Marietta, PA Tour Picture
Along the banks
of the Susquehanna river in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is a quaint 19th century logging town of Marietta. Early in the 1960's , the people of Marietta understood the significance of the town through restoration efforts. The town was devastated by the floods of 1936 and Hurricane Agnes of 1972.
Marietta, PA Tour - Watermarks of the floods
Watermarks of the floods
However, the residents showed their resilience by continuing with their restoration efforts. Well aware of its significance, the United States placed a portion of the town on the National Register of Historic Places. They considered the town a well preserved example of a mid-19th century town. By 1983, 48% of the town was on the National Register of Historic Places. This area covers 2414 acres and 313 buildings.

Marietta, PA Tour - Community House
Community House
Marietta had its beginnings in 1719 when the land was purchases by an indian trader, Robert Wilkins. By 1727, Wilkins sold the tract to Reverend James Anderson, pastor of the Donegal Church. The western portion of Marietta was inherited by Anderson's son and two generations later, James Anderson IV laid out the town of Waterford in 1804. The eastern end of town was purchased by George Stewart in 1719, By 1733 the land passed to his son, John. David Cook bought the land rights in 1748 which in turn gave most of the land to his son David. Finally in 1803 the town was laid out in 1803 as New Haven.

Marietta, PA Tour - The Old Town Hall
The Old Town Hall
Portions of the town went through other names- Moravian Town also nicknamed Bungletown and Irishtown which was never considered within borough limits. The town was incorporated in 1812 by Cook and Anderson. There were three theories as to how the name of Marietta was derived. One thought is that it came from Anderson's two daughters, Mary and Henrietta. Another theory is Anderson's first wife was Mary Bayley and second wife was Mary McQueen. Cook's wife was Mary McFarquhar. The town was named in honor of the three Mary's. Another possibility was that the name was a combination of Anderson's wife Mary and Cook's wife Henrietta.

Progress was brisk in the earlier years. The first Market House was erected 1816-1817. It was torn down later apparently because it was such a strange building standing on stilts. By 1875 a new brick house was built. The economy slowed in 1817 due to the economic crisis. By 1825-1830, the town was revived by the construction of the Pennsylvania Canal. It spawned industries like lumbering, plane milling, carpentry shops, and taverns. To spur the growth further, iron smelting began to leave its mark on the town. By 1845, there were six furnaces and rolling mills. The arrival of the railroad continued to add to the prosperity of Marietta.

Marietta, PA Tour - Marietta Theater
Marietta Theater
Marietta, PA Tour - Union Meeting House
Union Meeting House
All these industries left behind a vast array of wealthy homes and mansions. Because of these homes, preservation was in the minds of civic minded individuals of Marietta. In 1965, Marietta Restoration Associates was formed. MRA purchased their first home for restoration in Waterford Avenue. Throughout the years, MRA continued to purchase properties, to restore them, and then to return them to private owners. The Union Meeting House was purchased in 1982 and restored for public events and rented out for private use. Old Town Hall required extensive restoration. Now it operates as a public museum for Marietta history. By 2001, Farmer's First Bank donated their building to MRA where they currently have their offices. MRA also operates a gift store.

One of MRA 's current restoration project is the Musselman/Vesta Furnace Office. This is the only structure that remains from the furnace complex. They hope to used it as a museum for the iron industry. Another restoration effort is the Marietta Theater which was built in 1914 by Sam Acri for the purpose of showing motion pictures. It was renovated in the late 1920's and closed in the 1990's due to neglect. MRA has received $50,000 in grant money to return the building to its original splendor.

Marietta, PA Tour Picture
Marietta, PA Tour Picture
MRA kindly opened their homes in the pubic with their very first Candlelight Tour of Homes in 1965. It is one of the oldest home tours in the country. Each year there are eight private homes open to the public. Last year featured two ironmasters mansions and five other homes that were opened to the public for the first time. Most the the churches are open and offer food. A Victorian Tea is held at the English Presbyterian Church which was built 1853-1854. A Candlelight Craft Show was held at the Community House. The Old Town Hall, Borough Hall, and Union Meeting House are open each year for the Candlelight Tour. Also, the Marietta Theater is open to show classic holiday movies. In addition there is an Antique Show held at the Pioneer Fire Company.

Marietta, PA Tour Picture
Marietta, PA Tour - Decorations inside the White Swan
Decorations inside the White Swan
Each year there is a Home Decoration Contest where the homes are judged by lighting and overall decoration. A shuttle bus is offered to each destination. If you decide to stay in Marietta, book early. There are a few B and B's within Marietta limits and a few on the outskirts. Now in its 44th year, the Marietta Candlelight Tour of Homes will be held December 6. The cost is $18 the day of the tour and $15 in advance. All proceeds are utilized for current and future MRA projects.

Unlike other home tour shows, it is possible to take photos of the interior and exterior of the homes. It is always polite to ask permission first. There are many ideas to take home from the decoration and restoration efforts of the homes on display to inspire you into completing your own home projects.

Don't miss this year's festivities in Marietta where everything comes alive with the spirit and joy of the Christmas season.

Marietta, PA Tour - Night Scene Market St
Night Scene Market St

Source: Research, photos & text by Bryan Wright

Related Links:

Marietta Restoration Associates

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