The Borough of Carlisle (population 17,970) in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1751. Benjamin Franklin visited Carlisle in 1753 for negotiations with Indians of the Six Nations, and local citizens rallied in 1774 to support the citizens of Massachusetts in conjunction with the Boston Tea Party.
Carlisle was a major jumping-off point for travel west to the Ohio Valley throughout the Colonial period, and was George Washington's choice for his army's first arsenal and school. In keeping with that long tradition, the site of Carlisle's Industrial Indian School, attended by Olympic champion Jim Thorpe, is now the home of the U.S. Army War College.
Carlisle is also home to Dickinson College, chartered at the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783. The campus' "Old West," the 1803 creation of Benjamin Latrobe, is a designated National Historic Landmark.
An anti-Federalist riot in Carlisle in 1788 protested the adoption of the Constitution without the inclusion of the Bill of Rights, and President Washington assumed command of the militia in Carlisle in 1794 to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion, the first major challenge to the young government.
The Historic Carlisle organization was formed 10 years ago to promote an annual celebration of local history and to raise awareness of the community's rich past for the enjoyment and education of residents and visitors.
In 2002, Historic Carlisle and the borough began a partnership to develop the Carlisle Wayside Project, a series of interpretive signs about historically significant people, events, and buildings. The project aims to bring the community economic benefit by increasing visitation downtown and generating additional foot traffic, as well as to help preserve significant buildings by creating awareness of their importance.
Historic Carlisle chooses and researches the subject matter, writes the narratives, and designs the signs. Local property owners and businesses are encouraged to pay for the signs at their locations. The borough's historic and architectural review board approved the sign design and the borough takes over ownership and maintenance of the wayside signs once installed. A brochure with a map of the sign locations and a walking tour narrative will be issued at the end of this year.
Carlisle's Old Neighborhoods League promotes the preservation of Carlisle's historic neighborhoods through special events, disseminating information, and an annual historic house tour featuring homes and buildings in Carlisle's Historic District. Funds raised by the tour have supported the restoration of the Carlisle Theatre, the 1820 Two-Mile House, façade improvements, historic district markers, and a photographic survey.
Because of its enormous significance in the American Revolution, Carlisle plays a central role in the "Visit Cumberland County" tourism program. A series of itineraries for walking and driving tours begin within the borough. The newest efforts, in cooperation with the Army Heritage Education Center, will focus on the historic Carlisle Barracks site.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2004.