Carlisle is a borough in and the county seat of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, United States. Carlisle is located within the Cumberland Valley, a highly productive agricultural region. As of the 2020 census, the borough population was 20,118; Including suburbs in the neighboring townships, 37,695 live in the Carlisle urban cluster. Carlisle is the smaller principal city of the Harrisburg−Carlisle Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry counties in South Central Pennsylvania. In 2010, Forbes rated Carlisle and Harrisburg the second-best place to raise a family.
The U.S. Army War College, located at the Carlisle Barracks, prepares high-level military personnel and civilians for strategic leadership responsibilities. Carlisle Barracks ranks among the oldest U.S. Army installations and the most senior military educational institution in the United States Army. Carlisle Barracks is home of the United States Army Heritage and Education Center, an archives and museum complex open to the public. Carlisle also hosts Penn State Dickinson School of Law and Dickinson College.
The French-born fur trader James Le Tort may have built a cabin in the area as early as 1720.: 113 During the colonial era, Scots-Irish settlers began to settle in the Cumberland Valley beginning in the early 1730s. The settlement of Carlisle, at the intersection of several Indigenous trails, was designated by the Pennsylvania assembly and the Penn family in 1751 as the seat of Cumberland County (named for the county of the same name in England). American engineer John Armstrong Sr., a surveyor for the Penn family, laid the plan for the settlement of Carlisle in 1751. Armstrong Sr. settled there and fathered John Armstrong Jr. in 1758. They named the settlement after its sister town of the same name in Cumberland, England, and even designed its former jailhouse (which now serve as general government offices in the county) to resemble the Carlisle Citadel.
As a result of conflicts on the frontier with Native American tribes, a stockade was constructed in the settlement to protect against potential attacks in 1753. In 1755, the stockade was transformed into a fort, known as Fort Carlisle or Fort Lowther. In 1757, colonel-commandant John Stanwix—for whom Fort Stanwix in upstate New York was named—–established his headquarters in Carlisle, and was promoted to brigadier general on December 27. During the French and Indian War (the North American theater of the Seven Years' War), the largely successful Forbes Expedition was organized in Carlisle in 1758; Henry Bouquet also organized a military expedition from the settlement in 1763 during Pontiac's War.
The Pennsylvania guide, compiled by the Writers' Program of the WPA in 1940, described the early history of Carlisle's public square and the physical changes that had occurred by the first half of the 20th century, noting that the square, located at the
intersection of Hanover and High Sts., is now hardly recognizable as such, for the market house, courthouse, and church have encroached on it. But in the early days its limits were clearly defined. The square was the camping ground of Indian delegations in the tense days when the French were invading the Ohio Valley, the gathering place of Revolutionary mass meetings, and the nucleus of a compact little settlement. Here occurred the touching reunion of the Indian captive, Regina, and her mother, after Colonel Bouquet had forced the conquered tribes to surrender their prisoners in 1764. Regina, a German girl whose family name is given variously as Hartman and Leininger, had been taken captive when small, and had forgotten her mother. With tears coursing down her cheeks the mother then sang a song she once had used as a lullaby:
Allein, und doch nicht ganz allein,
Bin ich in meiner Einsamkeit.
[Alone, yet not alone am I, in this
and the long lost daughter rushed into her mother's arms.— Federal Writers'Project, "Part II: Cities and Towns", Pennsylvania: A Guide to the Keystone State (1940)
The settlement of Carlisle was largely supportive of the Patriot cause during the American Revolution, and numerous individuals from the settlement served in the Revolutionary War. Carlisle contains the home of lawyer James Wilson, who served as a representative to the Continental Congress; Wilson was a signer of the Declaration of Independence in addition to being one of the framers of the U.S. Constitution. The First Presbyterian Church, begun in 1757 and completed in 1770, is the oldest building in Carlisle, and was where the Rev. John Steel (known as "The Fighting Parson") gave sermons in support of the Patriot cause during the American Revolution. The church was also where Pennsylvania settlers met on July 12, 1774, to sign a document protesting the Boston Port Act. A year later Carlisle supplied a contingent for a line infantry regiment of the Continental Army. Steel was named commander of the leading company of this group when they marched from Carlisle. No longer standing but marked by a historical marker is the home of Ephraim Blaine, Commissary General of Revolutionary Army. Also, no longer standing but commemorated, is the home of Gen. John Armstrong Sr., "Hero of Kittanning," Revolutionary officer, and member of the Continental Congress. Still standing is the gun shop of Thomas Butler Sr., an Irish immigrant, who manufactured long rifles during the French and Indian War. He later became Chief Armorer for The First Continental Congress. He and his five sons served in the Revolutionary War and were known as "The Fighting Butlers. His eldest son was Richard Butler (general).
Carlisle also served as a munitions depot during the American Revolutionary War. The depot was later developed into the United States Army War College at Carlisle Barracks. Revolutionary War legend Molly Pitcher died in the borough in 1832, and her body lies buried in the Old Public Graveyard. A hotel was built in her honor, called the Molly Pitcher Hotel; it has since been renovated to house apartments for senior citizens.
Carlisle was incorporated as a borough a few years after the war on April 13, 1782. Carlisle continued to play a part in the early development in the United States through the end of the century: In response to a planned march in favor of the United States Constitution in 1787, Anti-Federalists instigated a riot in Carlisle. A decade later, during the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, the troops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey assembled in Carlisle under the leadership of President George Washington. While in Carlisle, the president worshiped in the First Presbyterian Church at the corner of Hanover Street and High Street.
Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, developed Carlisle Grammar School in 1773 and chartered it as Dickinson College—the first new college founded in the newly recognized United States. One of the college's more famous alumni, the 15th U.S. president, James Buchanan, graduated in 1809. The Dickinson School of Law, founded in 1834 and affiliated then with Dickinson College, ranks as the fifth-oldest law school in the United States and the oldest law school in Pennsylvania.
On June 2, 1847, Carlisle was the site of the McClintock Slave Riot, which that broke out after a fugitive slave hearing at the courthouse; several of the fugitive slaves were able to escape during the fray with the help of Carlisle's black residents, while one of the slave catchers later died of his wounds. A Dickinson College professor, John McClintock, was tried and acquitted for his role in the riot.
A general borough law of 1851 (amended in 1852) authorized a burgess and a borough council to administer the government of the borough of Carlisle.
Leading up to the American Civil War, Carlisle served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. During the war, an army of the Confederate States of America, under General Fitzhugh Lee, attacked and shelled the borough during the Battle of Carlisle on July 1, 1863, as part of the Gettysburg Campaign. A cannonball dent can still be seen on one of the columns of the historic county courthouse.
United States Army Lieutenant Richard Henry Pratt founded Carlisle Indian Industrial School in 1879 as the first federally supported school for American Indians off a reservation. The United States government maintained the school, housed at Carlisle Barracks as an experiment in educating Native Americans and teaching them to reject tribal culture and to adapt to white society. Pratt retired from the Army in 1903 and from supervising the school as its superintendent in 1904. Athletic hero Jim Thorpe entered the school in 1907 and joined its football team under coach Glenn "Pop" Warner in 1908. Playing halfback, Jim Thorpe led the team to startling upset victories over powerhouses Harvard, Army, and the University of Pennsylvania in 1911–12, bringing nationwide attention to the school. Marianne Moore taught there c. 1910. Carlisle Indian School closed in 1918.
Carlisle is located slightly northeast of the center of Cumberland County at  The borough lies in the Cumberland Valley, a section of the Great Appalachian Valley, to the south of Conodoguinet Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River. Letort Spring Run, a tributary of Conodoguinet Creek, runs north through the eastern part of the borough.(40.202553, −77.195016) at an elevation of 479 feet (146 m).
Carlisle lies in south-central Pennsylvania southwest of the intersection of Interstate 76 (the Pennsylvania Turnpike) and Interstate 81 roughly 20 miles (32 km) west-southwest of Harrisburg, the state capital. By road it is approximately 80 mi (130 km) northwest of Baltimore and 124 mi (200 km) west-northwest of Philadelphia. According to the United States Census Bureau, Carlisle has a total area of 5.54 square miles (14.35 km2), of which 5.53 square miles (14.33 km2) is land and 0.01 square miles (0.02 km2), or 0.14%, is water.
Carlisle has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa) with hot, humid summers and cool winters. The average temperature in Carlisle is 51.3 °F (10.7 °C) with temperatures exceeding 90 °F (32 °C) an average of 16 days a year and dropping below 32 °F (0 °C) an average of 119 days a year. On average, the borough receives 38.8 inches (986 mm) of precipitation annually. Snowfall averages 29.8 inches (757 mm) per year. On average, January is the coolest month, July is the warmest month, and September is the wettest month. The hottest temperature recorded in Carlisle was 102 °F (39 °C) in 1966; the coldest temperature recorded was −19 °F (−28 °C) in 1994.
|Climate data for Carlisle, Pennsylvania|
|Record high °F (°C)||71
|Average high °F (°C)||35
|Average low °F (°C)||20
|Record low °F (°C)||−19
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||3.17
|Average snowfall inches (cm)||9.0
|Source: The Weather Channel; Weatherbase|
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2000, there were 17,970 people, 7,426 households, and 4,010 families residing in the borough. The population density was 3,308.9 people per square mile (1,277.8/km2). There were 8,032 housing units at an average density of 1,479.0 per square mile (571.1/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 88.93% White, 6.92% African American, 0.14% Native American, 1.60% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.71% from other races, and 1.69% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.96% of the population.
There were 7,426 households, out of which 23.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.3% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.0% were non-families. 39.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10 and the average family size was 2.81.
In the borough, the population was spread out, with 18.6% under the age of 18, 17.2% from 18 to 24, 25.3% from 25 to 44, 21.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 84.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.8 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $33,969, and the median income for a family was $46,588. Males had a median income of $34,519 versus $25,646 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $21,394. About 8.6% of families and 14.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.7% of those under age 18 and 8.5% of those age 65 or over.
Leading industries in Carlisle's past have included Carlisle Tire and Rubber Company (founded 1917), Masland Carpets (founded 1866), and The Frog, Switch and Manufacturing. Carlisle Tire and Rubber and Masland Carpets have since gone out of business, and both plants were demolished in 2013. CenturyLink maintains a call center in the city, and Amazon.com is one of several warehouse facilities in the city. In 2013, Apple opened an AppleCare device repair facility southeast of the Interstate 81 overpass over the Pennsylvania Turnpike to cover American customers east of the Mississippi River.
Arts and culture
Carlisle is famous to many people for its car shows, put on regularly by Carlisle Events throughout the spring, summer, and fall at the Carlisle Fairgrounds. In addition to the regularly scheduled shows there are specialty shows, including the GM Nationals, the Ford Nationals, the Chrysler Nationals, the Truck Nationals, Corvettes at Carlisle, and the Import/Kit Car Nationals.
Partly because of its location at the intersection of two major trucking routes (I-81 and I-76), air pollution within the borough often falls within the range considered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" [i.e., children, the elderly, and people with respiratory or heart disease]. The pollutant typically involved is PM2.5, particulate matter composed of particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.
The Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB), a ballet school and performing company known internationally for their alumni, is based in Carlisle.
Carlisle is the headquarters of the Giant Food supermarkets in Pennsylvania.
Carlisle was home to the Washington Redskins training camp for many years. In 1986, cornerback Darrell Green ran the 40-yard dash at Dickinson College in 4.09 seconds. Although the result was unofficial, it is the fastest "legitimate" time ever recorded in the 40-yard dash.
Two privately funded historical markers are located in Carlisle: one the Hot-Chee Dogs restaurant, and another at the Old Town Pump, which provided fresh spring water to Carlisle and "eventually became the source of a legend that claimed anyone who drank from the pump would return to Carlisle no matter how far they roamed".
Colleges and universities
As reported by the National Center for Educational Statistics
- Carlisle Christian Academy
- Blue Ridge Mennonite School
- Dickinson College Children's Center
- Hidden Valley School
- St Patrick School
- The Christian School of Grace Baptist Church
|Frequency||Callsign||Format||City of License||Notes|
|960||WHYL||Adult Standards||Carlisle, Pennsylvania||-|
|Frequency||Callsign||Format||City of License||Notes|
|88.3||WDCV-FM||Variety||Carlisle, Pennsylvania||Dickinson College radio|
|93.1||W226AS||Contemporary Christian||Carlisle, Pennsylvania||Translator of WBYO, Sellersville, Pennsylvania|
|97.9||W250AP||Country||Carlisle, Pennsylvania||Translator of WIOO|
|101.7||W269AS||Christian||Carlisle, Pennsylvania||Family Radio translator|
|102.3||WCAT-FM||Country||Carlisle, Pennsylvania||Broadcasts from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania|
- Charles Jefferson Albright (1816–1883), congressman from Pennsylvania
- James Armstrong, congressman from Pennsylvania
- John Armstrong, Jr., United States Secretary of War
- Deborah Birx, American physician and diplomat.
- Ashley Bouder, ballet dancer
- Sid Bream, Major League Baseball player
- Jackson Bostwick, actor
- Alice Bridges, (1916-2011), Olympic bronze medalist at age 20 in 100 m swimming event (1936 Berlin Olympics); resided in Carlisle
- William Davidson (1783-1867), Pennsylvania State Senator for the 17th district from 1817 to 1824
- Stephen Duncan, the wealthiest cotton planter in the South prior to Civil War, and second largest slave owner in the country
- Cheston Lee Eshelman, inventor, aviator, manufacturer (Cheston L. Eshelman Company) and automaker (see Eshelman)
- Harold J. Greene (1955-2014), United States Army soldier
- Arthur Japy Hepburn (1877–1964), admiral whose naval career spanned Spanish–American War, World War I, and World War II
- John Huzvar (1929–2007), football player
- Carrie Imler, ballet dancer
- Alexander J. Irwin, Wisconsin territorial legislator
- Robert Irwin, Jr., Michigan territorial legislator
- J. E. Keeny, president of Louisiana Tech University from 1908 to 1926, born in Carlisle in 1860
- Jeff Lebo, former men's basketball coach at East Carolina University
- Lois Lowry, author of children's literature, awarded Newbery Medal twice; several childhood years were spent in Carlisle, her mother's hometown
- Andrew G. Miller, United States federal judge
- Marianne Moore, Modernist poet and writer
- Billy Owens, former NBA player
- Molly Pitcher (Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley), heroine at the Battle of Monmouth during the American Revolutionary War; a statue of her can be seen in Old Cemetery, where she is buried
- John T. Smith (1801-1864), U.S. Congressman for Pennsylvania's 3rd congressional district from 1843 to 1845
- Samuel Smith, a U.S. senator and congressman from Maryland, born in Carlisle in 1752
- Abi Stafford, ballet dancer
- Jonathan Stafford, ballet dancer and artistic director of New York City Ballet
- Robin Thomas, actor
- Jim Thorpe (1887-1953), iconic athlete, Olympic gold medalist, football player and coach; considered one of the most versatile athletes in modern sports
- Lemuel Todd (1817-1891), U.S. congressman, officer in the 1st Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment
- Frederick Watts, U.S. Commissioner of Agriculture (1871–1876) and "Father of Penn State University"
- Samuel Wilkeson, former mayor of Buffalo, New York
- William Wilkins (1779-1865), U.S. Senator 1831–34, U.S. Representative, U.S. Secretary of War
- James Wilson, signer of Declaration of Independence, twice elected to the Continental Congress, a major force in the drafting of the nation's Constitution
- Lee Woodall, former NFL player
- Lt. Col. Jay Zeamer, Jr., World War II U.S. Army Air Forces veteran and Medal of Honor recipient
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