The mission of the Eichelberger Performing Arts Center is to provide cultural enrichment for youth and adults within and beyond our community through quality entertainment, educational experiences, and opportunities for personal involvement in a broad spectrum of performing arts.
The Eichelberger Building is surely one of Hanover’s most beautiful and recognizable buildings. Now over 100 years old, it has a rich, 95-year history of private and public school education that started with the academy built by Abdiel W. Eichelberger. His vision for the school was to keep it as an educational institution forever when he donated his 4-year-old academy for public school use in 1900. It currently serves as a commercial building that houses professional offices and the Eichelberger Performing Arts Center. Schools have changed dramatically since 1900 and so do the state requirements that govern them, sometimes forcing the need for new buildings. We believe that Captain Eichelberger would be pleased with its use as a performing arts center and the educational programs offered there. His intention was to provide education for children, and the Eichelberger Performing Arts Center is pleased to still be a small part of this plan.
The Eichelberger building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is the United States’ official list of cultural resources that are considered worthy of preservation and is part of a national program administered by the National Park Service. The program strives to support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect historic and archeological resources in the United States. Properties included on the register are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture, and generally need to be at least 50 years old. The website (www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com) lists these properties throughout the country and can serve as a source for tourists interested in visiting historic places.
CAPTAIN EICHELBERGER & THE EICHELBERGER SCHOOL HISTORY
ABDIEL W. EICHELBERGER
Abdiel W. Eichelberger was born in Hanover in 1819 and was of German heritage. As a young man he apprenticed to learn the carpenter’s trade but never followed it. When he wrote about his ancestors who came from Germany, he indicated the name ‘Eichelberger’ in German means ‘mountain oaks’ and may have been related to their family homestead or castle or a region in Germany. In the 1600’s the names of the heads of German households typically bore some relation to their occupation. The Eichelberger descendants of today suggest that the name had to do with strength and tenacity.
Between 1843 and 1852 Captain Eichelberger spent his winters in Georgia, where he shipped carriages and damask coverlets from the north. He joined his brother in ownership of a gristmill and a sawmill in Alabama, the Wehadkee Flour and Sawmills. He returned to Hanover in the remaining months and tended to his and his mother’s farm.
Captain Eichelberger spent 7 years drilling the ‘United Blues’, a military organization composed of 60 riflemen from the Hanover area. In 1846 this company volunteered to join the American army during the Mexican War, but their services were not needed. He later formed the ‘Fourth Dragoons,’ consisting of 50 cavalrymen who drilled once a month between Carlisle Street and Broadway in the public commons. He never served in the U.S. Military and only received the nickname ‘Captain’ because of leading the two local military groups.
In 1853 Captain Eichelberger was elected president of the Hanover Branch Railroad Company, which was later consolidated with the Gettysburg Railroad. He later became president of the Baltimore and Hanover, Bachman Valley, Berlin Branch, and Baltimore and Harrisburg Railroad Companies. His success in directing all these railroads coincided with his belief in the value and practicality of railroads for commerce.
Captain Eichelberger met President Abraham Lincoln during his stop at Hanover Junction on November 18, 1863, the day before Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg and delivered his famous address. This junction house is near Seven Valleys, PA and was restored in 2001-2002. It is now part of the York County Department of Parks and Recreation near Seven Valleys and includes a rail trail that runs beside the railroad. The captain said shaking hands with Lincoln was the greatest event in his life.
He held an influential position in Hanover’s various public affairs and was earnestly interested in the welfare of the community. He also saw the value of education for all Americans. In 1892 the captain contributed $3,000 to the Academy at Glenville, purchased the controlling interest in 1894, and later transferred it to the Lutheran church. He offered 30 free scholarships to girls and boys on a first come, first served basis.
In 1896 he built the Eichelberg (note that there is no ‘er) Academy as a private school to prepare young men and women for college, constructing the central part of the building you see today. In Hanover’s 1900 high school commencement ceremony, the building and grounds were turned over to the town for use as a public school, a gift valued then at $35,000. This wonderful gift was a tremendous surprise to everyone in attendance and the group went wild with applause and cheers. And so the academy became a public high school and was called the Eichelberg High School. We are unable to determine why the ‘er’ was dropped from the name.
At the students’ and teachers’ request, the Captain presented his portrait to the school on his 81st birthday so that scholars over the years might see the man who generously furnished this building for the children of Hanover. This portrait currently hangs in the Hanover School District’s administration office. A copy was made by the school district and presented to the Eichelberger Performing Arts Center in 2005. It is hanging in the rear left of the theater.
Some verbiage in the 1933 senior high yearbook, The Nornir, shared how Captain Eichelberger’s vision recognized the importance of education for everyone: “Captain A.W. Eichelberger in 1900, having become convinced that the era of the Public School is at hand and that the education ‘for the people and by the people’ will be accomplished through them…”
Captain Eichelberger died in 1901 at his home on Frederick Street and is buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Hanover. His life motto was: Non Sibi Sed Omnibus (Not for one’s self, but for all) Though Hanover public schools were in existence for many years before 1900, this gift of a school building was a tremendous advancement in public school education efforts.
THE EICHELBERGER BUILDING FROM 1896 TO 1991
Captain Eichelberger constructed the Eichelberg Academy building at his own expense in 1896 and the Glenville Academy was moved into this building. It was colonial in style and measured 96 feet by 34 feet. The photo below shows the original shape of the building. It was brick with Indiana limestone trimmings and a cupola, which provided an excellent panoramic view and still does over 100 years later! The architect was Reinhardt Dempwolf of York, a graduate of an architectural school in Paris. He and his brother J.A. were active as architects from 1874-1920, designing buildings in many major cities as well as York County. In 2003, architect Jim Baumgardner considers the existing building to be neo-classic revival in style. The National Register of Historic Places refers to the style as colonial revival.
During the four years of its existence, the Eichelberg Academy prepared young men and women for college. When Captain Eichelberger presented the academy and its 3-4 acres to Hanover, it included the condition that the building must be used as a public school forever. The Hanover School District met this expectation for nearly 100 years, an extraordinary amount of time considering how much public schools changed during the 20th century. State laws mandate that schools meet certain building codes, which is difficult with old buildings and often force school districts into new construction.
The first public school began in the Hanover area in 1836, yet the first high school graduation did not occur until 1893 and only included 9 students. They attended the High Street School at that time. In September of 1900, the Eichelberg High School opened its doors and remained a high school for the next 15 years. It may also have included elementary school students at this time. By 1915, the enrollment had increased so much that the building was too small to remain a high school and a search was begun to find a new location. Most people thought it would be ‘folly’ to build an addition to the Eichelberger, according to the local newspaper, The Evening Sun.
With great controversy, a site was located on the corner of West Walnut Street and Centennial Avenue for the new high school. Battles were fought in the newspaper about the unsanitary conditions of the street, the foul-smelling heating plant across from the school, and the exorbitant price paid for the tract of land. Even with the squabbling, the district erected a new building (the yellow brick building still located there and now used for apartments) at this location. During its use as a high school from 1916 to 1932, it was known as Hanover Senior High School. Grades 1 through 8 attended the Eichelberger School and other schools during that time. The Eichelberger was known by various names, which included the Stock Street Elementary School in the 1920’s.
The high school enrollment in fall 1916 was 209. By 1931, it reached 658, according to school board president Philip N. Forney in a 1931 address to discuss the expected growth of the Hanover public schools. The enrollment of students grew so significantly from 1916-1931 that the school district was desperate for additional space by the early 1930’s. Attention was redirected back toward the Eichelberger School, and would involve major renovations. Ground was broken in August 1931 to add two L-shaped wings that included a theater, gymnasium, and additional classroom space. These wings more than tripled the size of the original building to an excess of 65,000 square feet. The face of the original building was also changed. On the right and left side of the portico before renovations, there were three arched windows on the top two floors and also under the portico. After renovations, four rectangular shaped windows were on each side on both floors and under the portico. By using these windows, perhaps the architect wanted more outside light to enter the rooms or else wanted these windows to match those in the new L-shaped wings. Arched windows were added selectively to the building during renovation, two of which you can see on the Stock Street entrance to the theater. When complete, it held 6 grade levels, including the high school students. As the enrollment continued to grow, the overall plan would move the younger children to other buildings and would keep the Eichelberger for the exclusive use of high school students, expected to occur within 10-12 years from the early 1930’s.
The Class of 1933 was the first high school class to attend and graduate from the greatly expanded Eichelberger Senior High School. The students were moved from the West Walnut Street/Centennial Avenue building to the Eichelberger building, and the junior high students relocated from the East Walnut building (now the Brownstone Apartments) to the West Walnut building. The East Walnut School became a grade school again.
You can see the cornerstone in these new wings located at the corner of Stock and McCosh Street. It contains: a Bible, a small American flag, a list of teachers, students, officials and directors as of 1932, the names of the contractors, architects, and a complete record of school board proceedings leading to the building program, two Evening Sun newspapers, The Orange and Black, the high school newspaper, a copy of the program for the cornerstone laying ceremony, stamps, coins, and many other items.
The Eichelberger was used as a high school through the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s and into the 60’s, with the Class of 1964 the final group to graduate from Eichelberger Senior High School. The school district built a new building on Moul Avenue in the mid-sixties, which continues today as a high school. The Eichelberger name was no longer used and the new school returned to the name, Hanover Senior High School. The Eichelberger building was used as a junior high and middle school from the mid-sixties until 1991. During those years it was known as Hanover Junior High School or later as Hanover Middle School. In the early 1990’s, the school district built a new middle school near the existing high school on Moul Avenue, and in 1991, the Eichelberger building was abandoned as a public school forever …
THE EICHELBERGER BUILDING AFTER 1991
A developer eventually purchased the Eichelberger building and renovated it into a series of professional office condominiums, which now contain a combination of dental, medical, legal, and accounting offices, in addition to the performing arts center. Each is individually owned, and condo owners pay fees based on the square footage of occupation. The building’s exterior has changed little since its use as a school, but the tennis courts, lawn and trees were removed to make room for a parking lot.
In 1997 Andrew and Michael Hoffman, two brothers, purchased the remaining unsold condominium space including the theater. They donated it and 6 other rooms to create a performing arts center for Hanover. After planning and renovations, the Eichelberger Performing Arts Center opened for its first performance in October 1998.
Currently, the Eichelberger Performing Arts Center uses nearly a third of the entire building. In addition to the theater, it has restrooms, dressing rooms, storage, an administrative/box office, 3 rehearsal halls, and the Conservatory.