Live and Local: Mt. Gretna prepares to celebrate 125th anniversary

MT. GRETNA, LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. — Nestled in Lebanon County, many describe Mt. Gretna as quaint and relaxing.

“When you drive in here you feel like you’re going back in time, it’s tucked away with the lake and the mountains on either side,” said Ralph Zimmerman.

Ralph Zimmerman and his wife moved to Mt. Gretna in the early 2000’s after falling in love with the town’s beauty and charm.

“I think somebody described it, ‘a lot of these homes were not built with kitchens, they were built with large porches and the whole idea is to sit out and enjoy the birds and the people walking around and the feeling of being in a wooded area,” explained Zimmerman.

Cottage’s like that are a staple in the Mt. Gretna community, some around for several decades. The cottages hold a lot of history and memories that have helped create the towns appeal.

“It’s charming,” described Linda Campbell.

Linda Campbell owns a cottage a few blocks from the Tabernacle and works for the historical society. She says the community began in the late 1800’s as part of the camp meeting movement, which focused on religion.

“It was a frontier movement actually started in Kentucky and preachers would go around talking to communities, preaching on the weekends and sometimes they would stay for a week or so pitching tents,” said Campbell.

The camp meeting movement grew side by side with the Chautauqua movement, which was centered around education.

“The Chautauqua side is more arts, the Mt. Gretna Theater and music and then the camp meeting side as we said is more religious,” said Zimmerman.

Education, religion, and the arts remain a vital part of the community today as they get ready to celebrate their 125th anniversary. The town is now home to more than 230 cottages, many of which Campbell says are listed on the national registry of historic places.

“Some have been winterized and some people live here full time now as opposed to simply during a couple weeks in the summer,” explained Campbell. “It started with a few weeks in the summer, then extended to a lot of the summer season and now some people are here full time.”

Campbell attributes the growth to Mt. Gretna’s location and the friendliness of the people.

“I know I could call on my neighbors for just about anything, the cottages are really close,” said Campbell.

The closeness creates a tight knit community, rooted in history and destined for more memories to be made.