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Lancaster's Landis Valley Village and Farm


Many people who are born in Pennsylvania can claim at least some German ancestry and I'm one of them, so a visit to Lancaster's Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum felt a little like old home week as I explored the many exhibits on the property.

The Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum is a story is about a pair of brothers—a Mennonite family from Lancaster named Landis, who understood the value of collecting items to tell the story of Pennsylvania Germans who immigrated to the area.

Photo 1(The tour starts at the Visitor's Center)

Site Administrator David Blackburn kindly accompanied me on the tour of the 100-acre living history museum founded by brothers Henry K. and George Landis in the early 1920s. Today the site is owned by the state of Pennsylvania and run by the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission (PHMC). Blackburn describes the destination as one of the largest museums of Pennsylvania German history and describes how it came to be. "Collecting took place when the brothers were older. The catalyst was when they took notice on how quickly America was changing, so they focused on preserving the Pennsylvania German way of life," he said.

Among the many artifacts are bullets, buttons, artwork, coins, Conestoga Wagons, antique tractors, dishes, glassware, Fraktur (calligraphic text), pottery and more.

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Guests start their tour in the Visitor Center where they can view a few exhibits like the folk carving above, which was done with a simple pocketknife by Wilhelm Schimmel, an immigrant from Germany who moved to Pennsylvania.

Also on display is work done by Nettie Mae Landis, a sister of the Landis brothers, who, as an upper middle-class member of society, dabbled in art--painting porcelain and working with oils.

What I was attracted to most in the Visitor Center was the the example of reverse painting that hung on the wall. Reverse painting was a technique that German immigrants brought to Pennsylvania from their homeland. To create the painting, artists, using oils, worked backwards, painting the foreground first and then the background in thick layers on the glass.
Photo 3(An example of a picture made using the reverse painting technique)

After departing the visitor center, we strolled around the property to view historic buildings, some of which were moved from the Lancaster area.
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Photo 8(An early toe-stir!)

Depending upon when you visit, you're likely to see reenactors in the buildings, describing the old German way of life. The volunteer in the top photo was toiling away at the hearth, cooking dishes that were made long ago. The item in the foreground of the last photo shown above was used to make toast in the hearth. The bread would be inserted in between the iron arches and one would hit it with their boots to make it spin around so that the bread would cook evenly. Hence, the first toe-stir!

Located a few steps away in another building was a tool shop with a collection of early firearms including plenty of Pennsylvania Long Rifles, along with a gentleman who was onsite to describe them and how they were constructed.
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(A volunteer explains the gunsmithing process)
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(A loom located in the craft barn)

To understand a typical home that existed in a bygone era, one only needs to visit "The Erisman House," a log cabin covered with wooden siding and moved from downtown Lancaster. The Erisman House was a typical urban dwelling found in downtown Lancaster in the 1800s. The house was owned for 100 years by the Erisman family.
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(The Erisman House)
Next on our tour was another example of the Landis brothers' talent. The "Yellow Barn," was built by the brothers in 1939. Today it is used as an event space.
Photo 12(The Yellow Barn, built by the Landis brothers, is now used as an event space)
Located just a few steps from the barn is an attractive, commodious house with an old-fashioned water pump out front. This is the Landis House where the brothers lived.
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(The Landis brothers' house, with interior rooms (below)
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Another interesting building located at the museum is the Landis Valley House Hotel that served as a restaurant, bar, post office, polling center and a community space where locals gathered. The hotel was constructed and operated by Jacob Landis, Jr. from 1860-1865. It was located at the intersection of the Reading Road, the New Haven Road and Neffsville Road in Lancaster and remained a business until closing in 1967 was later moved to the Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum.
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(Landis Valley House Hotel)
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(The Landis Valley House Hotel closed in 1967)

Everyone who has been on tours with me knows that I like a good, old-fashioned country store and this one is no exception, other than the fact that it's a re-creation, which is not to say that the goods are. The store is stocked with original products from country stores dating from 1880-1910.
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(Products from old country stores)
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(Golden Rule Blend gives you the stamina to do unto others what you'd have them do unto you)

Another interesting stop on the tour is the "shed" where Conestoga wagons and farm implements are stored.
Photo 20(Antique tractor)
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(Conestoga Wagon)
Another attraction worth mentioning is the Heirloom Seed Project. Starting in the 1980s, museum staff kicked off a project to preserve the purity of seeds grown on Pennsylvania German homesteads. Today, visitors can visit display gardens to observe what non-hybridized produce is being grown.
Before leaving, guests can take a peek into the giftshop where they can purchase a variety of goods made in Pennsylvania.
Photo 22(The Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum gift shop)
This is by no means a comprehensive account of the Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum--there are many more buildings to explore, so allow yourself plenty of time to do so. In the meantime, I hope this short account of what is there will pique your interest and inspire you to pay a visit.
You can learn more by visiting their website at


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