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The Lebanon County Historical Society is proud of its past, from its humble beginnings as a meeting of a few civic leaders, through years of cramped office space, to its first property on Walnut Street, to its current home on Cumberland Street. Through it all, the Society has depended on the participation of members and volunteers for the ongoing support of its mission.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Lebanon County Historical Society is to collect, exhibit, interpret, preserve, and publish the history of the Lebanon Valley. The Society shall accomplish this mission through its museums, libraries, archives, publications, programs, and historic sites. The Society shall hold its collections in trust for the community and recognizes its responsibility to educate and inform the public about the history of the Lebanon Valley and make its holdings reasonably accessible to the public.

Location and Facilities

The Society is located at 924 Cumberland Street in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, 1/2 block west of the intersection of Route 422 West (Cumberland Street) and Route 72 North (Ninth Street). The building houses the Stoy Museum and Gift Shop, the Hauck Research Archives library, the Reese Memorial Hall, and the Society office. The Society also owns and maintains The Union Canal Tunnel, the oldest existing transportation tunnel in the United States, for the canal which once linked Reading and Harrisburg.

Governance

Executive Committee

  • Chair – Edward Dannels
  • Vice-Chair – Richard Wertz
  • Treasurer – Carol A. Christ
  • Member at Large – William W. Smeltzer, Jr.

Committee Chairs

  • Archives – Adam Bentz
  • Biography and History Committee – Michael Trump
  • Friends of the Union Canal Tunnel Park – Kathleen Daubert
  • Gift Shop – Nancy Behney
  • Membership – Karin Mitchell
  • Tour – Jennifer Newton

Board of Trustees

  • Chair – Edward Dannels
  • Vice-Chair – Richard Wertz
  • Treasurer – Carol A. Christ
  • Jeffrey C. Firestone
  • Barbara Gaffney
  • Douglass C. Henry, Jr.
  • Tucker R. Hull
  • Jan Morrissey
  • Jeffrey L. Reedy
  • William W. Smeltzer, Jr.
  • Sherie Strohman
  • Michael Trump

Society Staff

  • Archivist & Librarian – Adam Bentz, Ph.D.
  • Office Coordinator – Jennifer Newton

Society Timeline

  • History of the Society

    The Lebanon County Historical Society was organized on Friday, January 14, 1898, and held its first official meeting on February 18, at the Lebanon County Courthouse. The Rev. F.J.F. Schantz of Myerstown delivered the opening address. Original officers were: President, Henry C. Grittinger; Vice presidents, Henry S. Heilman and Hiram L. Illig; Secretary, Dr. Samuel P. Heilman; Treasurer, Charles H. Killinger, Esq.; Librarian, Dr. William R. Roedel.

    The Society headquarters remained at the courthouse until November, 1908, when a fire partially destroyed the courthouse and many of its records. For the next thirteen years, the Society had its headquarters at the old YMCA Building at Ninth and Willow Street, until December, 1921, when it moved to the basement of the Farmers Trust Company.

  • The Hauck Memorial Building

    In 1934, the Society took possession of its first property at Sixth and Walnut Street, which was generously bequeathed by Mrs. Sarah Embich Hauck. Mrs. Hauck was the widow of Samuel Hauck, Jr., a merchant in Lebanon who was a veteran of the Civil War with Company E, 127th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. The Haucks had one child, Rebecca Hauck Wolfe, who had preceded her mother with no heirs. The bequest of the Hauck estate was accepted and ratified by the Society membership on October 17, 1934. On December 14 of that year, the Society held its 37th annual meeting in its own headquarters, subsequently renamed the Hauck Memorial Building.

    With the renovations of the Hauck building, the Society was able to start a serious collection of historical artifacts. On November 11 and 12, 1935, the Society held its first public exhibition and accepted many new pieces from the hundreds of visitors from those opening days. The Hauck building served the Society well for nearly forty years.

  • Union Canal Tunnel

    In the early 1930s, an effort began to restore and preserve the old Union Canal tunnel northwest of Lebanon, and the Historical Society was granted permission to spearhead that initiative. On April 3, 1950, the Society completed the purchase of the eight-acre tract of land around the southern terminus of the tunnel, with definite plans to develop it as a historic site.

  • A New Home on Cumberland Street

    In 1972, the Lebanon County Historical Society acquired the property at 924 Cumberland Street and opened the doors of its new facility the following year. Since 1973, the building has housed the offices, museum and gift shop, library, auditorium, and collected holdings of the Society.

    The current home of the Lebanon County Historical Society has a long and storied history. The main structure was originally built from local limestone in 1773 as the home and office of Dr. William Henry Stoy, a German-born Lutheran minister and prominent Revolutionary War physician. Later it was the residence of retired Lieutenant Adjutant-General John Weidman, who had served under George Washington at Valley Forge and during many other campaigns. When Lebanon County was formed in 1813, the upstairs of the mansion was used as the county’s first courthouse. Among the attorneys who appeared there were James Buchanan, fifteenth President of the United States, and Lebanon native, John Henry Shulze, sixth Governor of Pennsylvania. In 1912, the property was purchased by the Loyal Order of the Moose, and in 1935, they added the large auditorium, now known as the Reese Memorial Hall.

    The Stoy Museum is named in honor of Dr. W. H. Stoy, the original owner. The Reese Memorial Hall is named in honor of Catherine Killinger Reese, whose generous bequest settled the final debt incurred with the restoration of the building. The Hauck Research Archives is named in honor of Sarah Hauck, who bequeathed the first property.