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Walking down 8th Street in Lebanon, Pa one can’t help but notice the beautiful Farmer’s Market building. It stands tall and proud, boasting beautiful windows, ornamental copper detailing, and a large clock tower. From the street, you’d never guess the secrets held inside.
The 30,000-square-foot building is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. You will find it sitting on Eighth Street between Cumberland and Chestnut streets in downtown Lebanon. Today, the building is home to over 20 vendors, the Visit Lebanon Valley Visitor’s Center, and The Foundry Craft Grillery Restaurant. Most days, the building is buzzing with activity. But, once the crowds die down and the silence of nightfall sets in, employees of the building have had some strange experiences that has them wondering, are the spirits of the past still here?
Local folklore would say yes. In the 1870's the small town of Lebanon made national news with the infamous murder case of the Blue Eyed Six. In those days, the site served as the Lebanon County Courthouse and Jail.
The Legend of the Blue Eyed Six
In the 1870’s, a group of six Lebanon Valley men hatched a plan to take out an insurance policy on a local hermit by the name of Joe Raber. At that time, it was perfectly legal to purchase a policy on anyone you so choose, as long as that person agreed. While the clan of six may have thought that the hermit Raber would not be missed when they murdered him to collect the money, the fatal flaw in their plan was that they spoke about their plans loudly, and drunkenly, in the local tavern.
When Joe Raber’s body was found in an Indiantown Gap creek in December 1878, the men were arrested and jailed in the basement of the 8th Street Courthouse. During the six-month trial, a court reporter noticed that all of the men had cold, blue eyes. And so the name The Blue-Eyed Six was coined. The trial concluded with five of the men being found guilty. The sixth blue-eyed man, only 18 years old, was acquitted (although became and died a few months later).
The other five men were hung in the courtyard of the property. Fire destroyed the structure just a few years later. While the building has been completely rebuilt, you can still find a hint of it’s past. The stone foundation of the courthouse remains intact in the basement of the market where you can still see the jail cells which once housed the Blue Eyed Six. And the open mezzanine of the Farmer’s Market? That was the Courtyard, where the infamous Blue-Eyed Six were hung in 1879.
After the fiery destruction of the Lebanon County Jail, construction began on the Market House. In 1892 after nearly a two-year construction process, the Lebanon Farmers Market was dedicated. In addition to the farmers market, the Market House has been occupied by a varied tenant list over the years. From the Lebanon Family Theatre featuring almost daily Vaudeville performances in the early days to being the home of the Crestview Secretarial School in the 1950s, the Market House has been home to many.
But its longest tenant was the S. Kantor Sewing Company that operated in the building from the 1930s until the late 1990’s. Other tenants have included Parry Printing and the Lebanon Stamp and Coin.
The Farmers Market operated continuously at this location until the mid-1960s when it closed due to expansion of the sewing factory. In 2003, the Market House was purchased as part of a downtown revitalization plan, was beautifully restored and again houses the Lebanon Farmer’s Market.
With such a long history, it is natural that many feel the spirits of the past are lingering inside. According to an article from the Lebanon Daily News, in 2011 the Quest Paranormal Society was brought in for an overnight investigation. Quest uses a variety of elements, such as video, audio and personal experience, to determine if paranormal activity is present at a location. A six-hour investigation and multiple pieces of evidence were found in both the mezzanine and the basement.
Whether the building is still home to five of the Blue-Eyed Six may be a matter of whether you choose to believe or not. Super-natural spirits aside, today the Lebanon Farmer’s Market boasts its own spirit – that of history, entrepreneurship, and strong sense of community. Come check it out for yourself. The Visit Lebanon Valley office will be open Tuesdays-Friday 10-4 or Saturdays 10-3. Visit our website at VisitLebanonValley.com for more information.
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