An independent news publication of
United Way of Lancaster County


Smithsonian Magazine features Lancaster’s planned Thaddeus Stevens/Lydia Smith history center

Thaddeus Stevens house and office and the Kleiss Tavern. (Source: LancasterHistory)

Lancaster’s plans for a museum honoring Thaddeus Stevens and Lydia Hamilton Smith are highlighted in an article in this month’s Smithsonian Magazine.

After more than a century of neglect and calumny, the abolitionist “is finally getting his due,” journalist Tracy Schorn writes in the magazine’s December issue.

In Gettysburg, Stevens was honored with a statue erected last year. In Lancaster, Schorn writes, LancasterHistory is planning the Thaddeus Stevens & Lydia Hamilton Smith Center for History & Democracy at Stevens’ historic home and office and the former Kleiss Tavern in Lancaster, just south of Penn Square. It is scheduled to open in April 2025.

Thaddeus Stevens, left, and Lydia Hamilton Smith.

“We’re delighted to have the project earn the attention of such a well-regarded publication and its readers,” LancasterHistory Vice President Robin Sarratt said.

The leader of the Radical Republicans during the Civil War and in its aftermath, Stevens strategized to craft the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments and shepherd them through the U.S. House. He reaped the enduring enmity of the Southern establishment and its apologists, who vilified him and deprecated his legacy as they worked to undo reconstruction and establish the Jim Crow regime.

Schorn summarizes both Stevens’ career itself and the ebb and flow of his posthumous reputation. The museum in Lancaster, she writes, will serve as “a paean to Stevens’ life’s work” and showcase his “rare working relationship of close respect across color and gender lines” with Smith, his house manager of more than two decades.

“Smithsonian Magazine was created to stir curiosity and deal with history as relevant to the present, so naturally we think the stories of Congressman Stevens and Mrs. Smith fit the bill perfectly,” Sarratt said. “The time is long overdue to share the inspirational story of Thaddeus Stevens and Lydia Hamilton Smith with the nation.”