Columbia is a small borough town in Lancaster county, southeastern Pennsylvania, U.S. It stretches along the Susquehanna River, 12 miles (19 km) west of Lancaster. Founded in 1726 by John Wright, a Quaker missionary and ferryman, the town was formerly known as Wright’s Ferry. Renamed ‘Columbia’ in 1788 by Wright’s grandson, it was an important way station on the Underground Railroad and was considered by Congress as the U.S. capital in 1790.
With a small population of 10430 inhabitants, Columbia is cozy, picturesque, and calm.
It is the home of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, clock museum and “School of Horology”. Civil war bridge-burning reenactments (“Flames Across the Susquehanna”) sponsored by Rivertownes PA USA are also organized at the remains of the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge.
1.The Wright’s Ferry Mansion
© The Wright’s Ferry Mansion
An English woman named Susanna Wright owned the Wright's Ferry Mansion, originally built in 1738. A colonist, Susanna Wright, was a seasoned member of the literati, alongside the likes of James Logan, Benjamin Franklin, and Charles Thomson.
The house, having been restored by The von Hess Foundation, boasts of being the only Pennsylvania English Quaker house that restricted its furnishings exclusively to the first half of the eighteenth century. Complementing its elegant Philadelphia William and Mary and Queen Anne fittings with austere bare scrubbed floors and windows devoid of any drapery, the house is an apt representation of early eighteenth-century America.
Address: 38 S 2nd St, Columbia, PA 17512, Phone:717-684-4325
2.GARTH: Gallery, Framing, Events Venue and Cafe
© GARTH: Gallery, Framing, Events Venue and Café
Situated between Harrisburg, York and Lancaster and a few hundred yards from the banks of the Susquehanna River, GARTH serves as a quaint gallery, framing studio, event venue, and café.
Founded in 2001, The Gallery atGARTH and Frame is not very far from major cities and is mere minutes from Lancaster County’s famous Amish region. Its goal is being a comprehensive resource for both art and custom framing to meet the varying desires of its clients.
Visitors are not left out, as freshly roasted coffee from the cafe, roasted in a vintage 1905 Royal #5 roaster, is always available. Equipped with a boutique event space capable of hosting gatherings of more than 100 guests, and a second floor Gallery arrayed with widely acknowledged artwork, The GARTH is the perfect place to bond with friends.
Address: 22 South Second St, Columbia, PA 17512, Phone: 717-847-1718
3.The Inn at Bully’s Restaurant & Pub
© The Inn at Bully’s Restaurant & Pub
A.G Beattie built the Inn at Bully's Restaurant & Pub in 1903 as a Hotel-Tavern. It catered to the mill and railroad crowd in the early twentieth-century town of Columbia.
It was called the Union Hotel then and has since gone through a string of owners and names, from Piney’s, Kitch’s, Bully’s on Union (in deference to President Theodore Roosevelt), and finally Bully’s Restaurant & Pub. Its activities were briefly disrupted by a fire, which led to the conversion of the top floors to a spacious and magnificent inn.
The restaurant still boasts of the walnut and chestnut bar originally found in the Union hotel, complete with nickel grooves made by the railroad workers. Private Events are available, for Lunch and Sundays, only by reservation.
Address: 647 Union Street, Columbia, PA 17512, Phone: 717-684-2854
© Weis Markets
Harry and Sigmund Weis established Weis Markets as a small store on Market Street, Sunbury, Pennsylvania. It was known as Weis Pure Foods then. Now owned by Harry’s grandson, Weis Markets has stores in a plethora of cities in America.
Sporting a workforce of over 19000, it also supports local farmers in all states it is situated in.
Weis Markets processes its own milk and uses the excess butterfat to create delicious Weis quality Ice cream with over 50 flavors and growing.
Devoted to reducing their carbon footprint, Weis Markets is big on recycling, and energy conservation. It also funds charitable and clinic programs for the community.
Address; 1000 South Second Street, PO Box 471, Sunbury, Pennsylvania 17801, Phone: 866-999-9347
5.The Holy Trinity Church
© The Holy Trinity Church
The early Catholic settlers of Wright’s Ferry, now known as Columbia, had to journey to Lancaster, York or Elizabethtown for Holy Mass, until 1826, when St Peter’s was built on Union Street.
An influx of German Catholics into Columbia between 1840- 1860 due to the Napoleonic wars, created a need for a church for the non-English speaking Germans. Bishop John Neumann (canonized a Saint by Pope Paul VI) arranged for the purchase of land.
And so, the Holy Trinity Church was built in 1862, along with a cemetery (partially vandalized in 2009, but has long since undergone repairs) in 1865, and a schoolhouse in 1870.
The Church is over 150 years old and is the home of a mural of Jesus created by renowned artists Wayne Fettro and Mark Grab.It celebrates the weekend and weekday masses.
Address: 409 Cherry St, Columbia PA 17512, Phone Lines: Office: 717-684-2711 Rectory: 717-684-2711 Convent: 717-684-2232 (519 Cherry St.)
6.Mount Bethel Cemetery Co.
© Mount Bethel Cemetery Co.
Built in the 1720s, even before the creation of the Borough, The Mount Bethel is the oldest burial ground still in use in the Columbia area. The earliest legible marker is dated 1745. Nearly 300 years old, the cemetery holds the remains of over ten thousand of its former citizens. Visitors and citizens interested in the rich genealogy of the town can readily find them in the cemetery’s computer records. A survey of markers and genealogy account was also published by a Frank X Reuss in the Columbia Papers in 1903.
Interesting things to note about the cemetery include the fact that smallpox burials in 1902 were conducted by midnight, with only two special people in attendance. Nowadays, the cemetery is maintained through the combined efforts of citizens, well-meaning benefactors, the sale of a few lots, and an annual fundraiser.
Address: 700 Locust Street, Columbia, PA 17512, Phone: 717-684-2370
7.First National Bank Museum
© First National Bank Museum
The First National Bank of Columbia was originally a hotel and a tavern called The Mansion House. It was chartered in 1864 and became the 371st bank chartered in the USA. The bankis nestled in a three-story Federalist Style townhouse, which was restored by The Motters in 1967 and reopened as the First National Bank Museum.Inside, eyes are entertained by an array of historical artifacts from the time when the bank was still operational, like the fittings of the President’s office, the original vault, the walnut paying and receiving teller cages, and the first check canceller comprising of a tree stump and a specially designed hammer.
Address:170 Locust Street, Columbia, PA 17512, Phone: 717-684-8864
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7 Best Things to Do in Columbia, PA
- The Wright’s Ferry Mansion, Photo: The Wright’s Ferry Mansion
- GARTH: Gallery, Framing, Events Venue and Cafe, Photo: GARTH: Gallery, Framing, Events Venue and Café
- The Inn at Bully’s Restaurant & Pub, Photo: The Inn at Bully’s Restaurant & Pub
- Weis Markets, Photo: Weis Markets
- The Holy Trinity Church, Photo: The Holy Trinity Church
- Mount Bethel Cemetery Co., Photo: Mount Bethel Cemetery Co.
- First National Bank Museum, Photo: First National Bank Museum
- Cover Photo: George Sheldon/stock.adobe.com