About the Lancaster Longhouse

Imagine Pennsylvania before William Penn

For hundreds of years, south-central Pennsylvania was home to a series of Native American tribes, including the Shenks Ferry, Conoy, Lenape, Mohawk, Nanticoke, Seneca, Shawnee and Susquehannock peoples. Unfortunately, many residents today are unaware of the rich history of the state’s Native People. In fact, Pennsylvania is one of few states with no officially recognized tribes and no tribal reserve. As part of its mission to represent the culture and context of Lancaster County’s first European settlers, Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society and the 1719 Hans Herr House & Museum have worked in collaboration with the Circle Legacy Center in Lancaster and members of the local Native American community to construct a replica Native American longhouse to honor Pennsylvania’s Native People.Longhouses—large multi-family homes made of logs, saplings and tree bark—once dotted Pennsylvania’s landscape. In some places, like present-day Washington Boro in Lancaster County, thousands of people lived together in towns filled with longhouses.The Longhouse provides space and resources to teach local Native American history to both adult visitors and school groups on the grounds of the 1719 Hans Herr House in Willow Street, Pennsylvania. The structure is based on historical and archeological research into Eastern Woodland construction of the late seventeenth century, with careful adjustments to improve its safety, durability and utility as an educational exhibit.

  • The Longhouse is 62 feet long, modeled on remnants of a longhouse excavated in Lancaster County in 1969. It is to furnished by contemporary Native American artisans.
  • It tells the history of south-central Pennsylvania from a time when only Native Americans lived here (c. 1570) to a time when its Native American population had virtually disappeared (c. 1770).
  • Demonstrations, exhibits, curricula and tours will accurately and respectfully present the story of Native Americans in Pennsylvania.

The Lancaster Longhouse is one of the only interactive outdoor exhibits of Native life in Pennsylvania and one of few similar buildings in the nation.

The Longhouse Longhouse is a tangible expression of one community’s respect for another. With your support, the project:

  • instills an intimate understanding of Pennsylvania’s history before European settlement;
  • creates an awareness of the Native American influence on Lancaster County and Pennsylvania during the colonial period;
  • introduces visitors to contemporary Native Americans and Native presence in Pennsylvania
  • supports and sustains the knowledge of and appreciation for ancient crafts as practiced by local Native American artisans—as well as their life, customs and culture;
  • cultivates a vision of Lancaster County’s cultural diversity; and
  • inspires conversation between people of different backgrounds.

We invite you to give a meaningful gift to the Lancaster Longhouse and become part of this important initiative.