Standing in the past of Landenberg
By John Chambless
If you look around, the past is never very far from the present.
Armed with a camera and a book of old postcards of Landenberg on a sunny afternoon, I went looking for the ghosts of the 1900s village and found them in plain sight.
As I walked through waist-high weeds next to the bridge in the center of town, I wondered if the flat rock I stood on to take a photo was the same rock found by the photographer who shot a postcard view of the Iron Bridge on what looks like a spring day, so long ago. The bridge has been replaced, of course, but the Landenberg Hotel is the same. To the right of the hotel, you can just make out the roof line of the general store next door, which was two stories tall when the postcard shot was taken. The white, three-story mill across from the hotel is gone.
On the same side of the White Clay Creek, I looked for the distinctive zig-zag in the dirt street captured in another postcard view, and found it, just up the hill. The road still does a little zig-zag for no apparent reason. The stone retaining wall to the right of the dirt street is still there at the front of a tall home. The large houses to the left and right in the distance of the circa 1905 postcard view are gone, but the little white outbuilding, visible just behind the horse and buggy in the postcard, is still there. Now stripped of its whitewash, it stands as a stone foundation today, its roof rotted and falling down.
Turning and walking back down the hill toward the creek, I paused in the center of the road to capture the view of where the textile mills stood. In the 1800s, the mills were a vital business, and turned out uniforms for Union troops during the Civil War. They are now gone, but the smaller white building with the one dormer on the roof, seen in the center of the vintage view, is still there. Sitting on the other side of Penn Green Road, it's hidden by foliage at a distance, but if you get close to it, you can see the same distinctive roof line. Who has lived here, and how many people have gazed out of that window toward those mill buildings and the old iron bridge when it was new?
Today, the Landenberg Store is the hub of the community. In the 1800s, the building had a second floor with huge windows. The building served as a general store even then, as well as the post office. A fire destroyed the building, but the lower floor survives. The wraparound porch is gone, but the central doorway and rectangular windows on each side remain in today's Landenberg Store.
And the man who stood for a moment in front of the old building while the postcard photographer told him to stand still? He's just a blur on the old image, and he's now part of the past of this tranquil crossroads village.