Grampian Hill Cross shows city’s religious roots

Residing at the top of the Grampian Hills development, just off of Reservoir Road, is the area’s largest cross. The behemoth stands 24-feet-high, 12-feet crossarm and its columns are two-square-feet throughout.

Built in April 1935, the concrete and steel cross was meant to be the permanent replacement for an older, wooden, iteration. The Williamsport Water company, which owns the land, completed the structure just in time for the twelfth sunrise service. For many years, two rows of lights adorned the mid-section of the cross, so it could be seen in the city at night.

To form the cross, workers created a wooden shell before placing the steel beams and pouring in the concrete.

This new cross was built around 200-feet east of the previous site to allow for a better view and room for an estimated 25,000 people. Christian Endeavor Society of Williamsport ran the service for many years, recruiting different pastors from around the region.

From time to time, a large star was placed on the cross and illuminated for the city to see.

On April 14, 1963, a reporter for The Grit said, “Easter spirit pervades the city, Christians from Williamsport will join today with millions throughout the world in celebrating Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.”

Rev. Wallace J. Cummings, pastor of the Newberry Methodist Church, was expected to lead the congregation that day.

Another newspaper of that time, Gazette and Bulletin — forerunner to the Williamsport Sun-Gazette — looked vastly different than today, and overtly religious with entire pages of sermons and Sunday school lectures, replete with comics of biblical passages.

“My Answer,” a daily wire column by Billy Graham, addresses a question of Christian theology, and other columns read, “What Christ is saying to men,” and “He is not here but is risen.”

Christians in the area came to the cross at 6 a.m. and braved an expected cold of around 30 degrees.

“A brass and reed ensemble of 20 local musicians, conducted by Professor C. W. Noll, director of music at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Will take part in the service,” wrote the Grit reporter.

Today, the cross can still be seen, but has not found the same audience as it once did.

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