Middletown’s Presidential Visits
George Washington – In the 1790s Main Street in Middletown was a portion of the highway between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh so many people of that era passed through Middletown. In October, 1794 President Washington passed through Middletown due to the Whiskey Rebellion. Washington stopped at the tavern on West Main Street (near where the 7-11 is today). The tavern was later called the “Washington House.”
Zachary Taylor – President Taylor came to Middletown in 1849 during an important time of division and rebirth in our nation’s history. He arrived to deliver a message that the country needed to stay undivided while southern states threatened to secede from the union.
Abraham Lincoln – President Lincoln’s first visit was in 1861 when his train to the Inauguration in Washington passed through Harrisburg where he stopped at the Jones House hotel and addressed a large crowd. Unfortunately, the next time President Lincoln came to Middletown, he was not alive. In 1865 his funeral procession train ended up traveling through Middletown as it made its way to Illinois. The funeral trail was a 1,654-mile journey that stopped at 180 cities and 7 states; his body was escorted by nearly 300 people.
William McKinley – President McKinley visited Middletown to inspect Camp George G. Meade, which was a war camp established here on August 24th, 1898, during the Spanish-American War. McKinley visited the establishment on August 27th, 1898, just four days after its creation. The camp he came to visit lost its purpose after the war ended and was abandoned. The Middletown Area High School now stands where the camp once was; there is a memorial sign posted in front of the high school to honor the once active camp. After he was assassinated in September of 1901, McKinley’s funeral train stopped in Middletown.
John F. Kennedy– President Kennedy came through the international airport two different times, both occasions were to deliver speeches in Harrisburg. The first time was in September of 1960 where he came through HIA to go to Harrisburg’s Market Square to campaign for his presidency. The second visit was in September of 1962 to speak for the Pennsylvania Democratic election campaign with the candidates.
Jimmy Carter – President Carter came to Middletown after our notable Three Mile Island Accident in 1979. He came to inspect the facility and address the public about the accident in the MCSO Building, which is still used today. The accident was a partial nuclear meltdown caused by mechanical and human errors that ended up releasing toxic radiation into the air. The event is listed as the worst accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power history.
George W. Bush – President W. Bush has been to Middletown three times. His first visit to Middletown was at the Harrisburg International Airport to support Republican candidates during a rally in 2002. His second visit to Middletown was in February 2004 to the Central Dauphin High School. His last visit was in April of 2004 when he went to Hershey to give a statement about the Patriot Act at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center; he used HIA for this trip too.
Barack Obama – On March 30th, 2008, President Barack Obama passed through the HIA on the campaign trail. He spoke at the Forum located in Harrisburg to campaign for his presidency with hopes to win the Pennsylvania primary.
Obama’s great-great-great-great-great-great maternal grandfather (sixth great grandfather) lived in Middletown. The ancestor’s name was Johann Conrad Woelflin (Wolfley) 1729-1794, and his home on Union St. near the Square is still there. His grave is a couple of blocks away in the Sant Peter’s Kierch’s cemetery.
Donald Trump –In 2016, President Trump used the airport to come through Middletown and go to the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center and give a campaign speech. In 2017 he arrived twice; first for another rally at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center to mark his first 100 days in office and again to talk about tax reform at a hangar at the airport. He arrived again in 2019 through HIA to travel to Hershey to speak at the Giant Center for another Trump rally. Due to the 2020 election, President Trump came to the Harrisburg International Airport to make a campaign stop to talk to the people of Pennsylvania. The audience was able to fill an entire airport hangar.
Joe Biden – During the 2020 election, President Joe Biden used the HIA on Sept 7, 2020. He visited Harrisburg’s Second Street AFL-CIO headquarters and met with AFL-CIO’s President Richard Trumka for a virtual meeting with Pennsylvania Union Workers.
Story prepared by: Alexis Jefferson
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