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Civil War Blog

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Lykens G.A.R. Building – Another Look

Posted By on October 3, 2011

This post is a follow-up to several previous posts on the Lykens G.A.R. Building and the Heilner Post G.A.R. No. 232 on North Second Street, Lykens, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.  The first post of 10 December 2010 featured the G.A. R. MonumentThe second post, 11 December 2011,  told of some of the history of the building.  The third post, dated 6 June 2011, told of the discovery of the minutes books of the Women’s Relief Corps No. 101.  Additional information has now been located, including the original application for state funding to have the building restored and a news article which dates the erection of the monument to 1926.

Click on article to enlarge

State funding is secured to restore G.A.R. building

The following Lykens Area Senior Citizens officers were present for Sen. Shumaker’s check presentation (from left):  Lottie Shadle, program chairman; Mark Shadle, president; Carl Thomas, vice president’ Elsie Thomas, secretary and Elsie Buffington, treasurer.  (Sentinel photo by Duane Good).

LYKENS — Sen. John Shumaker has secured funding to renovate the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) building, which was built in 1852.

The exterior of the building is in its original construction; as it was when it was the First Methodist Church in Lykens.  It as subsequently been an armory, a hospital during the influenza epidemic in 1917-18; the home of the Rescue Hose Co. No. 1, and until 1926, the headquarters of the Heilner Post No. 232 G.A.R. and the Auxiliary relief Corps No. 101, which disbanded in 1973.

The building was then sold to the Lykens borough.  It now is the meeting place of the Lykens Area Senior Citizens under a 20-year lease dating from 1983 with an option to renew upon expiration for a similar period.

The building was placed in the Pennsylvania State Inventory of Historical Places in 1980 and on the National Register of Historical Places in 1986.

A memorial stone monument with a bronze plaque listing the names of 400 Civil War veterans from the Lykens-Wiconisco area was erected in 1926.

The application that was presented to the state in order to secure the funding was located and the following except is taken from the application.  It tells of the history of the building and gives its significance to the community:

The G.A.R. Building is significant in that from the time of its construction in 1852 until the present time it housed a variety of community related functions.  For seven decades after it was built it was the only public meeting place in the small community of Lykens.

In 1848 dedicated citizens met and determined that Lykens needed a permanent church.  Edward Gratz, who owned considerable land in the area, donated a plot of ground and subscribed one hundred dollars ($100.00) to the project.  In 1850 construction was begun and the building was dedicated as a Methodist Church in 1852.  During 1853 to 1867 it was also a meeting place for the Lutheran and Presbyterian denominations making it a focal point in the lives of the Protestant families.  In 1867 the Methodists moved into their newly constructed church.

from 1867 until 1885 the building was the residence of A. F. Englebert and his family and Emanuel Deibler and his wife.  The Deiblers, intending to move to Kansas, and not being able to find a purchaser of the property, permitted the local unit of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Reserves to use the building as an armory.  In 1888 the Department of Military Affairs of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased the property and continued to use it as an armory.  They also made it available for town meetings as well as other social functions such as dances, parties and other civic meetings.

On 1890 the building was purchased by the Trustee of the Rescue Hose Company #1 of Lykens.  This organization of volunteer fireman which had been organized in 1883, now had a permanent home.  The Lykens Register reports many incidents which required the services of the only firefighting organization in the area.  By taking into its organization young men as volunteer fireman the permanent source of firemen was assured.  During this period the building was still available for public functions.

In 1898 the building was sold to the Heilner Post No. 232 of the Grand Army of the Republic Department of Pennsylvlania.  From 1898 to 1926 this organization was primarily responsible for the human service needs of Civil War veterans in this area.  The G.A.R. Building became the meeting place of Civil War veterans of not only Lykens and vicinity, but those living in the surrounding towns of Gratz, Elizabethville, Williamstown, and Tower City.  None of those towns had Civil War veterans organizations. [see comment below].

The Heilner Women’s Relief Corps No. 101, an auxiliary to the G.A.R. Post, also used the building.  The women’s organization had its membership residents of Lykens and adjoining Wiconisco as well as Tower City, Reinerton, Joliett, Williamstown, and Elizabethville and at one time listed a membership of over 200.  It was, by far, the largest women’s organization in the area.  Being of a patriotic nature, these women were instrumental in seeing that the graves of departed veterans were decorated every Memorial Day; that the sick and infirm Civil War veterans were not forgotten, and by popular subscription sponsored the memorial marker which is in front of the building.  During the 1918 influenza epidemic the building was pressed into use for a hospital.

During the first decades of the 20th Century the building was available for the newly formed Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Civic Clubs.  Thus this building continued to serve as an important function in Lykens.  It was the only building available to a range of public groups, until in the 1920’s, when other building were constructed or utilized for these purposes.

In 1926, with only five (5) G.A.R. veterans remaining, upon a token payment of a five-dollar gold piece to each, ownership of the building was assumed by the Women’s Auxiliary.  They were able to maintain their organization until 1973, when, with only six (6) members remaining, the G.A.R. building was “sold” to the Lykens Borough with the stipulation, “subject to the condition that it shall be maintained… as a memorial to said Heilner Post No. 232, G.A.R., Department of Pennsylvania.” 

The Lykens Area Senior Citizens have taken over the responsibility for the building.  They were solely responsible for the reconstruction and renovation Project, restoring the building more closely to its original form, and assuring that the building will be properly cared for over, at least, the next 20 years.

The statement that there were no Civil War veterans organizations in the surrounding towns was not entirely true.  The Tower City G.A.R. was called the William Thompson Post No. 174.  The Williamstown G.A.R. was called the Chester Post No. 280.  The Gratz G.A.R. was called the Kissinger Post No, 376.  It is true that there was no G.A.R. post in Elizabethville or WiconiscoWiconisco veterans could choose between Lykens or Williamstown, with most choosing Lykens Elizabethville veterans, for the most part, joined the Lykens G.A.R., but some went to Gratz or to the Kilpatrick Post No. 212 in Millersburg.  A more complete list of the G.A.R. posts in the area of this study was published here on this blog on 28 November 2010.

Continuing from the application for funding:

The G.A.R. Building as it stands today is architecturally as originally constructed.  The only significant structural change to the original 4-walled stone building was the replacement in 1926 of an old wooden addition by a concrete block structure.

The two cupboards – one at the rear of the main hall and the other in the concrete block addition – are of significance.  In 1888 the building was used as an armory by the State Board of Military Affairs of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Dauphin County Deed Book Z, Vol. 7, page 123) and the cupboards were converted into gun racks.  The port holes for storing the rifles are visible.

In 1985 a “Reconstruction and Renovation” project consisted of interior and exterior painting, replacement of some damaged wainscoting in the main hall with exact duplicate, installation of new lights and upgrading of electrical service to comply with existing building codes, replacing old steel-ribbed roof with similar type.  These renovations did not affect the architectural appearance of the building.

In front of the building stands a stone monument, 7′ x 5′, listing on a bronze plaque the names of 400 Civil War Veterans from Lykens, Wiconisco, and vicinity.  The monument was erected in 1926.

[The information is a combined effort of Miles Kott (deceased), former Mayor of Lykens and a past president of the Lykens Area Senior Citizens. John Russell, son of Joseph and Annie Russell, a former resident of Lykens, and Mark K. Shadle, president of Lykens Area Senior Citizens.

Information for this post was taken from the files of the Civil War Research Project.

 


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