Our History, Our Journey
YWCA Lancaster has been leading change since 1889, serving children and adults in the community through a variety of programs. The Race Against Racism is a community wide event in support of our Center for Racial and Gender Equity. With a mission to eliminate racism and empower women, we won’t stop until injustice is rooted out, institutions are transformed, and the world sees women, girls and people of color the way we do: Equal, Powerful, Unstoppable.
1. YWCA & site of speeches by Bayard Rustin, Northwest corner of E. Orange and N. Lime St
Founded in 1889, YWCA Lancaster’s mission is to eliminate racism and empower women. On March 9, 1950, Bayard Rustin (1912–1987) —strategist of the Civil Rights Movement and advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—spoke here on non-violent protest, social inclusiveness, and the dangers of nuclear proliferation at an event sponsored by American Friends Service Committee.
2. Musser Park, 135 N Lime Street
Musser Park has served as the kick-off for the Race Against Racism for 25 years! This park was dedicated on the Fourth of July 1952, beginning a long-standing tradition of community celebrations in Lancaster City.
3. Tec Centro, 102 Chester St. & Spanish American Civic Association, 453 South Lime St.
In 1971 there was a need in the Latino community to create a civic support network to help struggling families integrate into everyday life in Lancaster. These pressing issues drew together a group of neighborhood activists to establish the Spanish American Civic Association. The group’s goal was to find a place where people could gather and have community events. In 2014, SACA helped to establish Tec Centro in collaboration with area community colleges and training programs.
4. Urban Renewal—Marker, southeast corner of S. Duke and North St.
More than 900 buildings were demolished in this historic neighborhood during the 1960s and 70s under the federally-funded program that displaced hundreds of families and scores of businesses. Replacement housing was built that off-set the loss of many sub-standard owner-occupied and rentals, but the community continues ongoing efforts regain the diversity and vitality it once had.
5. Belco Community Credit Union, formerly Conestoga Elks, IBPOE No. 140, 452 S. Duke St. at North St.
At one time Lancaster’s Conestoga Lodge No. 140 of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World (IBPOEW) was the hub of the Black community. The lodge occupied this building shortly after its construction in 1940, moving here after its establishment in 1915 nearby at 319 South Duke Street. The IBPOEW lodge is currently located at 320 N. Cherry St., Lancaster. Belco Community Credit Union has occupied this property since June 2008 as part of a $1.3 million acquisition and rehabilitation project in collaboration with The Spanish American Civic Association.
6. Polite Family Home—Marker, 540 North St.
Since the 1920s, multiple generations of the Family Polite have made known this sturdy dwelling as a place where active community life can be found in all forms. The Polite Family opened their doors to traveling Black strangers passing through Lancaster in the segregated era of the 1930s and 40s. It was one of only three private homes in Lancaster available to Black families seeking a safe place to stay.
7. ★ Bethel AME Church, 450 E Strawberry St.
Organized as a distinct faith community in 1817, and with its chapel dedicated in 1821, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest house of worship in Lancaster County serving persons predominantly of African descent. Since its origin, many of its clergy and lay leaders have been leaders in anti-slavery activism, the Underground Railroad, advancing social justice, securing voting rights, public health, educational and economic opportunities for its members and the community at large.
8. Charles Moton Home—Marker, 515 Howard Ave.
This unique dwelling, built around 1760, is an example of early Black family homeownership. The property was acquired by Charles Moton (1841—1925), a member of the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War. After the war, Moton worked as laborer, drayman, and teamster.
9. Crispus Attucks Community Center-Marker
Crispus Attucks Community Center is the oldest recreation center for Black people in the City, resulting from organizational efforts after World War I. Mrs. Ruby Payne, who came to the area in the 1920’s, was the long-time directress. The current building was erected in 1941.
10. Trinity Lutheran Church, northeast corner of S. Duke and Mifflin St.
An early church in this City, Trinity Lutheran Church ministered to free persons of color and formerly enslaved folks. Rev. Gottlob Frederick Krotel spoke out against slavery from the pulpit in the 1850’s.
11. ★ Lydia Hamilton Smith House-Marker, 23 E. Vine St.
This property was acquired by the enterprising house manager of Congressman Thaddeus Stevens—Mrs. Smith (1815-1884). She purchased the lot of ground at 23 E. Vine from Stevens in April, 1860 for $500. Smith acquired the adjacent lot in the early 1870s and built what is believed to have been her first income-producing property.
12. ★ Thaddeus Stevens & Lydia Smith Home/Office/Kleiss Tavern-Marker, 49 S. Queen St.
Congressman Thaddeus Stevens was a leader of Radical Republicans during the Civil War. Lydia Hamilton Smith, a woman of color, was Stevens’ property manager and confidante, both here and in Washington D.C. Their property, along with the adjacent Kleiss Tavern was verified in 2011 as an authentic Underground Railroad safe house, circa 1850.
13. Lancaster’s Freedom Spies-Marker, in front of the City of Lancaster Visitor Center
The secret work of Edward H. Rauch (1820-1902) and Robert Boston (circa 1814-1888) illustrates how the Underground Railroad Movement operated across racial lines. Rauch, a white employee of the County Courts, and Boston, a Black barber whose shop was near the Court House, were spies for Stevens. They gathered intelligence about the activities of the notorious slave catcher, George Hughes, who operated from an office in the first block of East King Street.
14. Lancaster Kitchen & Caterer's Supply Company, 135 E Grant Street
The former site of the Lancaster Kitchen & Caterers’ Supply Company owned by William G. Payne (1847-1919). Payne was a prominent restauranteur in Lancaster and the founder of Ebenezer Baptist Church.
15. Barney Ewell Plaza, 100 Block, North Queen Street, east side
Barney Ewell Plaza is located on the east side of the 100 Block of North Queen Street. Ewell Plaza is dedicated to Lancaster’s 1948 Olympic medal winning champion.
16. ★ Site of Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad Station, northeast corner of Chestnut and North Queen Street
The Train depot, built circa 1834, was a stop on the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad, the second chartered railroad in operation in the US. By 1838, box cars fitted with false ends owned by Columbia’s notable black entrepreneurs, Stephen Smith and William Whipper, transported former slaves to Lancaster, Philadelphia, and destinations north, thus becoming a key pathway of the Underground Railroad on the real railroad.
Sites 7, 11, 12, and 16 possess an authentic connections to the Underground Railroad as designated by the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom of the National Park Service.
Race Against Racism
Run or walk the self-guided course and enjoy a curated playlist featuring music to help motivate and excite you while you learn and experience Lancaster City’s history in an impactful way.
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Help Us Build A Just Future
As Lilla Watson said, “our liberation is bound together”. Every day, we are proud to partner with you in the movement to eliminate racism and empower women. Now that you have experienced our history, help us build a just future for Lancaster County!
1) REGISTER TO VOTE
through our voter education initiative Lancaster Votes at LancVotes.org
2) CHECK OUT THE EQUITY PROFILE
the first-of-its-kind county-wide look at opportunities for inclusion, and join the action team at
3) JOIN A COMMITTEE
to help shape our work moving forward at YWCALancaster.org/Get-Involved
Connect with us
YWCA Lancaster offers a range of programs in support of our mission and we work on equity every day. Have you attended the Racial Equity Institute or Community Now dialogues? Want to learn more about our Kepler Hall Residene; YWonderful Kids; or New Choices Career Development? Do you need more information on Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling or our other programs?
WE INVITE YOU TO CONNECT WITH US TO LEARN MORE