Lancaster Square renaming - Barney Ewell or Thaddeus Stevens

Proposals have been made to rename Lancaster Square, seen here in a concept plan depicting its renovation, for Olympian Barney Ewell (inset at left) or statesman Thaddeus Stevens (inset at right). 

Henry Norwood "Barney" Ewell and Thaddeus Stevens are the kind of people you name places after.

Both are role models with significant and enduring achievements in their respective fields: Ewell (1918-1996) was "the fastest man in the world," Stevens (1792-1868) was one of the leading statesmen of the Civil War era.  

Lancaster Square is to be renamed after its renovation. Ewell's and Stevens' names are the two that have been formally suggested so far, which raises the question: How to choose between them?

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Lancaster Square's new name

Proposals have been made to rename Lancaster Square for the city's greatest athlete and for its most notable statesman. What do you think? If you prefer another name, feel free to suggest it in the comments.

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On Tuesday, the Ewell Legacy Committee launched a campaign to name the square "Ewell Olympic Plaza." The case for Stevens was made to City Council in November by Ross Hetrick, founder and president of the Thaddeus Stevens Society.

It’s premature to comment on possible name choices, director of economic development and neighborhood revitalization Randy Patterson said.

The city is still formulating the naming process and plans to allow opportunity for public feedback before the final decision. It would not consider selling naming rights to the square, he said.

Asked about the relative merits of their proposals, Hetrick and the committee were diplomatic and mutually respectful.

Ewell is "a very legitimate suggestion," Hetrick said, and his achievements should be commemorated.

But Stevens remains under-appreciated, he said, calling him a "shining star." 

"Naming the new development after him would further express the city’s pride in this human rights hero," Hetrick told City Council.

He said it could aid fundraising efforts to finish the Thaddeus Stevens & Lydia Hamilton Smith Historic Site a few blocks away on South Queen Street, as well as encourage people from around the country to visit Lancaster and its Stevens-related sites.

For its part, the Ewell Committee said in a statement that it celebrates Ewell's and Stevens' "very different achievements."

Stevens historic achievements are indisputable, it said. But he lived more than a century ago. Ewell, in contrast, is a modern figure, vividly and fondly remembered by those who knew him.

His character, his personal story and the theme of Olympic glory are "timeless and transcendent of all geographic and social barriers," the committee said. A renovated "Ewell Olympic Plaza," it said — which could feature a statue of the famous athlete — "would be the perfect symbol for our city's growing profile and diversity — something Thaddeus Stevens would agree with!"

What do you think? 

About Henry Norwood "Barney" Ewell (1918-1996)

• Lancaster connection: Moved to Lancaster in childhood and lived his life here, apart from college and military service. Member of the McCaskey High School class of 1936. Buried in Conestoga Memorial Park.

• Achievements: Overcame poverty and discrimination to become the "world's fastest man" in the 1940s. Won a gold medal and two silver medals in the 1948 Olympics at age 30; won numerous collegiate and national championships. Never lost a race in his college career. Set or equalled world records in the broad jump and various short distances.

About Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868)

• Lancaster connection: Lived here from 1842 until his death. Buried in Shreiner-Concord Cemetery.

• Achievements: Overcame poverty and disability (a club foot) to become an attorney, entrepreneur and, as a politician, one of the most powerful and influential Congressmen in history. Was a noted orator and a forceful advocate for emancipation, racial equality and civil rights. Battled for passage of the 13th and 14th amendments. Spearheaded the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

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