All photos courtesy Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society

Longhouse in Lancaster, Pennsylvania Completed

Tish Leizens


It took more than 300 volunteers, several months of detailed construction and determination to heal misunderstandings and abuse against Native Americans three centuries ago to build a 62-foot Longhouse in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Just before Thanksgiving, Natives from Lancaster—long known to tourists for its Amish and Mennonite communities—and non-profit historical organizations dedicated to preserving the area’s history, announced the completion of the major construction.

“This Longhouse is an amazing accomplishment, but the journey to complete it is even more amazing,” said Becky Gochnauer, director of the 1719 Hans Herr House & Museum.

Construction of the longhouse on the grounds of the Museum began in April with a community workday. Over 300 volunteers came to strip bark from hundreds of logs and saplings needed to frame the building.

“They’re coming together to help Native People but also to help themselves—to build bridges in regard to race, in regard to religion,” said MaryAnn Robins, Onondaga, board president for the Circle Legacy Center.

The longhouse in Lancaster is one of the few replicas of Native American longhouses in the country. Longhouses were multi-family homes with long, arched roofs prevalent across eastern North America before early European came to settle.

When the longhouse finally opens to the public in May 2013, the permanent outdoor exhibit will showcase the history and culture of Native Americans and their influence on Central Pennsylvania during the Colonial period.

It will also help close the disturbing chapter in history when early European settlers encroached on Native land and massacred the Conestoga Indians in 1763. An honor and healing event held by Natives and non-Natives prior to the longhouse construction was a major step taken to repair relations. 

With the first phase completed, attention now shifts to furnishing the longhouse. Ruth Py, Lenape, furnishings coordinator is working with Native craftspeople to create reproduction artifacts including spears, arrows, fish hooks, gourds, bowls and baskets.

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