CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – In honor of Letterkenny Army Depot’s upcoming 51st Change of Command ceremony, depot leadership hosted tours of the James Finley House for the local community July 28. The James Finley House, located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, was built in approximately 1790 and has traditionally served as the residence for Letterkenny’s commanding officer since 1942.
Andrew Newman, Letterkenny historian and records manager, curated the interior displays of the house. The displays contained artifacts showcasing the depot’s legacy in the Franklin County community.
“The historical exhibit at the Commander's Quarters focuses on the history of Letterkenny Army Depot: the land, the depot, its employees and the mission from 1942 to present day,” Newman said.
Visitors to the historic Commander’s Quarters had the opportunity to view artifacts selected from the depot’s collection including vintage uniforms, artwork and static asset displays, such as World War II era Jeeps and an Avenger system.
“We were able to screen the first Letterkenny capabilities video produced in 1950, providing an overview of the installation as it appeared after World War II,” Newman said. “Additionally, photographs and items of ephemera dotted each room commemorating employees, equipment, leaders, commanders and pastimes at the depot like baseball, softball, bowling, golf and other activities.”
Dozens of community members attended the event that also included self-guided tours of the Letterkenny Chapel and Franklin County Veterans and 9/11 Memorial Park.
Harold Tressler started working at the depot in 1959 but was drafted into the U.S. Army shortly thereafter. He returned to the depot two and a half years later, working there for 39 years and retiring in 1988. Tressler still lives in Chambersburg and was pleased to be part of the first tour of the day.
“This was about the only building I had not seen the inside of,” said Tressler. “I was 18 when I came to work at the depot and was making 95 cents an hour. I did just about everything during my career.”
This isn’t the first time that Letterkenny has hosted tours focused on the history of the depot. Tours of the Letterkenny cemeteries drew large crowds in the past, but were paused due to COVID-19 restrictions last year.
“Letterkenny understands the significance the depot has on local history and the surrounding community,” said Col. Gregory K. Gibbons, LEAD’s outgoing commander. “It was important for us to do something for the community that honors that legacy and supports the preservation of Franklin County history.”
Letterkenny’s incoming commander, Col. Rick L. Allbritton, was also in attendance and used the opportunity to learn more about his new command.
“The James Finley House is a historic gem located in the heart of Chambersburg that served as the family headquarters for Letterkenny Depot commanders,” said Allbritton. “Although this is no longer the case, depot staff have transformed the Finley House into a museum that showcases the rich history of the depot and the outstanding work its employees have provided to servicemen and women for the past 79 years.”
Letterkenny aims to resume tours of the Letterkenny cemeteries next year as well as make tours of the Finley House a reoccurring event.
“Visitors were able to take a trip down memory lane and come away with a new appreciation for the incredible story of Letterkenny Army Depot and the great impact it has on the community and nation as a whole,” Newman said.
Letterkenny Army Depot is the Army’s premier professional organic maintenance facility that provides overhaul, repair and modifications for tactical missile air defense and space systems, electric power generation equipment and various military vehicles, support systems and protection programs. Letterkenny Army Depot was established in 1942 and is a government-owned and operated industrial installation located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
For more information about LEAD, visit https://www.letterkenny.army.mil/.