WE WERE FOUNDED IN 1869
The Historical Society of Dauphin County was founded May 10, 1869, at a meeting of prominent historians and influential citizens in Market Square Presbyterian Church, Harrisburg.
It held its early meetings in the 1860 Dauphin County Courthouse, located on Market Street in Harrisburg. In 1900, the County Commissioners assigned the Society one of the larger jury rooms in the courthouse annex, where collections were housed and exhibited.
THE SOCIETY MOVES FROM THE COURT HOUSE TO A DISTINGUISHED RESIDENCE
In 1908, William A. Kelker bequeathed to the Society the Kelker family’s brownstone residence at 9 South Front Street, a few blocks from the courthouse. Along with its many collections, the house was to be used as a museum. The Society was housed in this splendid home until Dauphin County acquired the property as a site for the new Courthouse, which was erected about 1941.
THE FOUNDER’S HOUSE BECOMES THE SOCIETY’S HEADQUARTERS
On April 1 of that same year, the heirs of Simon Cameron, who had purchased the house in 1863, deeded their property at 219 South Front Street to the Society for permanent use as a museum and archives. The property included the 1766 John Harris Mansion, home of the City’s founder; a late nineteenth-century Stable built by Cameron; and the early twentieth-century Carriage House, built by Cameron’s grandson Richard Haldeman for his autos.
OFFICE AND LIBRARY ARE CREATED IN OLD STABLE
In 1987, the Stable building behind the Mansion was converted to house the Society’s office, library and archives. The Carriage House is sometimes used for our educational programs and other activities and is the last of the property’s structures to undergo restoration.
In its earliest days, membership in the Society had to be applied for and approved by the organization’s leaders. Women were not accepted as members for many years, although they were allowed to attend meetings and speak. Today the Society has hundreds of members who enjoy the programs and activities of the Society, access to events at the Mansion, exhibitions, and more. For many, knowing that they are supporting the maintenance and restoration of a National Historic Landmark is most important. To find out more about membership in the Historical Society of Dauphin County, just CLICK HERE.