Yes! After many, many years of hearing about it, reading about it, and finally watching it rise, floor by floor, it is open for business! Lancaster County Convention Center and Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square had it’s open house for the community today and we were there!
The facade of the old Watt and Shand department store was saved and is now part of the Marriott Hotel. It helps to retain the historical look of Penn Square and is a handsome building.
The Open House was from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM and we decided to arrive early, hoping to beat the crowds. We only thought there were a lot of people in the bar when we arrived at 11:30! When we left 1 1/2 hour later, it was shoulder to shoulder! We had to wait in line approximately 20 minutes to take the elevator to the 10th floor for a tour of the rooms.
The views from the rooms are spectacular! Looking to the n/w is wonderful view of Penn Square with the Griest Building (Lancaster’s first and only skyscraper built in 1925!) Central Market to it’s left and the old 1790’s City Hall (now the Heritage Center) next to Central Market. You may remember seeing the Griest Building in the movie “Witness” as the Philadelphia Police Station.
The view to the southwest has the old Southern Market in the foreground. It was built in the late 1800’s and was designed by C. Emlen Urban, Lancaster’s premier architect. Urban also designed the Griest building, and the Watt and Shand Building where the Marriott now calls home. Since there were not windows on all four sides of the rooms we looked at, I could not take pictures of every direction ~ duh! We then went down to the 5th floor where the exercise room and beautiful indoor pool area is. What a facility. I was so impressed that I think I will look for the exercise room in the next Marriott I stay in. . . as soon as I get enough points! I don’t think my 10K worth of points will get me into any facility like this one!!
Leaving the 5th floor by the staircase because the lines for the elevator were horrendous, we got lost! Thank goodness there was a woman who asked directions! She ended up in the kitchen only to find out we should go up two more flights instead of down! We finally made it into the lobby and from that point decided to check out the ballroom and other convention rooms. Can you say gargantuan?? That is the only term I can think of that would adequately describe the size of the rooms! The exhibit hall is 45K square feet and the ballroom is 9k! The brick facade of theWilliam Montgomery Home in the picture above is the rear portion of just one of the historic buildings that was preserved in the building of this facility.
This home was built in 1804 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Plans for the interior have not been finalized, but several options have been considered. The picture shows it next to the entrance of the Convention Center, fronting on Queen Street.
Two of other buildings saved on this block were our next stop and perhaps the most exciting part of the day to me. The Kleiss Saloon and Thaddeus Stevens home are on the corner of Vine and Queen Streets and this cistern was found between the two buildings. This piece of history saved the destruction of my ancestor’s Saloon and the plans are to make the area with these two buildings and cistern into an education center.
Philip Kleiss, my 6th great grandfather, was a tavern keeper at the corner of Vine and Queen until his death in 1800. The Saloon was then willed to his sons, John and George, and in 1843 Thaddeus Stevens bought it from George’s estate for $4000. What makes this cistern special is the fact that they believe it was part of theUnderground Railroad since a tunnel was found that goes from this cistern east on Vine Street to the home of Mr. Stevens’ friend, Lydia Smith. Thaddeus Stevens, as you may know, was a Congressman and an Abolitionist.
Some of the artifacts found during excavation of this area are on display on these cement pillars. It was exciting for me to see something that may have belonged to my ancestors.
My dream used to be just to have a piece of one broken brick from the excavation of his saloon. It is still my dream, but I’m sure one that will never be realized. It still is exciting to think one of my ancestors properties played such an integral part in the history of our country!
. . . and you can see it when you come to a Convention in Lancaster, Pennsylvania! You’ll find we are proud of our fair city and it’s history!