518453
Row houses and Stehli mills, c. 1941. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania - Housing. Low-priced houses on Cabbage Hill - rental about $12.00 per month - (umbrella... - NARA - 518455
Cabbage Hill, c. 1941. Photo by Lewis Hine.
  • Cabbage Hill/The Hill (Named for a favorite food of ethnic Germans in this area)
  • Chestnut Hill
  • Downtown/Center City
  • Downtown Investment District
  • East End
  • Eighth Ward
  • Gallery Row/Arts District
  • Galebach Ward
  • Northwest Corridor
  • Penn Square
  • Prospect Heights
  • Seventh Ward
  • Sixth Ward
  • Uptown
  • West End
  • Woodward Hill


RRTA Optima 127
The Route 16 bus leaving Millersville inbound to Lancaster.

The Red Rose Transit Authority (RRTA) provides local bus transit to Lancaster City as well as surrounding areas in Lancaster County. RRTA is headquartered outside the City of Lancaster.

Bieber Tourways (formerly Capitol Trailways) provides intercity bus transit from the Lancaster Train and Bus Station to King of Prussia, Philadelphia, and New York City to the east, and York and Harrisburg to the west.

Amtrak also serves the Lancaster Train and Bus Station, located on the northernmost edge of the city at 53 East McGovern Avenue. The Pennsylvanian, with service between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, as well as the Keystone Service, which runs from Harrisburg to New York via Philadelphia, both serve Lancaster. The city is served by the Lancaster Airport, located six miles (10 km) north of downtown and just south of Lititz.

Lancaster is also a hub for automobile traffic, with many major roadways passing through or around the city, including US-30, US-222, PA-283, PA-72, and PA-272.

Historical landmarks

Rock Ford Plantation Lancaster Front 1456px
Rock Ford Plantation

Many of Lancaster's landmarks are significant in local, state, and national history.

  • Central Market (Lancaster) - built in 1889, it is the oldest continuously run farmers market in the United States.
  • Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church - built in 1879, the church's congregation aided freedmen migrating to the North for opportunities after the American Civil War. Their congregation had earlier aided fugitive slaves fleeing the South before the war, using their former church as a station on the Underground Railroad.
  • Cork Factory Hotel - built in 1865 as Conestoga Cork Works. Later the buildings making up what is known today as Urban Place were home to Armstrong Cork Factory and Kerr Glass Company. Rezoned in 2005, Urban Place has been adapted as 49 loft-style apartments, 115,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, the Cork Factory Hotel, and Cap & Cork Restaurant.
  • Fulton Opera House - the oldest continually running theater in the United States, it is one of three theaters designated as National Historic Landmarks (the others are the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia and the Goldenrod Showboat in St. Louis, Missouri).
  • Hamilton Watch Complex - former factory and headquarters of the Hamilton Watch Company, which in 1957 sold the world's first battery-powered watch, the Hamilton Electric 500.
  • J. P. McCaskey High School - built in 1938 during the Great Depression, it is designed in the Art Deco architectural style.
  • Lancaster Arts Hotel - Built in 1881, this building was the Falk and Rosenbaum Tobacco Warehouse. In October 2006, the warehouse reopened after adaptation, as Lancaster's first boutique hotel for the arts. It has 63 guest rooms (including 12 suites), an organic restaurant - John J Jeffries, and an onsite Art Gallery. It is registered with the Historic Hotels of America.
  • Lancaster County Prison - built in 1849, it was styled after the Lancaster Castle in England.
  • Rock Ford Plantation - built in 1794, this was the home of General Edward Hand, adjutant general to George Washington during the American Revolutionary War.
  • W. W. Griest Building - listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places since June 25, 1999. It was built in 1925 in the Beaux-Arts style using granite, limestone, terra cotta, synthetics, and asphalt. The building is named after William Walton Griest, a former Pennsylvania representative. It is the second-tallest building in the city.
  • Wheatland - the historic estate of James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States.

Art and museums

The city of Lancaster has art, craft and historical museums. The Demuth Museum is located in the former home of the well-known painter Charles Demuth, who had a national reputation in the 20th century. Additional art museums include the Lancaster Museum of Art and the Philips Museum of Art on the campus of Franklin & Marshall College. Art students at the state-of-the-art Pennsylvania College of Art and Design present their works at the academy's gallery, which is open to the public. LancasterARTS, a non-profit organization founded in 2002, promotes contemporary arts and crafts.

Lancaster city has a thriving art community. Gallery Row on the 100 block of North Prince St. features a block of art galleries, and the city proper has over 40 galleries and artists studios. The Galleries host a "First Friday" each month, extending business hours to exhibit new artwork and new artists to the public.

The Lancaster County Quilts and Textile Museum, completed in 2007, celebrates the art of the hand-sewn quilts and other textile items produced by women of the region's Amish and Mennonite communities. The Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society Museum and the Heritage Center Museum display artifacts and interpret the region's unique history. Children can have a hands-on experience with educational learning at the Hands-on House, also known as Children's Museum of Lancaster. Nature and geology-minded visitors can view the more earthly exhibits of the Louise Arnold Tanger Arboretum and the North Museum of Natural History and Science.

Upon completion, the Lancaster County Convention Center will incorporate the Stevens and Smith Historic Site. This museum that will include the preserved home of US Senator Thaddeus Stevens and his companion Lydia Hamilton Smith. In addition to its exhibits, the underground portion of the site will feature a recently discovered Underground Railroad feature: a converted water cistern used in the antebellum years to hide fugitive slaves on their way to freedom.

In Lancaster County, the Landis Valley Museum in Manheim Township has exhibits that interpret the county's history and culture, especially as a center of ethnic German Amish and Mennonite culture.


Hamilton pocketwatch
Hamilton pocketwatch
  • The first battery-powered watch, the Hamilton Electric 500, was released in 1957 by the Hamilton Watch Company.
  • Peeps, an Easter confection shaped as marshmallow chicks covered with yellow sugar, were invented by the Rodda Candy Company of Lancaster in the 1920s. In 1953, Rodda was purchased by Sam Born, the Russian immigrant who invented ice cream "jimmies", and production was moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

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