Historical Markers
Landis Valley Farm Museum Historical Marker
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Landis Valley Farm Museum

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
Landis Valley Farm Museum

Behind the Marker

A black and white photograph of George Landis standing and Henry sitting. Henry sports a cow boy hat and is smoking a stogie, while his arms surround the family dog.
A black and white photograph of George Landis standing and Henry sitting. Henry...
When they were boys in the 1870s and 1880s, George and Henry Landis loved to explore the fields and forests near their family home in Lancaster and collect arrowheads, birds' nests, bullets, buttons, coins, colorful eggs, old gun flints, fossils (or what boys think might be fossils), lost or discarded tools, pieces of pottery, snake skins, and various Indian relics. They found many artifacts and fossils in the fields after plowing or after a heavy rain.

Following their expeditions, they would empty their bulging pockets or feed sacks on the back stoop or in the kitchen, carefully examine their treasures, and talk about them with each other and their mother Emma, who encouraged their hobbies. They read books and catalogues related to their interests and poured over them closely to match up their finds with those in the illustrations.

From these experiences as lads, the Landis brothers developed an abiding interest in the history of farming, guns, handcrafts, tools, and Pennsylvania German culture, and became lifelong collectors. In 1924, after they retired from their respective careers as engineers - Henry was a mining engineer and George was a construction and later a sanitary engineer - Henry came home to the family farm and the brothers devoted themselves to creating a museum.
Image of Corn Planter.
Corn Planter

As adults the Landis brothers wanted to preserve the unique culture and history of their region. They went to auctions and bought antique farm equipment, markerConestoga wagons, dishes, markerfirearms, Fraktur, glassware, handcrafted furniture, homespun fabrics, quilts, tools, and many other items made by the "Pennsylvania Dutch" and other early settlers. They brought their numerous purchases back to the farm and stored them in their home and, as the house and attic filled up, in barns on the property. In 1925, they opened their farm to the public and exhibited part of their collection as an educational museum.
Image of the Landis family sitting on a bench. The two brothers, with their sister, mother, and father, as well as the family dog and cat.
Landis family

Henry and George Landis continued to buy antiques and artifacts and run the museum themselves, but as they grew older the task became increasingly difficult and they began to run short of money. They asked for help from the Carl Shurz Foundation, the organization that administrated the Oberlander Trust.

In 1941, with foundation funding, they incorporated the farmstead and collection as the Landis Valley Museum. The foundation hired a professional curator to catalogue and display the collection, and directed the building of a gunsmith's shop, a tavern, a farm implement barn, and a wagon shed. The brothers continued to work as curators, and in 1953 deeded the museum and property to the state of Pennsylvania.
Photograph of a Dog Powered Tread machine.
Photo, Dog Tread Power

The Commonwealth wanted to expand the Landis brothers' museum into a living history museum that would not only display their remarkable collection of old farm equipment and antique guns but also show how some of them were used. The vision was to create a place that would showcase life in Pennsylvania farms of several eras. To make this plan a reality, the state bought adjacent properties and purchased six other structures that they dismantled, then reconstructed at the farm, at which they also built another half-dozen buildings.

By the mid 1980s, the state had created a museum village of three farms from distinct eras where costumed guides portrayed farm life and used appropriate period tools to demonstrate such traditional skills as plowing with a team of horses, making pottery, spinning, and weaving.

Today, the farm takes visitors on a journey through time - the Log Farm represents the period 1760 to 1780; the Brick Farmstead presents the years 1830 to 1850; and the Landis House shows what farm life was like in the Victorian era, 1870 through 1890. Each farmstead also has a garden that grows heirloom flowers, fruit trees, and vegetables. Raising these antique varieties preserves these old, rare plants and shows people that farmers 200 - even 100 years ago - grew a greater variety of fruits and vegetables than commonly offered in the produce sections of most grocery stores.

Run by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Landis Valley Museum is open year round, and regularly features craft and historical demonstrations and special events.
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