Annual Lancaster ornament honors McCaskey School

mccaskey-ornament2LANCASTER, Pa. – In time to commemorate the start of construction 80 years ago of J.P. McCaskey High School, the iconic structure has been chosen as the ninth Lancaster Landmark Ornament, an annual fundraiser for LEADS, the all-volunteer group that pays for all holiday decorations – including the Penn Square Christmas tree – and summertime hanging flower baskets in downtown Lancaster.

LEADS (Lancaster’s Economic Action for Downtown’s Success) selected McCaskey, an architectural wonder that began construction in 1936, as this year’s honored city landmark. Previous years included Central Market, Fulton Theatre, City Hall, among others.

Named for John Piersol McCaskey, a local educator, former city mayor and composer, the original structure opened on May 3, 1938, with the students who had previously been served by separate boys and girls high schools. It was paid for with funds from the Work Progress Administration, a government program designed to help the country out of the Great Depression. While the building has been expanded, it still retains the original facade, lobby and auditorium, which are in the Art Deco style.


LEADS president Marty Hulse (right) presents the 2016 Lancaster Landmark Ornament to Dr. Damaris Rau, superintendent of the School District of Lancaster, where McCaskey High School resides.

”We have been providing every wreath, bow, garland and twinkling light for downtown’s streets since 2006,” said Marty Hulse, board president. ”The landmark ornament has become a popular and successful fundraiser to help make downtown streets festive for the holidays.”

The three-dimensional ornaments are renditions of structures that have played a meaningful role in Lancaster’s historic and cultural life, crafted of solid brass plated in 24-karat gold, he said. The ornament can be used as a tree or window ornament or displayed in the gold foil box it comes in along with a card telling its history.

Since 2012, LEADS has invested more than $30,000 to improve the city’s holiday decorations,” Hulse said. Proceeds from the ornament go toward paying for that investment, he said.

Ornaments can be purchased at Lancaster Galleries, 34 N. Water St.; BUiLDiNG CHARACTER, 342 N. Queen St., rear warehouses; Festoon at the Firehouse, 202 N. Duke St.; the Turkey Lady at Central Market; and the city Visitors Center on Penn Square. The ornaments also are available at Lancaster Central Market from 9 a.m. To 1 p.m. Nov. 12, 19 and 26 and Dec. 3, 10 and 17, as well as from 5-8pm Friday, Nov. 25 during the Mayor’s Tree Lighting, another LEADS/City of Lancaster project. Each ornament is $20 and can be ordered online at or by calling Building Character at 717-394-7201 to purchase with a major credit card. Shipping is $4.95 for the first ornament and $.95 for each additional ornament.

LEADS began in 2000 when a group of volunteers created a grassroots effort to beautify downtown Lancaster. The goal has always been: make the city a more attractive place to visit, shop and live. Then, as now, LEADS is a completely volunteer organizations that operates solely from donations.

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