New Historical Sign Unveiled at the Georgian Museum

The northeast corner of Broad Street and Wheeling Street has a new addition: a historical sign detailing the history of one of Lancaster, Ohio’s most iconic structures, The Georgian Museum. The goal is to help tourists and residents understand the significance of the mansion and the first people who resided there. It also highlights the effort to save it from destruction and its transition into a museum.

Although the home has operated as a museum since 1976, it still remains a mystery to many people, including Lancaster residents. Numerous people walk past the mansion daily and might only know it as a lovely-looking home with beautiful architecture. However, behind the beauty lies the story of one of the area’s most consequential figures and original owner, Samuel Maccracken.

Samuel Maccracken arrived in Lancaster around 1811 and immediately made an impact on the city. He opened a tannery and hardware store and began making business deals with almost all of Lancaster’s major businessmen. Samuel also began purchasing real estate … lots of it. His real estate dealings were quite extensive and he was even known to purchase a property in the morning and sell it in the evening.

Samual Maccracken, original owner of The Georgian mansion on Wheeling Street in Lancaster, Ohio.

Samual Maccracken, original owner of The Georgian mansion on Wheeling Street in Lancaster, Ohio.

Maccracken was asked to join the boards of several state institutions and, at one time, was considered to be one of the richest men in Ohio. For all of his accomplishments, his most important one may have been his role in bringing a canal through the city.

In 1825, ground broke on the new Ohio & Erie Canal which was to connect the state from Lake Erie to the Ohio River (Cleveland to Portsmouth). This was a tremendous undertaking that would benefit the state greatly. However, there was a problem. The route was planned to bypass Lancaster. This would have been detrimental to the city as industries would have relocated to be closer to the canal to take advantage of shipping routes.

A group of businessmen, led by Samuel Maccracken, ensured that Lancaster would not be left out by obtaining a charter to build the Lancaster Lateral Canal. This canal would branch off of the Ohio & Erie Canal and guarantee that Lancaster would benefit its construction. Without this branch, the future of Lancaster would have been in jeopardy.

By 1830, Samuel and his wife, Sarah, were ready to retire and contracted Daniel Sifford to construct the gorgeous home that we know as the Georgian Museum today. It is located on Lot 9 in Square 12 and is roughly 8,500 square feet. It features 10 rooms with 12 foot ceilings, an attic, lower level, an ice house, and a widow’s walk. It is a Federal style with Greek Revival features. Samuel and Sarah moved into the home in 1832 and Sarah nicknamed it “Mount Flora” due to all of the flowers that were present on the hillside.

Samuel and Sarah Maccracken, circa 1860s, original residents of what is now The Georgian Museum in Lancaster, Ohio.

Samuel and Sarah Maccracken, circa 1860s, original residents of what is now The Georgian Museum in Lancaster, Ohio.

The Maccrackens lived in the home for 20 years until Samuel’s failing health led them to move into a smaller residence. It was then owned by several residents and, in 1935, operated as a tearoom called “The Georgian”; hence the name it is known by today. During the 1940s, the home fell in disrepair and sat in neglect for decades. The once grand home was now an eyesore and plans for demolition were in the works as pieces of the architecture were scattered across the property.

The Georgian Museum property pre-1972 purchase by the Fairfield County Heritage Association.

The Georgian Museum property pre-1972 purchase by the Fairfield County Heritage Association.

In 1972, Fairfield Heritage Association President Fran Utley and Dr. Robert Fox led the community-wide effort to “Save the Georgian.” They were able to raise enough money to purchase and restore the mansion to its original glory with the leadership of contractor Max Stebelton. Volunteers donated their time by removing debris, scraping wallpaper, clearing weeds, and removing tree stumps. The restoration was a true community effort. In 1976, the home was ready to be unveiled to the public as the Georgian Museum and a dedication was held on April 4.

One of several sandstone boulders unearthed during installation of the historical signage at The Georgian Museum in Lancaster, Ohio.

One of several sandstone boulders unearthed during installation of the historical signage at The Georgian Museum in Lancaster, Ohio.

For almost 50 years, the Georgian Museum has stood as a testament to a community dedicated to preserving its history. The new historical sign celebrates this history and effort. It details the home’s 191-year journey from Maccracken residence to Lancaster landmark.

The sign was designed by Fairfield County Heritage Association Marketing Director Michael Johnson, made by Pannier Graphics, and installed by Auman Landscaping. Georgian Museum Master Gardeners will be cleaning up the area and planting flowers and shrubs around the sign soon. It is the second sign installed by FCHA this year with the first being at Allen Chapel. FCHA hopes to install more of these signs around the city and county to highlight some of this area’s rich history.

If you enjoyed this story, read more from Michael Johnson by becoming a supporting member of the Fairfield County Heritage Association. He authors the Association’s quarterly publication which includes stories like this one.

Join The Fairfield Heritage Association

Filed under: Histories & Mysteries, Life, News, People
Michael R. Johnson, marketing director for the Fairfield County Heritage Association based in Lancaster, Ohio.

By Michael Johnson

Lancaster native Michael Johnson is the Marketing Director for the Fairfield County Heritage Association and serves as editor of the Heritage Quarterly – a magazine highlighting local history. Michael is a member of the Sherman Rotary and the Lancaster Fairfield Chamber of Commerce’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee. His bachelor’s degree in history education was earned at Ohio University. Michael is married to Tara Johnson and has two children, Isaac and Mia.