Meet Joel Danner
Born in Liberty, Maryland on July 27th, 1804, Joel Buchanan Danner—the namesake of the Danner House (now the Inn at Lincoln Square)—was only two years old when Gettysburg was incorporated as a borough. When Joel married in 1829, he originally rented the stone house on the corner of York Street that is today known as the Codori House. He bought what became the Danner Guest House on March 7th, 1834 from John N. Starr. Danner operated a hardware store and a carriage building business in Gettysburg. In 1839, he was appointed by the Governor as Prothonotary and Clerk of the Courts. When this became an elected position in 1842, he was elected to a term of three years by his peers. He was also elected to serve as a US Congressman in 1850. He served in this position until 1851 as he was only elected to finish the term of a Congressman who died in office. After his term, he returned to Gettysburg to tend to his business. Over the course of many years, Danner served as Treasurer for The Directors of the Poor. In his time in Gettysburg, he also served as Justice of the Peace.
In June of 1863, Danner helped in the organization of an emergency militia should the Civil War find its way to Gettysburg, and when the Civil War did find its way here on July 1st, 1863, Danner served on Gettysburg’s Central Relief Committee. The entire town was left with the scars of what became known as the turning point of the War. Four buildings that witnessed this infamous battle stand on Lincoln Square to this day. The Inn at Lincoln Square is one of them.
The Danner Family
After the Civil War, Danner continued to be an integral part of Gettysburg society. He served as a Director for the Battlefield Memorial Association that was formed in 1864. He also served on the emergency recruiting committee and the local committee for the Sanitary Commission’s Great Central Fair. Danner also served as Treasurer for a term at the Good Samaritan Lodge, number 336. Joel Danner passed away on July 29th, 1885.
It has been documented in stories about the Danners that their home was always full of people; they rarely spent a night alone. Joel and his wife, Mary Juliet Buchanan, had raised seven children and the house remained in the family as it was passed from child to child. Their oldest child Henry, born in 1829, purchased the home from his father in 1875. Henry ran a small men’s and boys’ clothing store out of the home. In 1894—a year before he died—Henry transferred the house to his sister, Sarah Danner Hay. Sarah, born in 1837, had married a lawyer in 1865 and lived with him in York until he passed in 1883. She then moved back into her parents’ house. The house that Sarah sold in York eventually became the York YWCA. Sarah died in 1908 and willed the property to her sisters, Annie and Eveline (Eva).
Eva, born in 1842, showed early talent for music and trained at numerous schools of music. She was a music teacher in Gettysburg and the organist at the Reformed Church for over fifty years. Eva passed away on December 31st, 1910. Annie, born in 1833, cared for and lived in the home all her life. She was a teacher in the infant room at the Reformed Church for over fifty years. She even received a medal for her work as a Sunday School Teacher. Annie also dedicated much of her time to girls who worked to make a living. The Annie Danner Club of Industrial Girls was created in her honor. When Annie died on February 25th, 1920, the property and all its belongings (quite a collection as it included the property of the entire Danner line) was willed to the youngest Danner, Irene. Also known as Mrs. Charles Reinewald, Irene was born in 1852. She married Reverend Reinewald in 1890. When he passed in 1920, Irene moved back to her homestead on Lincoln Square.
In 1923, Irene wrote in her Last Will and Testament:
I devise and bequeath my house on Center Square, Gettysburg Borough, Adams County, Pa., and all the contents thereof to my hereinafter named executor, Irvin L. Taylor, in trust for a home for a Young Women’s Christian Association of Gettysburg, PA. I give and bequeath the proceeds from the sale of all the rest, residue and remainder of my estate to Irvin L. Taylor, in trust nevertheless to safely invest the same and to use the net annual income arising therefrom for the support and maintenance of said home. Prior to this, there was not a YWCA in Gettysburg. According to a newspaper account, there was a group of girls called the Acorn Club. The Club was dedicated to helping in any local charity work. On the return trip from a short vacation, the Acorn Club stayed at a YWCA. Impressed by the “Y,” the girls tried to start an association in Gettysburg. They called for a representative of the Young Women’s Christian Association to come visit with them. Irene was interested in the idea of a Gettysburg YWCA branch and asked to meet with the representative as well. They found that a new building for the group would be too expensive, so instead, they took to meeting in their homes, taking a turn at each house. Some of these meetings were held in the Danner House. When Irene passed away on May 28th, 1925, she provided Gettysburg with a YWCA that became an integral part of the town. The only two Danners who did not hold main ownership of the house were Joel Albertus Danner who died in 1904, and Hannah Margaret Danner who moved to Frederick with her husband Melville E. Doll and remained there until her death in 1914.
The Danner house was renovated and meetings were held. On October 22nd, 1926, all women of Adams County were invited to the first organizational meeting of the Gettysburg YWCA. Sixty-one women signed the constitution that night as charter members. On October 23rd, they held an open house, inviting the entire county to see the updated Danner House and learn about all the “Y” had to offer. When the “Y” was first opened, it consisted of many clubs, including the Annie Danner Club, The Business and Professional Women’s Club, The Girl Reserves, The Maple Leaf Club, and the Home Crafts Club. The “Y” was devoted to providing entertainment and relaxation for its members. Most women had begun to work at this time, and as the Great Depression began to set in, the women bonded together to provide moral support and affordable recreation. They were not only supportive to each other, but also to any person in need. Maintaining membership became challenging for the clubs of the YWCA as the Great Depression bore down on the country, but the organization survived the ordeal and emerged all the stronger.
The YWCA housed the county’s only public library until the Adams County Public Library opened in 1945, and maintained the only public “waiting room” for many years. All kinds of people would come to the “Y” to rest: women taking a break from shopping, people waiting for bus connections, children waiting for their parents after school, and locals just wanting to socialize. The YWCA also took in outsiders, renting the two upstairs bedrooms to women and tourists.
During World War II, the Gettysburg YWCA became the south-central Pennsylvania headquarters for the National U.S.O. Every Friday night, the “Y” held a dance for the soldiers stationed at Gettysburg College and Camp Colt. The members cared for the soldiers like they were family; they would help with any mending, invite them into the “Y” to talk and write letters home, and on Sundays they would take the soldiers to church and then invite them into their homes for Sunday dinner. In the 1950s, the YWCA worked to end racial segregation. It held public speeches and meetings continually restating their message of acceptance and unity. They combined their Maple Leaf Club—a group for black girls—with their Girls Reserves to form the “Y-Teens” in the early ’50s. The Y-Teens spearheaded a local sexual education initiative in 1956. In the ’70s, the “Y”—which was now flagging in popularity—revitalized itself by offering a variety of new programs and courses such as yoga, auto repair, photography, skiing, and first aid. It sponsored public affairs luncheons and gave workshops on personal growth.
The Inn at Lincoln Square
With its recent development and growth, the YWCA could no longer operate from the confines of the Danner House. Ground was broken for a new facility on Fairfield Road in August, 1980. On December 8th, 1989, after the new YWCA was completed, the organization sold the Danner House. Now, in 2010, we at the Inn at Lincoln Square open the Danner House’s doors and invite you to stay with us and experience Gettysburg in its finest, from its center, on Lincoln Square.