Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce Blog
Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce Blog
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1:51 PM

The History Behind Chambersburg's Memorial Square

by Laiton Suders, Intern, Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce

13892320_1118321154899385_6431808730398527617_nChambersburg natives know our town as somewhat of an “unsung hero” of the Civil War. The story of the Burning of Chambersburg isn’t found in most American History textbooks, but it played a large part in the Union's defense against the Confederacy. In Memorial Square, a statue of a Union soldier sits beside the fountain facing south to ward off the Confederate soldiers that once ambushed Chambersburg and held it for ransom.

The Memorial Fountain, along with its statue, has truly become a representation of Chambersburg. It is a symbol of our small town that is near and dear to our hearts. In our minds, it’s the center of the town and acts as a cast iron symbol of a crossroad that we know well: Route 11 and Route 30. This historic intersection, however, is not significant to locals alone. Our square is also known as “The Crossroads of the Country.”

1130Route 11, or Molly Pitcher Highway, runs all the way from New York to Louisiana. Route 30, also known as Lincoln Highway, stretches across the entire country from east to west and was one of the first highways constructed to span the United States. These two historic routes intersect in just one place: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

Is Chambersburg known internationally as an important landmark? Not really. Do American children learn in elementary school about the Burning of Chambersburg or the Crossroads of the Country? Usually not. Nevertheless, we should be proud of our town. Those who recognize our significance admire us, even though we are largely “unsung heroes.”

Yes, everyone knows that the Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most significant battles of the American Civil War. Everyone also knows that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. What isn’t known is that Edison copied the work of Joseph Swan, a British inventor who had beat Edison to the punch 10 years earlier. Don’t worry, we’re not fighting Gettysburg for the copyright to “Most Historic Town in Pennsylvania,” but we’ve got good reason to be recognized. So, take pride in your town. Recognize the significance of the Crossroads of the Country and the Memorial Square Fountain, and tell others about it so that they can appreciate it too.

12794617_1016055261792642_7000326375888567430_nTo learn more about our local history - both Chambersburg and Franklin County - stop by the Chambersburg Heritage Center & Gift Shop. Here you'll learn about history from the Civil War to Transportation and more. You can also pick up a Memorial Fountain mug, a Lincoln Highway Driving Guide or a “Crossroads of the Country” T-shirt from the Gift Shop, which sells many unique, local gifts. Then, you can tell everyone why you live in one of the most important towns in Pennsylvania.



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9:54 AM

Chambersburg's Benjamin Franklin statue turns 150

Ben Franklin Statue 3One hundred and fifty years ago marks the rebuilding of the courthouse after the burning of Chambersburg during the Civil War. With it came the replacing of a new Benjamin Franklin statue on the courthouse dome, since the original was burned along with the courthouse. Standing at 8 feet tall and weighing nearly 250 pounds of pure pine, the gold-leafed statue was made in 1865 by Frederick Mayer of Pittsburgh to pay homage to the man for which Franklin County is named.

Benjamin Franklin was the tenth son of Josiah Franklin and Abiah Folger, born in Boston on January 17, 1706. Unable to afford more than one year of schooling, Ben began to apprentice for his older brother, who was a printer. After five years he ran away in 1723 to continue his life elsewhere, settling in Pennsylvania.

In 1729 he bought the Pennsylvania Gazette where he authored and printed the first political cartoon. Living for work, Ben also created Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1733 where he coined memorable phrases such as “a penny saved is a penny earned.” A few other achievements included helping establish the Library Company in 1731, creating the Union Fire Company of Philadelphia in 1736, launching the American Philosophical Society in 1743 and forming the Pennsylvania Hospital in 1751. Most notably, however, Ben is known for being a colonial representative for Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts until 1776 when he helped draft the Declaration of Independence and became one of our nation’s Founding Fathers.

Ben stood vigil atop the Franklin County Courthouse dome until June 14, 1991 when he was taken down for restoration and replaced by a weather-proof replica made of fiberglass. A group of volunteer craftsmen, Clarence Harbaugh, Emmert Whitaker, John McClellan and Elmer Young, put approximately 500 hours of work into the old statue to undo the damage time and weathering had caused.

Ben Pic Collage for Blog
Picture captions: Left photo - The damaged statue before repairs began; Middle two photos - Volunteer craftsmen carefully work on restoration of the statue; Right photo - The four volunteer craftsmen who worked on restoration stand proudly in front of the primed statue waiting to receive new gold leafing. 

Good Night Heritage CenterAfter replacing his feet, legs just below the knee, a few fingers and fifty pounds of wood putty, we now find the 1865 Ben statue restored to its full glory in the Chambersburg Heritage Center. During weekday business hours, you'll see Ben facing inside to watch over the Chamber of Commerce and Heritage Center. The rest of the time, Ben faces Chambersburg's Memorial Square to keep watch over the town through his own personal window (pictured right).

The Chambersburg Heritage Center, located at 100 Lincoln Way East in downtown Chambersburg, is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (excluding national holidays), and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays from mid-May through mid-October. Drop in to wish Ben and happy 150th birthday!

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