Member Spotlight Archive

Duncannon, Pennsylvania

Historical crossroads and friend of the Appalachian Trail
Published February 2010

Duncannon, Pa., as council member and local historian Fred Lauster likes to say, “is the spot where the Juniata River, Susquehanna River and Appalachian Trail all meet.” That confluence has helped to shape the destiny of this borough of 1,522, which sits on the west bank of the Susquehanna about 14 miles north of the state capital, Harrisburg, in east-central Pennsylvania.

Playing a prominent role in Ohio River Valley settlement

Founded in 1792 as Petersburg, the community that later bore the name of Duncannon was incorporated in 1865. Duncannon has a history rich in transportation, with ferries, Conestoga wagons, canals, railroads and highways all playing important roles in the development of the area. Possibly Duncannon’s most significant role was that of a transportation hub and trading crossroads that helped thousands of pioneers and traders move westward into western Pennsylvania and the Ohio River Valley during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Spanning more than two centuries, Duncannon’s historical timeline is dotted with devastating floods that represent a remarkable resiliency and determination among its residents. Most recently, in September 2011 as a result of Tropical Storm Lee, waters of the Susquehanna again covered Duncannon, creating water damage above the first floor of more than 40 properties in town. In December, a grateful borough council provided certificates of recognition to representatives of nearly four dozen local organizations that provided help during the emergency.

Gaining national attention for its New Year’s Eve drop
For a small, residential community, Duncannon is getting an unusual amount of national exposure in 2012. It started off the year by being featured in the January 2012 Travel + Leisure magazine online article “Wackiest New Year’s Eve Ball Drops.” Duncannon earned the magazine’s attention for its annual New Year’s Eve midnight sled drop. The drop, which just marked its 12th year, features a 10-foot-long wooden sled being lowered down a 110-foot restored fire lookout tower. The sled is modeled after the famous Lightning Guider snow sled that was manufactured by the Standard Novelty Works in Duncannon from 1904 until 1990.

The drop is conducted at the site of the former sled works, which is now The Old Sled Works Antique & Craft Market. It houses 125 dealers, as well as a working Old Time Penny Arcade and Soda Fountain, and Sled Museum. The lookout tower, built in the 1940s and relocated to the site in the late ‘90s, offers visitors a panoramic view of the area’s natural beauty.

Earning recognition for Appalachian Trail contributions
On June 2, 2012, Duncannon, one of only a handful of small towns through which the Appalachian Trail directly passes, is hosting a festival celebrating its designation as an official Appalachian Trail Community™ by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The Appalachian Trail Community™ program, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, “is designed to recognize communities that promote and protect the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).”

Duncannon lies at the midpoint of the Appalachian Trail, which runs 2,180 miles from Georgia to Maine. In Duncannon, the trail passes along Market Street, the borough’s main street, which, coincidentally, is the street on which the legendary Doyle Hotel sits. The hotel has long been a popular stopping place for hikers who appreciate its good food and hospitality.

Duncannon is also a noteworthy historic stop on the 95-mile Middle Susquehanna Greenway tour, which introduces travelers to the historic and geographic connections between the river and Chesapeake Bay, into which it empties. In addition, the borough is one of the hub communities on the Pittsburg to Harrisburg Main Line Canal Greenway. That greenway is a 320-mile network of linked land and water trails that provide travelers with opportunities to hike, bike, study nature and learn more about history.

Fulfilling its service commitments to its citizens
The Borough of Duncannon provides electric, water, sewer and refuse service to borough residents, as well as some limited utility services to residents in nearby townships. Its Electric Department serves 913 meters. The borough is in the midst of an infrastructure upgrade, improving its electricity, water and sewer lines as part of its service commitment to its citizens.

Unlike many small towns, the resilient Duncannon is also largely self-reliant when it comes to financing. The borough self-finances most of its own projects, thanks to its ownership of nearly 2,000 acres of a nearby watershed. It timbers small sections of the land every two years and puts the revenue into its timber fund. The fund helps finance municipal projects and equipment, including, in recent years, an electric line truck, a garbage truck and two pickup trucks.

Looking ahead, the borough is working to revitalize downtown Duncannon. It hopes to bring in more small business that could be supported by daily commuters passing through town, as well as the growing number of tourists and hikers visiting Duncannon for the area’s history and natural beauty.

As a member of AMP, Duncannon is part of the Pennsylvania AMP Service Group, or PASG.

For more information on all that Duncannon has to offer, visit its website.