Lancaster’s King Street: Gateway to the West!

King Street

If you walk along King Street in Lancaster towards Penn Square, remember that this is not just another street in another town.

Prominent men in American history have walked where you are now, such as George Ross, signer of the Declaration of Independence; General Edward Hand, Washington’s adjutant general, who lived in the first block of East King Street before building Rock Ford; Robert Fulton, who made the steamboat practical; James Buchanan, 15th president of the United States; and Thaddeus Stevens, who helped bring free schools to Pennsylvania and drove for the abolition of slavery. George Washington, John Hancock, and the Marquis de Lafayette all visited and walked West King Street.

Penn Square in the late 1800s.

As you approach Penn Square, try to imagine what Lancaster was like 300 years ago. It’s easy to forget that the Red Rose city and its 60,000 people weren’t always the eighth largest in Pennsylvania. When the community was established as the county seat in 1729—making it one of largest and oldest inland cities in the country..

Today, King Street is one way going east, but in honor of its history, traffic should really be headed in the other direction.

The Lancaster County Courthouse in Centre Square
The Lancaster County Courthouse in Centre Square

By the mid-1700s, King Street was the gateway to the West, serving as the roadway to Wright’s Ferry, later renamed Columbia in a bid to become the nation’s capital, and to the lands across the Susquehanna.

Instead of automobiles, Conestoga wagons once rumbled down this street carrying settlers and trade goods to the frontiers. More was sent to help General Edward Braddock in his ill-fated 1755 expedition in the French and Indian War after Benjamin Franklin asked the Pennsylvania Germans here for aid.


If it’s a quiet day and you listen hard, you may be able to hear the echoes of the Conestoga waggoners’ bells.

Conestoga Wagon bells
Conestoga Wagon bells on display at the Conestoga Area Historical Society.

Sons of Liberty Adventure

If you want to learn more about downtown Lancaster and explore the epicenter for the spirit of independence in Lancaster County, look no further than the Sons of Liberty Adventure.

While no battles were fought here during the Revolutionary War, Lancaster Riflemen, and volunteers fought with distinction. In fact, at the outbreak of the Revolution, Lancastrians were among the first to march to Boston.

As the largest and wealthiest inland town in the colonies, Lancaster’s many influential patriots significantly impacted the Revolutionary War. They played essential roles in creating our new government and helping to feed, supply, and care for troops.

Service to the nation did not stop there. During the Civil War, Lancaster continued to pay the high price of freedom…often with their lives. On the Sons of Liberty Adventure, you will discover the people and sometimes secret locations that helped shape America in her hour of need.

Click here to learn more about the Uncharted Lancaster: Sons of Liberty Adventure.

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