Thaddeus Stevens and Lydia Hamilton Smith Historic Site

A $200 million convention center and hotel tower being developed at the heart of Lancaster threatened to demolish surrounding historic buildings. Working with the local preservation non-profit and convention center developers, we succeeded in saving sections of key buildings, including street facades, roof lines, and front room portions. Several important early 19th c. buildings were lost, but those we retained exerted strong influ­ence on the urban and architectural design of the new conven­tion facility and Marriott hotel, with our continuing urban design advice, cooperation and coordination with the out-of-town project architects.

One of these key properties was the home and law office of Thaddeus Stephens, where his housekeeper and confidant Lydia Hamilton Smith also resided. Archaeologists we brought into the project as advisors helped us discover an underground cistern on the Stevens property, altered during the fugitive slave law period, that provided access from an adjacent brewery basement also owned by Stevens. In recognition of the key role both Stevens and Smith played in the Underground Railroad, this site is now listed on the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

We developed a plan for reconstruction and reuse of these building remnants for a future museum and interpretative center that will explain the events and significance of Stevens’ and Smith’s lives on this block of historic Lancaster, and the role they played in American history.  We also produced the engineered construction plans and provided weekly on-site construction administration and coordination services, assuring the correct outcome of the reconstruction process.

The beginning realization of that interpretative center included the reconstruction of the Stevens House and Law Office and 5,000 SF of new construction subterranean exhibit space, built beneath the conven­tion center as it was constructed.

  • Project Type: Preservation, Architectural Services for Renovation and New construction
  • Location: Lancaster, PA