Saturday, January 11, 2020

Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

When I used to buy boxes of random slides, half the fun was that first go-through to find the interesting photos, or photos that make me want to learn more about them.

Like this first one, that was helpfully labeled "Chambersburg". Undated, but possibly late 1950's? Chambersburg is a historic town in southern Pennsylvania. This first photo shows the Franklin County Courthouse, built in 1865 after the original courthouse was burnt by Confederate troops in 1864 - they reused columns that had survived from the older building. 100 years later the courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places. By golly.

Here's a relatively contemporary photo of the courthouse, looking spruced up and nice. Apparently in February of last year, the building to the left was torn down as part of an "improvement project" for the courthouse area that includes "...the construction of a modern judicial center... and an administration building... as well as renovations to the Old Courthouse". Well, if you say so.

Another photo from Chambersburg is from February, 1964, and is looking south on North Main Street. Maybe it will rain? I love those old brick buildings, probably some of them were well over 100 years old by '64. To the extreme right (almost out of frame) is the Central Presbyterian Church, and the building with the white faux columns is the National Bank of Chambersburg (now a visitors center). To our left is Newberry Department Store. Way in the distance is the steeple of the Reformed Zion Church (completed in 1813).

Here's a Google Maps street view screen grab; the memorial fountain was dedicated in 1878, and a bronze soldier, facing South (symbolically guarding against future invasions) was added by veteran's groups (he's on the other side, hidden by the fountain from this angle).

Here's a recent photo of the former National Bank of Chambersburg. The sign commemorates the Confederate Council; on June 26th, 1863, Lieutenant General Ambrose Hill met with General Robert E. Lee, though to this day nobody knows what  they said to one another. Maybe they talked about gum.

Here's a vintage view looking south on North Main Street. I guess some holiday was being celebrated, but I have no idea which one.

Another vintage view, a little further south; in my photo you can see some of these same signs, such as Glick Shoes and Huntsberrys. "Tobeys" (whatever that was) is on the right side of the street, while in my 1964 photos it has a sign on the left side of the street. Proof of alien interference.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to Chambersburg, PA!

EXTRA! EXTRA! Here is an artist's rendering of the new structures.


"Lou and Sue" said...

Enjoyed the visit to Chambersburg - especially the guided tour! "Maybe they talked about gum." hahahaha! :o)


TokyoMagic! said...

I know I've said it before, but I love these kind of "then and now" photo comparisons! WHY would they want to tear that one building down? And it was done just last year? I wonder if anyone was fighting to save it? The courthouse is not going to look the same with a "modern" judicial center and administration building next to it! Sad!

Major, the statue of that South-facing soldier, can be seen really well in the first two photos (both the vintage and contemporary shots). What I would like to know is, do they put the Christmas tree over that fountain, or just next to it? It doesn't look like there is really room next to it.

Major, thanks for taking the time to get the "today" shots for us and also, the vintage black and white photos!

Nanook said...

What swell buildings you have for us today - complete with direct connections to the Civil War-!

In the first image, on the far left, appears to be a black, 1949 or 1950 Ford. To the right are two, black 1957 Plymouth taxi cabs. Heading for us is a 1958, Oldsmobile 'Dynamic 88' convertible - in Festival Red. In the third image, we can barely see the right taillight of what "appears to be" a 1955 Chevrolet. Next to it is a black, 1953 Mercury. (I wonder if it had Merc-O-Matic Drive-?) To its right we have a 1959 De Soto, I'm thinking in 'Heather Blue'. Just above it is a two-tone red/white 1952-? Chevrolet. To its left is a 1951-? Studebaker - FIrst by far with a postwar car! And to the right of the Chevrolet is a 1957 Tahitian Green-? Mercury - and a bunch of other cars.

In the 6th image, we can see the rear end of a 1960 or 1961 Ford Falcon; and in front of it - a 1956 Plymouth station wagon. And that 'mysterious holiday' being celebrated is certainly a conundrum. But Guy Fawkes Day is always my go-to - when in doubt...

And in the final image, on the far left, is a 1941 Plymouth, and to its right - a 1952 Chevrolet. It sure looks like a fun place to visit way back when.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Taking another look at that second pic in your post, it looks like the Christmas tree was up at the time that more contemporary pic was taken. There appears to be ornaments and lights on it and also a white star at the very top. It almost looks like the tree has taken the place of the fountain. Could it be that the fountain is dismantled at Christmastime and replaced with the tree? Or do you suppose it's just a perspective thing and the fountain is there, just out of frame? It sure does look like it's in the center of that pool at the base of the fountain.

Nanook said...

@ TM!-

In actuality - the fountain turns into the Christmas tree seen here. Pretty neat trick, huh-??!!

TokyoMagic! said...

Nanook, that sounds like a Disney thing. I can envision a show taking place in the circle, nightly. Julie Andrews' voice comes on over a loud speaker and tells everyone if they dream and they wish hard enough, that the fountain will magically turn into a Christmas tree! We then hear the voices of children, singing about "dreams and wishes," while soap suds rain down from the rooftops of the surrounding buildings. Julie tries to convince us that it's real snow, by telling us that anything is possible, if you wish hard enough.....because when you wish upon a star, you dreams DO come true. The end. Then the Chambersburg sanitation department has to come in with shovels and trash cans, to clean up all the trash left behind by the crowds.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Don’t forget about fireworks!

TokyoMagic! said...

Oh yes, and plenty of fireworks. Red and green ones. In the shapes of Mickey & Minnie, Anna & Elsa, Olaf, and Johnny Depp.

"Lou and Sue" said...

And they’ll sell $15 cups of Starbucks hot chocolate, and $20 spinning light-up plastic roses.

What shape IS Johnny Depp ??

Chuck said...

These photos are really neat, Major! Thanks for the historical views and context.

I love the statue of Benjamin Franklin on top of the courthouse, an appropriate way to honor the man made famous by the Franklin Mint. If you zoom in really close, you can see Amos, the mouse, in his coat pocket.

US 30 East (signed on the roundabout in Memorial Square) is the historic Chambersburg Pike that leads to Gettysburg. Lee set up his headquarters for the battle in a house located on the Gettysburg end of that road.

I think the holiday being celebrated in the black-and-white photos is probably Cinco de Diciembre, or St. Nicholas Eve. Or maybe not. I'm kind of like Linus Van Pelt and tend to get my holidays mixed up. Everybody else looking forward to St. Valentine's Massacre Day next month?

TM!, it appears that some years, the fountain is removed and the tree set in its place, while in other years it's set up in parking spaces across the street from the old bank. 2015's tree was apparently the first in 28 years; you can clearly see in this photo of that year's emplacement that the fountain has been removed. In contrast, here's a video of the crew setting up the tree in 2018 across the street.

While I think the placement of the tree in the fountain's position is more visually appealing, I can see how moving a 26-foot high, cast iron, 1878-vintage fountain every year could get expensive as well as create increasing risk of destroying or damaging a local icon that's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sue, he's any shape he wants to be. That's what acting is all about.

Andrew said...

Hey, I've driven right through here, even if I've sadly never stopped! In 2018, I passed through here with my family, and we were all really surprised, especially as pictures like this of the fountain don't show how amazing it is, with lots of jets spraying off of the sides. It took us 10 seconds to circle around the square, though, so I've really only ever gotten a passing glance of it.

We were driving through Chambersburg I'm a big fan of the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental, marked road. Established in 1913, the Lincoln Highway goes from New York to San Francisco across 13 states and has a large section that cuts right down the middle of Pennsylvania, passing through Philadelphia, Gettysburg (appropriately), this Town Square, and Pittsburgh.

As Chuck mentioned, in 1926, the U.S. began to establish its system of numbered highways, leading to the designation of the road as US 30, although it and the Lincoln Highway often deviate from each other and follow different routings. This is one of my favorite posts, Major!

Gnometrek said...

Major, these Photos are near and dear to my heart. I actually lived and raised my children a few block east of the Square. This was in the 90's through early 2000's. You are right there is a lot of history in that little postage of a town. John Brown was also a resident of Chambersburg. I believe that is where he did much of the planning for the Harper's Ferry Raid. My Kids could walk everywhere. To school, church and most of a to the many books stores downtown. These were used book stores that had plenty of vintage comic books. Another point of interest is the Capital Theater. It was saved in the mid 90's and now feature monthly entertainments. The theater is also home to the Chambersburg Community Theater. I am the proud father of a former member who portrayed a Cratchit sibling, an orphan with Annie and her staring role as ZuZu Bailey. Both of my sons made Eagle Scout in that town. Lots of ups and down along the way, like our little town. But in the totality of things it has been a wonderful life. PS I now live in Arkansas and the soldier in our Square points north.

zach said...

Nanook, may I be so presumptuous as to mention the two 1959 Chevrolets parked side by side in the 3rd photo? That was by far my favorite car in my youth. I will also mention the '59 Cadillac nearby.

I,too, enjoyed this road trip and comments. I am rarely in the north east but always enjoy seeing signs on the buildings saying 'built in 1753' or some other long ago time. That's why I'm surprised they tore down that beautiful building next to the courthouse. I would love to wander around Pennsylvania and environs so thanks for the preview.

At first I didn't even see the statue hiding behind the Do Not Enter sign.

I read on the internet that Ben Franklin played 'King of the Hill' ALOT when he was a kid. It's nice they honored him in that way.

Thanks again for the great 'then and now' photos and the great commentary everyone.


Irene said...

What a great post for a so called "slow" day! Love all the comments both funny and very informative. And to think one of our crew actually lived there and could give us such great insight. Thanks for getting my day off to a great start.

PS - I'm also sad they were going to tear that building down!!! Does anyone know if they actually did? Did someone stop this insanity?

Dean Finder said...

Not surprised that building needs to be replaced. Between computers and other equipment for investigation and cases, the legal requirements for modern jail facilities for people awaiting trial, and problems like leaking pipes and asbestos, a lot of buildings like are in danger. Hopefully, the "modern" replacement only applies to the facilities and not the look of the building. I've seen some recent projects further east on Rt 30 (Lancaster) that have been pretty good.

What's really interesting in the last picture is how crowded the sidewalks are. I wonder if it was after or before a Christmas event in town, or the shopping district was just that crowded.

Also, there are a lot of loan offices in the historic images. Was Chambersburg a banking center for the area, or did they just need a lot of bail money near the courthouse?

Nanook said...

@ dzacher-
Of course you may - and should. I need all the help I can get.

In addition to those two Chevrolets - beginning to their left is a 1955 Ford, the [infamously-finned] 1959 Cadillac, a 1953 Chevrolet, a 1958 Buick "The Air Born B-58 Buick", and a two-tone, 1957 Buick or Pontiac - there're not quite-enough clearly-identifiable features for a positive ID.

JC Shannon said...

dzacher, I was going to mention those Impalas or Bel Airs or Biscaynes, Nanook would know, I love that year of Chevy, back on Lamaida Street, we called them "new Chevys". Yes, I'm that old. Hey Major,the holiday being celebrated is obviously Saint Swithins Day. Gnometrek, did you ever find any Civil War artifacts when you lived there? I have always dreamed of finding one. Love all of these photos, thanks.

Sunday Night said...

Looking at that last pic...I have no problem parallel parking, but to do it in one of those (manual) behemoths of that era? With that traffic? Whoa!

Major Pepperidge said...

Lou and Sue, I’m sure gum came up, even if they mostly talked about something else.

TokyoMagic!, I agree, it was sort of shocking to read that the building to the left was gone. And you know that whatever they replace it with is gonna be U-G-L-Y. I would guess that there was at least some outcry, but when a city wants something, it’s pretty hard to fight it. I wondered about that Christmas tree in relation to the fountain, but have no answer for you!

Nanook, it is pretty amazing to go to that part of the country, where buildings 150 years (and more) old can be found. Here in SoCal there isn’t much that’s older than the 1920’s. Man, you really did your “car thing” today! I would like the ’58 Oldsmobile in Festival Red please. Ford Falcons always make me think of Charlie Brown.

TokyoMagic!, The lights on the tree in the first B&W photo look so geometric that I wondered if it is a real tree, or maybe a faux tree that’s basically a hollow cone? It seems hard to believe that they would dismantle an old fountain every year, don’t you think?

Nanook, it’s “Disney Magic”, in downtown Chambersburg.

TokyoMagic!, ha ha, great minds think alike (I swear I didn’t read ahead). Funny how the pleasant words “dreams”, “magic”, and “wishes” have been corrupted by Disney through overuse. Does Julie Andrews still narrate the fireworks shows? If so, they’ve been using her voice for what, 15 years? I think she started with the “Wishes” parade, I remember burning that soundtrack to a CD for a friend who lives in Austria, and she said her kids played it over and over. If only I had soap suds floating down upon my head right now…

Lou and Sue & TokyoMagic!, I never know what to do when the comments are a conversation between readers! Should I comment on your comments? Or just sit back and “eavesdrop”?

Chuck, once again you have out-researched me! Which is more than OK of course. I love the ties to history that you find all throughout this area; back when I lived in Pennsylvania, it amazed me that you could see walls that still bore the scars of minie balls. Thank you for solving the mystery of the holiday, there are not enough clues for me! You are right, the fountain does appear to have been removed, I wonder if it needed some TLC after more than 100 years? I find it hard to believe that they would regularly move it - as you said, the risk of damaging it is high.

Andrew, I wondered if you’d ever been to (or through) Chambersburg! I didn’t think that the fountain was as spectacular as you described - figured it was more of a “dribbler”. I think it’s so cool that you have such a love of history, especially local history. Glad you liked this post!

Gnometrek, oh neat. So often I’ll see some of these charming towns in vintage photos, and can’t help wondering what it would be like to live there today. I loved living in Pennsylvania, and miss many things about my time there. I’ve mentioned the Sundays at church in Camp Hill (PA), and my favorite part, getting a donut and a comic book afterwards! Sounds like you had a beautiful time in Chambersburg. Love that you had a daughter who played ZuZu (my sister named her cat ZuZu). Thanks for the fun comment!

dzacher, one of my most vivid memories of living in Pennsylvania was driving to the nearby towns; my mom loved antiquing, and that meant everything from farm auctions to junk shops that were in a damp basement. For a while it seems like PA was a nexus for all kinds of old stuff, my mom would bid on a box of unknown junk at a farm auction, and sometimes got some pretty neat items.

Irene, from what I’ve read, the demolition seems to have been postponed and might start next month. But it looks like it will happen, no matter what. Sometimes it seems like “progress” is a dirty word.

Major Pepperidge said...

Dean Finder, there are artist’s renderings of the proposed new structures, and they are pretty “modern”, though at least there will be more of a setback from the old County Courthouse. That older building was really too close in my opinion. The new building is not unattractive - hey, someday it will be antique too. I’ll bet the crowds in that last photo are due to some late Christmas shoppers! I didn’t notice all the loan offices, but I like your theory that people needed bail money!

Nanook, ah, now you guys are just showing off. ;-)

Jonathan, I feel like I should get the “St. Swithins Day” reference, but it’s over my head. Like most things! I knew people who had metal detectors who found Civil War stuff - mostly minie balls, but sometimes buttons or part of a buckle, or some such thing. My mean mom and dad wouldn’t buy us a metal detector, even though we could have found cauldrons full of gold coins (according to the ads)!

Sunday Night, everyone had Popeye arms thanks to the lack of power steering.

Nanook said...


As far as handling 'personal conversations' among readers is concerned, I think you should provide 'snide invective', bringing those outliers to tears-!

"Lou and Sue" said...


Unknown said...

the fountain is dismantled and shipped off every 20 or 30 years. this just happens to be that time. other than the tree sits across from the church