Although Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is often known for its sprawling farmlands and Amish residents, it is also the hometown of multiple public figures — from actors to philanthropists to even presidents. Here are just a few of Lancaster’s most notable residents:
President James Buchanan
Serving as the 15th President of the United States, James Buchanan was born in Franklin County in 1791 but called Lancaster home for a majority of his life. He lived in the renowned Wheatland mansion, which was preserved and converted to a museum by Lancaster County Historical Society in 1937.
Also known as the Chocolate King, Milton Hershey was born into a Mennonite family in 1857. shortly before the Civil War erupted. Although he was not exactly well-learned, as his mother did not value education, Hershey was incredibly bright and hard-working. At age 14, he began an apprenticeship with Lancaster confectioner Joseph Royer, thus sparking his interest in sweets. After facing a time of destitution, Hershey got back on his feet and opened the Lancaster Caramel Company in 1883. Hershey sold the company for $1 million in 1900 in order to establish the Hershey Chocolate Company. Hershey’s legacy remains strong in the Lancaster area, with the school he and his wife established in 1909, Milton Hershey School, thriving to this day.
Born in rural Vermont in 1792, Thaddeus Stevens moved to Lancaster in 1842 in order to establish a law practice that operated in accordance with his anti-Mason and pro-Whig views. Stevens contributed greatly to the abolition of slavery, working closely with (and applying almost constant pressure to) President Lincoln to emancipate all slaves. In 1863, Stevens and his colleagues began drafting the Thirteenth Amendment, which passed through Senate with ease. Stevens passed in 1868, but his legacy was preserved with the establishment of the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in 1905.
Widely known for his roles in Glee, Frozen, and Hamilton: The Musical, Jonathan Groff discovered his passion for musical theatre in his hometown of Lancaster. A 2003 graduate of Conestoga Valley High School, Groff performed in local theatres such as the Ephrata Performing Arts Center (EPAC) and the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre before making his Broadway debut in Spring Awakening, which featured actress Lea Michele, in 2006. In spite of his fame and busy schedule, Groff frequently returns to Lancaster to visit his family and support the local arts scene.
Although she was born in New York, Kristen Wiig moved to Lancaster when she was just 3 years old. The actress, comedienne, and Saturday Night Live alumna spent 10 years in the Manheim Township area, where she attended elementary and middle school before moving to Rochester, New York. In an interview with Steve Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Wiig recalled her time in Lancaster, saying she made “so many memories” and that the area was “a great place to grow up.”