History and Heritage

History and Heritage

History and heritage

Ephrata is proud of its history and heritage. From our beautiful architecture to our annual cultural traditions, there is community pride in our past, present, and future that is uniquely Ephrata.


1732 Ephrata is Born

Ephrata Cloister: In 1732, Conrad Beissel came to the banks of the Cocalico creek searching for religious freedom. He would go on to build a prosperous religious community that consisted of both celibate and married members who were well known for their art, music, and printing press. The last celibate member passed away in 1814 and the remaining married members that were a part of the congregation sold the remaining buildings and land to the state of Pennsylvania in 1941. Today, the Historic Ephrata Cloister now survives as a national historic landmark.


1891 Ephrata is organized

The Ephrata Borough was officially incorporated on August 22, 1891. Overall, the 19th century was a time of change for Ephrata. The town became a regional center of commerce, the famous Mountain Springs Resort opened, the Mount Vernon Hotel was operating, and the Reading & Columbia railroad forever changed the town’s landscape. The railroad station that welcomed visitors to Ephrata still stands today and serves as the community’s Visitors Center and home to Mainspring.


Ephrata in the 20th century

The 1900s were times of prosperity and growth for Ephrata. Many of the historic buildings, businesses, and landscapes came to life during this time, expanding Ephrata’s economy and enriching its culture. These advancements paved the way for modern-day Ephrata.


I.G. Specher and Sons Hardware Store is built

Built in 1911, the building originally housed Sprecher’s Hardware Store - a hardware store operated by five generations of descendants. Today, it hosts a quality used-furniture and home decor shop and remains an Ephrata landmark.


The first Ephrata Fair is held

Ephrata’s annual fair began as a homecoming celebration to welcome returning World War I veterans.


Ephrata National Bank

Known as “The Grand Lady of Main Street,” Ephrata National Bank was Ephrata’s first financial institution and continues to serve residents and businesses of the area.

Present Day

Modern Ephrata

In recent years, Ephrata has established itself as a thriving community, cultural hub, and tourist destination.


From Railroad to Rail Trail

Community members first proposed a recreational rail trail for Ephrata in the 1990s, leading to the repurposing of the former Reading & Columbia railroad line.


100 years of the Ephrata Fair

Since its humble beginnings, the Ephrata Fair has grown to a five-day event during the last week of September and is called the “largest street fair in Pennsylvania.”


Royer Pharmacy celebrated 140 anniversary

Dating to 1879, Royer Pharmacy was one of the oldest continuously operating independent pharmacies in the United States.


Learn more about Ephrata’s historic landmarks.

Bed and Breakfasts

Many of our historic gems are now home to bed and breakfasts, such as the Historic Smithton Inn, the 1777 Americana Inn Bed & Breakfast, and the Kimmel House.

Mountain Springs Complex

Adding additional character to Ephrata's landscape is the “mountain” that defines the downtown to the east. At one time it was a health retreat for the wealthy, a spiritual center, and the area’s first hospital. Today, a full-service hotel, popular restaurant, and office spaces overlook Ephrata’s bustling downtown.

Historic Architecture

Ephrata’s historic architecture has been featured on walking tours, recognized by the Historic Preservation Trust, and regularly photographed by artists. Today, our beautiful architecture remains the backdrop for some of our most iconic businesses.

Discover Ephrata’s history for yourself!

Explore the historic attractions Ephrata has to offer.