As the construction of the Lancaster PA Convention Center and Marriott Hotel reaches new heights, several historic buildings around it are being spared. A $20 Million project is planned to preserve and restore the law offices of Thaddeus Stevens, and the next door home of his housekeeper and business manager, Lydia Hamilton Smith.
Thaddeus Stevens was born in 1792 and died in 1868. He was a lifelong crusader against slavery, and is considered the driving force behind the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery, and the 14th and 15th Amendments, which granted equal rights, and the right (for all men) to vote.
Lydia Hamilton Smith, an African-American widow, became Stevens' housekeeper in 1847. She accompanied him to Washington D.C. and managed his business affairs. She eventually owned and managed her own properties in Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Lancaster, a remarkable achievement at that time in history.
The adjacent buildings will be restored to their original appearances, and set up as an interactive educational and historic site. Additionally, archaeological excavations behind the homes have uncovered hundreds of historic relics going back to the 1700s.
Importantly, evidence has been uncovered that strongly suggests that the buildings were part of the Underground Railroad through which slaves escaped to the North. A large underground cistern has been excavated which would have been large enough to hide the refugees on their journey to freedom.
The Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology , Lancaster, PA was created with a bequest from Stevens' will. When Thaddeus Stevens died, he was only the second dignitary ever to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda - the first being Abraham Lincoln himself.
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