With about 18,000 residents, a scenic location in the rolling hills of the Cumberland Valley, and a dozen locations listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, is in some ways a perfect example of a small American city. It provides an economic anchor for the surrounding townships that make up the Greater Chambersburg area but retains its sense of community and offers residents a range of cultural and recreational opportunities.
The borough of Chambersburg has a mostly urban population. Chambersburg has around 8,300 houses, out of which more than 7,700 are occupied. About half of the residents of Chambersburg are homeowners.
Downtown Chambersburg is centered on Memorial Square and is home to a number of historic sites, including the Franklin County Courthouse, Chambers' Fort, Borough Hall (Old Market House), and others. Downtown features several local shops and restaurants. The Heritage Center, located on Memorial Square, is dedicated to showcasing the borough's history.
Chambersburg is the county seat of Franklin County, nearly half of which is zoned for agriculture. The city has also developed a diverse economy that includes retail, educational and government sectors. Chambersburg's proximity to Interstate 81 makes it an ideal home for distribution centers and historically, there has been a strong manufacturing base in Chambersburg. The Chambers-5 Business Park and the Cumberland Valley Business Park are home to many of these businesses. Some of the major employers in the area are:
The Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce promotes business growth with programs that include the Chambersburg Area Development Corp., the Greater Chambersburg Chamber Foundation and Downtown Chambersburg Inc.
The Civil War had a great influence on the history of Chambersburg. The town played a major role in the war, was occupied three times by Confederate troops, and was eventually burned. Memorial Square in the center of town is the place where Gen. Robert E. Lee consulted with his advisers and made the fateful decision to move east to the Battle of Gettysburg. On July 30, 1864, angry Confederate soldiers burned much of the center of town to the ground. Homes and businesses were torched. The few buildings that did not burn include churches, which were being used as hospitals; the Old Jail, which ironically was a stopping point on the Underground Railroad; and the Masonic Lodge, which was reputedly saved by a Masonic member from the South who asked that the building be spared.
The burning of Chambersburg is now commemorated every year with a daylong street festival called ChambersFest. On the third Saturday in July, the streets of downtown are filled with music, food and crafts. ChambersFest also includes a road race, a pet parade, an outdoor concert and a large Civil War seminar.
Those looking for educational opportunities in Chambersburg might want to check out the three colleges and universities that are located in the vicinity. They are:
Coyle Free Library is central to the community of Chambersburg and has roots going back to 1891 when a library of 166 books was organized by the local Afternoon Club. A member of the club, Blanche Coyle, left of bequest of $30,435 in 1915 to construct a library building. The building was completed in 1924, located at the corner of Second and Queen Streets. Later the library was made part of the Franklin County Library and began to receive funds from the county and state. The building currently occupied is a former post office.
Fans of stage acting, ballet and music will find many things to do in Chambersburg. The town has an active arts community that offers a variety of events and productions throughout the year:
Some people say Chambersburg's natural beauty provides some of the best scenery in America. The Cumberland Valley's lush rolling hills are a beautiful backdrop for outdoor activities that include bird watching, camping, hiking, and picnicking. There are also a number of golf courses and fishing holes in the area. State parks in Franklin County and nearby Cumberland County include the following:
Fitness fans may also want to grab their bikes or lace up their running shoes and hit the Chambersburg Rail-Trail path. This one-mile recreation trail runs from South Street to Commerce Street.
Chambersburg has one daily newspaper, the Chambersburg Public Opinion. The town has an independent family-oriented television station, WJAL, and three other television stations broadcast from nearby Hagerstown, Maryland.