On this Day in History: President John Adams visits Lancaster

John Adams was a remarkable political philosopher who served as the second President of the United States (1797-1801) after serving as the first Vice President under President George Washington. Adams was also the last President to occupy the national capital at Philadelphia since the new Federal City of Washington would be the capital after 1800.

John Adams, circa 1790

After the last session of Congress on May 14, 1800, in Philadelphia, President Adams planned a tour of the new capital city. His journey to the Federal City took him traveling there via Lancaster and York.

Adams arrived in Lancaster on May 28, 1800. This was his second visit to Lancaster, having been present on September 27, 1777, when the Continental Congress met after fleeing Philadelphia during the Revolution. Click here to read more about Lancaster being the nation’s capital for one day.

President Adams again stayed at the White Swan Hotel. Today, the Lancaster Marriott occupies the former site of the White Swan. When Residents learned of the President’s visit, a fireworks display was arranged in his honor that evening.

Actor Paul Giamatti portrayed John Adams in HBO’s series of the same name. Here he is “enjoying” the fireworks outside the White Swan Hotel.

The following day he journeyed to Columbia, escorted by a volunteer cavalry troop. President Adams took the ferry across the Susquehanna River as it would be another 14 years until a bridge existed in this location. He was greeted by York citizens and militia on the west shore. They then escorted Adams to the White Rose City.

The 1800 election was a bitterly contested election between Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The political rivalry between the two caused feelings to run high in Lancaster. Newspapers that opposed Adams took little notice of the President’s visit.

John Adam (left) and Thomas Jefferson (right)

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Mr. Washington Goes to Lancaster

The country’s first President was no stranger to Lancaster. According to LNP, he visited our fair city five times: June 4, 1773; July 4, 1791; November 14, 1793; October 26, 1794; and September 20, 1796. Click here to read about those visits.

Sons of Liberty: Matthias Slough and the White Swan Hotel

Before it was the Lancaster County Convention Center, the southeast corner of Penn Square was home to the Watt & Shand Department Store.

However, the first business to operate in this location was the White Swan Hotel. Located a few feet from the old Lancaster courthouse, the White Swan was a popular resting place for people visiting or passing through the town. It was the most well-known of the old Lancaster inns. Click here to read more about the White Swan Hotel.


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