LancasterHistory Provides Opportunities to Delve into the Past with Minds, Eyes, and Even Hands

wheatland lancasterhistory site
Image via Julie Liz Photography at LancasterHistory.
President James Buchanan's Lancaster residence, Wheatland.

LancasterHistory — formerly the Lancaster County Historical Society — has a spring calendar filled with popular, informative, and even compelling opportunities for devoted and casual history buffs alike.

More than just a museum, its presence at 230 North President Avenue (just outside downtown Lancaster) is a historic site, research center, and even arboretum.


One of its more popular assets is Wheatland, the beloved residence of President James Buchanan, the nation’s 15th Chief Executive.

Buchanan was born in a log cabin in Cove Gap, Pa., just about 100 miles west of Lancaster.

He served one presidential term, 1857–1861, a period of civil conflict in the U.S., as state contention over slavery started to fray the edges of the union. Buchanan was succeeded by President Abraham Lincoln.

Buchanan retired at Wheatland, living out the final seven years of his life there.

A House in Mourning

Wheatland is holding a unique event from June 1–3: A House in Mourning.

The timing coincides with the three days Buchanan laid in state at his home.

 Emily Miller, Marketing & Communications Manager at LancasterHistory, described it.

“The House in Mourning tour, back by popular demand after selling out in 2022, discusses mourning culture in the Victorian era and the décor and dress of mourning,” she said.

“The home will be decorated for mourning, with covered mirrors and photos of the deceased and the living.

“This [tradition resulted from the] popular belief in the Victorian era that it would prevent the deceased’s soul from becoming trapped in the mirror and from taking any living individual’s soul with them as they departed this world.”

Tickets to A House in Mourning are available at the LancasterHistory website, and prepurchase is strongly encouraged.


A Juneteenth-relevant event scheduled for June 15 centers on Thaddeus Stevens, a U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania who was a fierce opponent of slavery.

His commitment to freedom ran so deep that he and his housekeeper — Lydia Hamilton Smith — often sheltered escaping slaves in his Lancaster home, at great personal and professional risk.

Stevens’ legacy to the general good in the U.S. includes the establishment of free, public education and the codification of the principle of equality before the law, regardless of race.

The Archaeology of Northern Slavery

The Stevens-centric program from LancasterHistory is The Archaeology of Northern Slavery.

Its presenter is Dr. James Delle, a Millersville University professor whose multiple degrees include a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Massachusetts.

“In his lecture, Delle will review and contextualize key archaeological sites whose excavations have deepened our understanding of African American history and the relationship between slavery and freedom above the Mason-Dixon Line,” LancasterHistory’s Miller described.

“[H]e will review key archaeological sites and excavations, including those excavated here in Lancaster.

“Delle will focus on the Parker House in Christiana, Pa., site of the Christiana Resistance, and the in-development Thaddeus Stevens & Lydia Hamilton Smith Center for History and Democracy in Lancaster City,” she concluded.

This free session is available in person at the LancasterHistory building (230 North President Avenue), as well as on Zoom. Registration for it can be made at the organization’s website.

Archaeology at the Thaddeus Stevens & Lydia Hamilton Smith Historic Site

Delle presents again at LancasterHistory on June 17 in a Collections Up Close tour.

”This is a new program for LancasterHistory,” Miller related.

As its name implies, the session highlights documents, photos, and artifacts and explains their significance both locally and nationally. Delle will discuss on-property dig sites over the past 20 years and discuss the artifacts uncovered.

Once more, advance registration is advised.

Tickets for this session are $10 for adults, with discounts available for seniors and students.

Purchases are again through the LancasterHistory site.


Video tour of Wheatland.

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