Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Houses & Horses: Preserving history in Lower Paxton Township.

The new Lower Paxton Township Historical Commission is on the hunt for horses. Well, not just any horses, but old, handcrafted ones that some township residents may remember fondly.

There was, for instance, the old Inn 22 horse that long graced the grounds of the restaurant located five miles east of Harrisburg on Route 22.

“We’re still looking for that horse,” said Lower Paxton Township Historical Commission Chairman Joe Murphy.

Then there were the carousel horses you once could find on a farm owned by Judy Miller Klinefelter’s family. For years, the Linglestown Fair operated on the land, near what is now the Blue Moose Bar & Grille.

“We held an annual fair here,” said Klinefelter. “State government officials would come out to visit, and we’d have cows, pigs, sheep and other animals, along with cake judging and so forth—sort of like a precursor to our modern-day farm show.”

One of the highlights of the fair was a carousel. According to Klinefelter, when the fair closed down for good, her grandfather received an urgent telephone call from a friend who said, “You’d better get down here, every car that is going through town has one of your horses on it.”

Her grandfather arrived on site to discover one lone horse remaining, and today it’s stabled in Klinefelter’s living room.

“You know there are a lot of things kids don’t want these days, but both my daughters want that horse,” says Klinefelter with a laugh.

As for the remaining horses, she still holds out hope that others might show up someday.
Sharing History

It’s stories like these that bring history to life, Murphy believes.

His wife, Polly, through her work with both the Linglestown and the Lower Paxton 250th anniversary celebrations, learned many more. As the tales unfolded, it became clear that something should be done, and this led to the creation of the Lower Paxton Historical Commission in February.

According to Murphy, the commission’s mission is to identify, preserve, promote and protect the historical heritage of the township. The commission held its first meeting in March and now is conducting monthly history presentations.

“We will also be sharing the history with local students and teachers,” he said.

Preservation serves many purposes, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For instance, old structures exist as a reminder of a city’s culture and complexity. The trust stresses the fact that once an historic structure is torn down, there’s no way to bring it back.

And the Linglestown area is rich with old structures.

For instance, the building that houses St. Thomas Roasters, near Linglestown Square, once operated as a pharmacy and dates back to the 1800s. One of the oldest structures in the area, the Gilchrist House, was built in 1794. The home is located near Arooga’s in Linglestown and is one of the original homes built in Lower Paxton Township.

“We think it’s built around a log cabin and are hoping to get into it with a building inspector,” said Murphy, adding that the home has been vacant for 30 years. “The woman who owns it had no idea until we contacted her.”

And then there’s Thomas Lingle’s house, which still exists on Parkway West, just a few blocks west of Linglestown Square.

David Doyle, who serves as the commission’s vice chair, mentioned long-gone businesses that are fondly remembered and posted by the commission on Facebook. For instance, he said, Moulin Rouge was known for its steaks, Maurice Acri’s served Italian food and Gino’s cooked up locally famous burgers and fried chicken.

When the commission posted a picture of the old Dutch Pantry, which was located on the corner of Allentown Boulevard and Mountain Road, the “likes” skyrocketed, Doyle said. And, of course, the Eagle Hotel, located on Linglestown Square, remains popular to this day.

“As a pre-Civil War structure, it’s one of the oldest taverns in Lower Paxton Township,” Murphy said.

In 1919, the American Legion was formed on the third floor, where they also held auctions for livestock.

“The barn located behind what is now Mud Queen Pottery was where the animals were, and they marched them right over,” Murphy said. “At the time there were two entrances—one for men and one for women.”

Not all preservation projects are focused on structures. Murphy remarked on a 400-year-old tree located off Linglestown Road.

“The John Goodway sycamore is named after the last Indian in the area,” he said. “He’s buried 10 feet north of that tree.”

And speaking of gravesites, Murphy speculated on a tragic loss that may not have occurred had the historical commission existed in the 1950s.

“Around 1956, I-83 was cut onto Route 22,” he said. “This affected approximately 300 graves, most of which were marked and contained many veterans from the French and Indian War up to World War I. They were dumped into one big, mass grave, and they were able to do it because the deceased’s relatives were gone. It was the oldest part of the cemetery. This is what we are going to work on preventing in the future.”


Past Is Future

History, of course, isn’t just physical objects. It also includes memories and stories.

At a recent monthly presentation, the commission shared the story of a B-26 bomber that crashed into Blue Mountain in 1951 due to fog and radio problems. Plans are in the works to honor the crewmen with a memorial service.

“The three crewmen were National Guardsmen from the 202nd Squadron,” Doyle said. “We reached out to the unit to see if they can be of any help with our service.”

Looking ahead, the commission plans to work with Lower Paxton Township to set up markers to designate historical structures. Since the commission operates without taxpayer money, it is gearing up to learn more about grant writing and fundraising to achieve its future goals, including a permanent building to store, display and create an official township historical collection of artifacts and ephemera.

Committee members are optimistic that, as the word spreads, more people will want to learn about the rich history of the township and may consider joining in the important mission of preserving the past for the benefit of the future.

To learn more about the Lower Paxton Township Historical Commission, visit or the Facebook page: Lower Paxton Historical Commission.

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