It’s hard to drive down Main Street in Schaefferstown and not feel transported through time, with its many stone building façades unchanged through centuries. The scene above is also easy to imagine, kids and horses gathered around a water trough, long before water was readily available in homes. While the homes of Schaefferstown are now supplied with water through a typical water supply network, the trough above still fills with water as it has for over 250 years.
Schaefferstown, originally named Heidelberg by the town’s founder, Alexander Schaeffer, is one of Lebanon county’s oldest towns. While the date of the first German settlers is around 1700, the town was officially founded in June of 1758 by Schaeffer. Located on a prominent route between Lancaster and Lebanon, and with close proximity to notable iron sites, such as Cornwall, it became a hub of activity with hotels, taverns and stores for travelers and residents.
One of those buildings, still functioning to this day as the Franklin House Tavern, was a hotel built by Alexander Schaeffer. The hotel, built in 1746 was first known as “The King George” and is one of the oldest still functioning taverns in the country. To provide water for the hotel and for residents of the town, according to the Historic Schaefferstown website, “Schaeffer installed underground wooden pipes connecting a spring at the south end of Market Street to the square.” The location of the spring’s reservoir or “fountain lot” can be seen in this map from Frederick Beer’s collection of Lebanon County maps from 1875, in the lower right green square of this image.
Alexander Schaeffer began construction with the laying of 1,300 feet of wooden pipe and the watershed sometime between 1744-1750. These first pipes were “made of wood sections of oak with holes bored through the center” and were functional for over a century when they were then replaced with cast iron metal pipes in 1845, the same year the system was officially chartered. The gravitational “flow from the spring was so strong that the water flowed uphill to fill troughs or springs” without use of pumps. This use of gravity to force water into the springs is the first documented use in the country.
The wooden troughs were located in the town square at the time but have since been moved and replicated, one to what came to be known as Fountain Park and the second is still located near the town square, but the original was replaced with an ornate granite trough, given as a gift in 1910 by Matilda Zimmerman in memory of Mary Tex Zimmerman, a descendant of Alexander Schaeffer.
Fountain Park is found south of the town, down Market Street. It’s a two and a half acre park that’s been maintained by residents of…