Historic Lititz, Preservation & Progress In The Heart Of Lancaster County

By Wendy S. Royalsummer 2003


HISTORIC LITITZ

Nestled in Lancaster County's rich farmland lies the picturesque town of Lititz. The first known settler came to the Lititz region in 1722. Christian Bomberger lived in a small "dugout" northwest of the Lititz springs.

While it is Bomberger who is credited as being the first settler, it was a Moravian minister from Germany who gave Lititz its heart. In 1742, Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf stopped to preach at Jacob Huber's tavern outside what is now Lititz (the Huber Tavern is still there today). John George Klein did not hear Zinzendorf preach that day but followed him to nearby Lancaster, where the country preacher's sermon had a profound effect on him. Impressed with his teachings, Klein donated 491 acres of his land to start Count Zinzendorf's new Moravian community.

In 1746, a "Gemeinhaus" or school was built (this was the foundation of the Linden Hall School for Girls, the oldest all-girls boarding school in the United States). Later the school was split and the girls were taught in the new Sisters' House and the Gemeinhaus became the Brethren House.

In 1756, Lititz was named. It was named to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the year (1456) when Feudal King Podiebrad befriended the persecuted followers of Moravian leader John Hus at the castle of Lidice in Moravia. In Czech, Lidice is pronounced Lititz.

The town was designed as a Moravian community with all residents required to sign the "Town Regulations of 1759" saying that they would abide by the rigid regulations set forth by the Moravian governing body. Lititz remained this way for nearly a century.

Lititz is home to an incredible amount of history. In 1777, George Washington commandeered the Brethren House for a military hospital. On December 19, 1777, wounded soldiers from the Brandywine and Germantown battlefields arrived. Over 500 soldiers of the Continental Army were treated at the Brethren House. Sadly, 120 soldiers died. The Memorial plot on East Main Street stands as a monument to honor the Revolutionary War soldiers who died in Lititz. Historians had always known that the soldiers were buried somewhere in Lititz (according to the Moravian Church diary), but it wasn’t until 1932, during excavation for a cellar, that the site was at last found.

 

Among Lititz’s more famous residents was General John A. Sutter, who arrived in 1871. Sutter was the founder of Sacramento, California and it was on his land that gold was first discovered that led to the gold rush of 1849. It is said that he came to Lititz for two reasons. First, the renowned educational facilities for his grandchildren, and second - for medical reasons. He hoped that the "healing waters" of the Lititz Springs would help his Rheumatism. Today, the General Sutter Inn, on the square in Lititz stands across from Sutter’s home. The General Sutter Inn was originally built in 1764 when it was called Zum Anker Inn or The Anchor Inn.

Native Americans were the first to enjoy the springs that at least in part, brought General Sutter to Lititz. The location of the springs is now known as Lititz Springs Park. Lititz Creek that flows through the park was known as Carter’s Run for many years. It was named after Richard Carter, who emigrated to the area from Warwickshire, England in 1729.

The first recreational use of the Lititz Springs Park is recorded as 1778, when Tobias Hirte, a local teacher, and a small orchestra of the town’s young men gave evening concerts. Even though the concerts were deemed as "trifling and too worldly" by the Moravian governing authority, Revolutionary War soldiers enjoyed them a great deal.

Today, the Lititz Springs Park is a non-profit organization that is not supported by tax revenues. Annual events such as the Antique Show and the annual 4th of July celebration bring in the necessary funds for the upkeep and beautification of the town’s centerpiece. This year will mark the 186th continuous 4th of July celebration at Lititz Springs Park, making it the oldest continuing community-wide Independence Day Celebration in the U.S. The festivities will kick off on Thursday July 3, with the annual Lions Club Fourth of July Parade. Immediately following the parade there will be a night of free entertainment in the park. On Friday, July 4, Lititz Springs Park will host the summer’s big patriotic party, "Lights of Liberty"! The event will feature all-day festivities in the park, with various forms of entertainment. Approximately 15,000 people are expected to attend.

The annual Fourth of July celebration would not be complete without the Queen of Candles Pageant and the Grand Illumination. Over 7,000 candles will glisten over the Lititz Springs Creek. The Grand Illumination got its start in 1843. The Grand Finale of the evening will again be the spectacular firework display choreographed to music.

 

The park literally and figuratively comes alive in the summertime. The trees and flowers in full bloom make a picturesque backdrop for the Outdoor Art Show, on July 26. The 37th annual event will be held in the park from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Over 200 artists will display their works: oils, acrylics, watercolors, drawings, wood carvings and pottery. The park will also host the Fall Antique Show and Sale on August 30, where hundreds of fine antique dealers will present high quality pieces of antiquity. Both events will occur rain or shine.

 

Since the turn of the 20th century, Lititz has been associated with a very enticing scent - chocolate. The Wilbur Chocolate Factory has been manufacturing chocolate products for over a century. Today, the Wilbur Chocolate Store and Museum offers visitors delicious chocolate and confections with a feel of yesteryear. Few can watch the confectioners make the hand-made fudge and not purchase some on their way out.

Another delicious treat associated with Lititz is the pretzel. In 1861, Lititz baker, Julius Sturgis became the first commercial pretzel baker. The Sturgis Pretzel House on Main Street is still in the pretzel baking business. Just look for the giant pretzel along the sidewalk. Visitors can tour the bakery where they can try their hand at pretzel twisting.

In addition to the Wilbur Candy Museum, Lititz boasts seven museums. The Heritage Map Museum is home to rare maps, atlases, globes and books from the collection of James E. Hess. Hundreds of maps are available for sale in the gallery as well as the auctions held throughout the year. Hess specializes in the sale of maps and atlases from the 15th to the 19th centuries.

While all museums strive to link its guests with the past, Kready’s Country Store Museum leaves visitors yearning for simpler times. This completely authentic country store was relocated from its original location, in neighboring Manheim. The former E.E. Kready General Merchandise Store was in operation from 1865 to 1957. All of the merchandise and store displays are from the original store and from the Kready household. There is so much to see, from the colorful Burpee Seed Display to the children’s apparel on the second floor.

Ed Crowl of the Lititz Historical Museum and Foundation says, "Lititz is a Williamsburg of the North...a quaint town." According to Crowl, there are 20 buildings in a 2-block area of Main Street dating back to the 1700’s. That does not take into account all of the 18th-century buildings scattered throughout the Lititz area. The Lititz Historical Museum offers walking tours of 16 of those buildings.

 

Visitors to Lititz do not go away disappointed. Situated in the middle of Amish country, Lititz is a quaint town that seems to have been transplanted from the historic districts of Philadelphia or Boston. Along the tree-lined streets are unique shops and eateries, many of which are housed in 18th- and 19th-century dwellings. Walking across the old wooden floors brings to mind those who lived there centuries before.

What was once a small provincial Moravian community is now a thriving visitor-friendly town. The community of Lititz has managed to accomplish what many historic villages in Pennsylvania have striven for - to maintain its historical integrity while progressing and looking enthusiastically toward the future.


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