Model of historic log church.

In 1787, when the population of Harrisburg was 600, there was a need for a house of worship.  Accordingly, John Harris granted Lot No. 187 at the corner of Third and Chestnut Streets, for that purpose.

The first house of worship was a building of logs erected at the corner of Third Street and Cherry Alley on Lot No. 187.  This building was owned and occupied by the German Reformed and the German Lutheran congregations later known as Salem Reformed and Zion Lutheran.

These congregations worshiped as one for two years under a Lutheran pastor and for six years under a Reformed pastor yet they preserved their respective organizations.

In 1795 the two congregations were separated but continued to occupy the same building together.

In 1812 the Reformed congregation purchased Lot No. 186, which together with the grant from John Harris, provides our present front on Chestnut Street.

In 1814 the Lutheran congregation erected a brick church on Fourth Street, which was destroyed by fire in 1838.  In April 1836, they sold their interest in the old joint church to the Reformed congregation.

In 1822 the present building was completed and dedicated.  The cost was $8,537.54.  By that time the population of Harrisburg was 2,985.  James Monroe was President of the United States and Joseph Heister Governor of Pennsylvania.

The bell, which has strong beautiful tones that resound over the community at noon and at six p.m. every day, has an interesting record.  In December 1821,  the building committee ordered a suitable bell to be secured through Charles Bird and Company of Philadelphia, from Thomas Mears, bell-founder of London.  It so happened that Mr. Charles Bird was in London at the time and gave the matter his personal attention.  On May 31, 1822 the bell arrived in Philadelphia on the ship “Tuscarora” and George Kunkel, merchant, who was in Philadelphia purchasing goods, had the bell placed on the wagon with his merchandise and brought to Harrisburg.  The amount paid for the bell, porterage, etc, was $346.56.  The following inscription is cast on the bell:

May all whom I may summon to the grave
The blessing of a well-spent life receive.

The Sunday School was organized in 1822 and used the old log church for their purpose until 1841 when a Sunday School building was erected on the rear of Lot No. 187.  From the on the log church was used for day-school purposes until 1854 when it was razed.

A weekday parochial school was opened on April 18, 1859 in one of the lecture rooms.  A competent teacher was secured, and instructions were given in the various English branches necessary to a good education, as well as in Latin and Greek languages.

In 1862 the Sunday School building was used for the accommodation of soldiers and later during the Civil War, as a hospital.

In 1880, because of the large enrollment, a new Sunday School building was erected.  This was known as the Reformed Salem Chapel.

The interior of the church has been remodeled at various times – in 1827, in 1876 and again in 1880 after an attempt had been made to destroy both buildings by fire.  Prompt action save the buildings but only after damage to the interior.  In 1929 extensive improvements were made to the buildings, grounds and equipment.  The parlor was equipped and furnished by the women of the church in 1947.  In 1948 changes were made in the Sunday School rooms and in the Sanctuary.  The interior was redecorated in 1957.  The John Kraft and Emma Hostetter Bowman Memorial added the organ which was installed in 1929.  The organ was rebuilt and modernized in 1960.

In 1964 – 1965 extensive alterations were made to the exterior of the church, due to the redevelopment of the area in which it is located, and the widening of Chestnut Street.  Some painting has been done and other improvements have been made to the interior of the church.

The historic marker was placed on Chestnut Street in 1969, by the Pennsylvania State Historical Commission, under the auspices of the Harrisburg Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The Harrisburg Coin Club, in 1971, honored Salem by featuring her edifice on one side of a commemorative coin and the Old Friendship Fire Company on the other side.  One of Salem’s former pastors was chaplain of the Old Friendship Fire Company for many years.

In 1975, Salem Church was listed as a historical site by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Through the years, Salem Church has been a center in which events of community and church interests have been held.  We, the congregation, are proud of the part she has played in history, and it is our hope that her future will be as interesting and worthwhile as her past.