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Visiting the Historic Capitol Columns in Clinton and Lycoming Counties

It always amazes me how many unique pieces of history you can find throughout Pennsylvania, and the Capitol Columns in Clinton County and Lycoming County are no exception.

The two Capitol Columns can be found in cemeteries in Jersey Shore and McElhattan, PA. These are called the Capitol Columns because they are, in fact, columns from the Pennsylvania Capitol building that burned in 1897.

Read on to find out about the history of these columns and how you can see them for yourself.

The History of the Capitol Columns

The Hills Capitol in Harrisburg, PA
The Hills Capitol in Harrisburg before it burned in 1897. Note the six Capitol Columns in the front. (Public Domain)

The Capitol Columns were part of the first Capitol building in Harrisburg, which was completed in 1822. Known as the Hills Capitol after its designer, Stephen Hills, the Capitol was in use until February 1897 when it burned to the ground.

Over the years, many well-known people passed through these columns as they entered the Capitol including President-elect Abraham Lincoln, the Marquis de Lafayette, and the future King Edward VII. 

When the Capitol burned in 1897, only its shell and the six columns at its entrance remained standing. Over the next few years, five of these columns would be moved to various locations around the state. (It is unknown what happened to the sixth.)

The Hills Capitol after it burned in 1897 in Harrisburg Pennsylvania.
The Capitol Columns can be seen standing after the 1897 fire. (Public Domain)

Two were placed at the entrance to the Market Street Bridge in Harrisburg and can still be seen today.

Another was moved to private land in Lycoming County to commemorate a peace treaty signed between William Penn and local Native Americans (that may or may not have actually happened). It still stands there today, but isn’t open to the public.

The other two ended up as war memorials in cemeteries in Lycoming County and Clinton County, PA.

The Capitol Column in Jersey Shore

The Capitol Column in Jersey Shore, PA sits among gravestones
The Capitol Column in Jersey Shore, PA.

The Capitol Column in the borough of Jersey Shore, PA is located in the heart of the Jersey Shore Cemetery.

The column was erected in December 1907 thanks to the work and influence of Captain P.D. Bricker, a Jersey Shore native who worked in the state government. The column was shipped to town shortly after the Capitol burned but lay in the cemetery for a decade until plans could be finalized and money raised.

The Column is dedicated to local soldiers who fought in all of the country’s wars up to that point (the Revolutionary War through the Spanish-American War). Text is carved into the column that showcases this dedication.

The inscription at the base of the column in Jersey Shore Cemetery in Pennsylvania
The inscription at the base of the column in Jersey Shore Cemetery.

The column sits on a pedestal with an inscription and, atop the column, there is a small statue of a soldier that makes this dedication obvious even from far away.

To find the Capitol Column in Jersey Shore, you’ll need to head into the cemetery, which is best accessed from Locust Street. The column can be found in the middle of the cemetery at the following coordinates: 41.198000, -77.267361.

[Click here for information on how to use coordinates to find your destination.]

The Capitol Column in McElhattan

The Capitol Column in McElhattan, PA.
The Capitol Column in McElhattan, PA.

The Capitol Column in McElhattan is located in Linnwood Cemetery, a small cemetery in the middle of a residential area.

This column was erected in 1900 and also serves as a soldier’s monument for those locally who served in America’s many wars.

The column is inscribed with information about its former location at the PA Capitol in Harrisburg. There is also a lot of text written and chiseled on the column with names of locals who fought in the country’s wars, even up to more recent conflicts.

A close look at the inscriptions on the Capitol Column in McElhattan, Pennsylvania
A close look at the inscriptions on the column.

What’s most interesting about this column is that it is a totally different color from the Capitol Column in Jersey Shore, as well as what you’d expect marble columns to look like.

I have no explanation for why it appears brown, but given that local sources from 1900 confirm that this is one of the Capitol Columns, I’m sure there’s some sort of explanation. (Let us all know in the comments below if you know what it is.)

The Capitol Column in Linnwood Cemetery in McElhattan, PA surrounded by other graves.
The column sits in the middle of a cemetery.

Because Linnwood Cemetery is relatively small, this column can be seen from the main road. However, you can also walk the short distance to see it up close. Just make sure to be respectful of the graves and the homes that surround the column.

The Capitol Column in McElhattan can be found at the following address: 168 Linnwood Dr, Lock Haven, PA 17745.

Looking for more places to visit nearby? Check out Hyner View State Park, the Piper Aviation Museum, and the story of the Fair Play Men.

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