In 2006, the City of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, experienced its bicentennial and the community rejoiced and celebrated its heritage.
The city’s history began in 1795, when founder Michael Ross employed surveyors William Ellis and Joseph Williams to lay out the town. According to historian John F. Meginness (History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, 1892), the original plot of the town was a rectangular figure containing 111 acres and divided into 302 lots, with streets and alleys crossing each other at right angles.
A public square, according to English custom, was set aside in the center, and it has remained to the present day. The first sale of lots, which took place on the 4th of July, 1796, was made the occasion for a public demonstration and an ox roast. The first house in Williamsport was a log structure erected by James Russell in March, 1796. It stood on the corner of Third and Mulberry streets. Williamsport was incorporated as a borough in 1806 and as a city in 1866. Ross named the city after his son, William.
The City of Williamsport celebrated its 200th anniversary through a year-long series of celebrations combining galas, festivals and educational events that will spur creativity and make people more aware of Williamsport’s history and potential for its future. An event this extraordinary required immense planning and organization.
The Williamsport Bicentennial Celebration (WBC) committees organized to implement, plan and raise the necessary funds and coordinate activities for the Bicentennial Celebration.
Many individuals from local businesses, colleges and organizations within the Williamsport area were asked to provide a representative to serve as a liaison on the Steering Committee. Businesses were asked to make financial or service donations. Volunteers were needed for office help, event set-up and event greeting. Approximately 500 volunteers were needed throughout the year-long project.
Highlights of the Bicentennial Project included a historic proclamation re-enactment of the city’s charter, a themed-Lumber Baron / Boom Rat Ball, a Bicentennial calendar, daily historic-themed articles in the local newspaper, and creation and erection of historic markers throughout the city.