Support SoWe and Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership during the 2020 Extra Give on Friday, November 20th. Since 2016, Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership has been intentionally working with the residents of South West Lancaster City. The goal of the SoWe initiative is to stem the tide of disinvestment and create a neighborhood that is safe, attractive to economic investment, full of opportunities for residents, and welcoming to visitors. This has been a challenging year for neighborhood residents due to the COVID-19 pandemic. SoWe has worked hard with our collaborative partners to ensure residents have the resources and opportunities they need to thrive.
SoWe is excited to the announce the opening of Culliton Park on November 20th to the public. Donate during the Extra Give to support our community! Just put a note with your online gift: SoWe (your gift will be designated to SoWe).
has been home to many successful businesses over the past 150 years, some of
which have succeeded over several generations. Kunzler & Company, Inc. may
be one of the first to come to mind. But not all successful Hill businesses
lasted that long. One of the most successful businesses was the Helvetia
Leather Company, which is largely forgotten today. However, in the latter half
of the nineteenth century, working out of a large lot on Poplar Street, the
company achieved nationwide recognition for its unique products, but it was in
business for only about 30 years.
mid-1870s, Albert Wetter, a Swiss immigrant living on West Strawberry near
South Water, began experimenting with a new way to make leather. By 1879, he
had patented his new method, which used hot air instead of tannin to make
leather from animal hides. Soon Wetter’s new method attracted several investors
and together they started to manufacture “Helvetia leather”, a tough but
pliable leather that was well suited to manufacturing applications. (Helvetia
was the Roman name for Switzerland, Albert Wetter’s native country.)
venture, known by the names of its largest investors, Potts, Locher, & Dickey,
needed a place to conduct its business. In 1879, Wetter purchased a large lot
on the southeast side of the 500 block of Poplar, where the houses at 520-538
are located today. The lot extended 202 feet along Poplar, and 87 feet to an
alley that is now South Arch. Later, the company would purchase another lot
adjacent to the first, this one fronting on Fremont 100 feet and extending 85
feet to the same alley from the opposite direction.
his partners built a large two-story brick factory and associated frame and
brick buildings in which they started producing leather using Wetter’s new method.
The factory was powered by a steam engine using coal as its fuel source. Wetter
purchased the house next door at 518 Poplar in 1880 and he, his wife Lizzie,
and their son Robert moved in beside the factory. In 1882, Wetter enlisted the
noted Lancaster inventor, Anthony Iske, to design machinery that would make the
hot-air method of producing leather more efficient, and together they patented
that machinery. The company began to make a name for itself in the heavy-duty
its founding in 1729, Lancaster had always had numerous tanneries. Tanning
leather was a difficult and messy process. Fresh animal hides had to be
purchased from butcher shops and farms, and they had to be cleaned, de-haired,
cured, and dried for several weeks before they were ready to be tanned. Tanning
usually was accomplished through the use of tannin, which was obtained from
tree bark through a time-consuming process, but with Wetter’s new hot-air
method, that part of the process could be avoided.
Even so, the
tanning that took place on Poplar must have been a dirty, noisy, smelly
activity, becoming especially bothersome as that block of Poplar was built out with
houses in the 1880s. Also, tanning no doubt resulted in some nasty waste
products that were drained off downhill into the small stream that ran where
New Dorwart is located today. Following the burial of that small stream in a
sewer under New Dorwart by the late 1890s, the company built their own sewer to
connect to the one under New Dorwart, and discharged their waste that way.
due mostly to bad management, the first incarnation of Wetter’s business failed
after a few years. Wetter and his partners were forced to sell the Potts,
Locher, & Dickey business in 1882. The business was bought by a different
group of investors headed by John Holman and Philip Snyder. After a few years
of gradual success under its new management team, the business went public on
September 7, 1886, sold shares, and became a corporation called the Helvetia
Leather Company. (Wetter was not part of the newly incorporated business; in
fact, he seems to have left Lancaster.) The growing company, chartered for the
purpose of “tanning and manufacturing leather by patented or other process”,
soon became famous for its leather, which was ideal for belts in machinery,
laces for boots and shoes, industrial aprons, and similar uses.
nationwide recognition of the company was mainly due to its belt leather, that
is, belts used to run heavy-duty machinery in sawmills, cotton mills, silk
mills, printing plants, iron forges, railroad shops, and similar factories.
Helvetia leather was made only from the high-quality centers of the animal
hides, with the edges being cut off and sold to other manufacturers of different
leather products. The company’s leather belts were said to be strong yet
pliable, no matter their thickness, and they could run machinery with less
tension required than with other types of leather belts. The company’s belts
performed equally well in cold and hot temperatures, and did not slip as much
Leather Company made heavy-duty leather belts for factories as far west as
South Dakota, as far south as the Carolinas, and as far north as Massachusetts.
Companies such as the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company, the Nonotuck Silk Mills,
the Lancaster New Era, and the Clark Mile End Spool Cotton Company installed
belts made by the Helvetia Leather Company. In fact, the Clark Mile End Spool
Cotton Company in Massachusetts used nearly two miles of Helvetia belting in
its factory, with one single belt being more than 2,100 feet long, a record for
the 1880s and the 1890s, the Helvetia Leather Company on Poplar flourished
under the leadership of John Holman and Philip Snyder, as well as several other
prominent Lancaster businessmen. Robert Houston was President for most of those
years, and local businessmen Allan Herr, Abraham Rohrer, Charles Landis, Elmer
Steigerwalt, and Benjamin Atlee played important roles in officer positions.
Gustavus Groezinger, owner of Groezinger’s Tannery at the foot of West
Strawberry, also was an investor and officer. For many years, John Zercher was
the factory superintendent, until he died suddenly at his desk one morning in
By the first
decade of the twentieth century, Helvetia Leather Company had trouble paying
its shareholders their annual dividends because of high prices for raw
materials. By the end of the decade, the company struggled to meet expenses, no
doubt partly because of the rising popularity of rubber belting. As a result,
the company was put up for public sale in 1909, but the reserve amount was not
met. It was finally sold in 1910 to Henry Schneider, and its buildings were almost
immediately razed to make room for new houses. Within two years, eight two-story
brick houses had been built at 520-534 Poplar.
unusual houses at 536-538 Poplar are all
that remain of the Helvetia Leather Company’s complex of buildings; these two
houses used to mark the southwestern extent of the tannery property. Looking at
the row of eight tidy houses just uphill from 536-538 now, it is difficult to imagine
that, in their place, a large, busy, noisy tannery once produced machinery
belts and other products that helped run factories all around the country.
Today, the Helvetia Leather Company is just another ghost of Cabbage Hill past.
five-point intersection of West Strawberry, South Mulberry, and West Vine
Streets, which is the gateway to Cabbage Hill from downtown Lancaster, has
witnessed a lot of history. On the northeast corner of the intersection,
bounded by South Mulberry and West Vine, a large school building now stands on
a lot where 170 years ago some of the very first schools of Lancaster’s
public-education system once stood. Let’s peel back the layers of school history
at this site, starting with the first layer (today) and working back to 1850,
with the emphasis on the fourth (earliest) layer, about which less is commonly
and most recent layer of school history at this intersection covers 1992 to the
present. Housed in the large Victorian-era brick building on the northeast
corner of the intersection is the Intensive Day Treatment Program run by
Catholic Charities of the Harrisburg Diocese. The program offers a
five-day-a-week program of counseling, therapy, and life-skill education for
at-risk Lancaster County children between the ages of nine and fifteen.
layer of school history, just beneath today’s surface layer, covers 1939 to 1992.
Many long-time residents of Cabbage Hill will remember this layer, when the
current large brick building was the home of St. Joseph Catholic School. The
Harrisburg Diocese bought the building on behalf of St. Joseph Catholic Church
on July 10, 1939, and established a parochial school for the education of
Catholic children on the Hill. The diocese purchased the building from the
Lancaster City School District for $22,500 and renovated it to meet St. Joseph
Church’s needs. The purchase was made to ease the crowding of the school located
next to St. Joseph Church a block away. Many Cabbage Hill children received
their primary-school education at St. Joseph School.
back the second layer of school history, we expose the older third layer, which
covers 1892 to 1939. No doubt there are a few old-timers who remember at least
the later years of this layer, which begins with the completion of the current
large brick school by the School District of Lancaster in 1892, and ends when
the building was sold to the Harrisburg Diocese in 1939. The building currently
at the site, then known as the South Mulberry Street School, was part of the
City of Lancaster’s public-school system for nearly fifty years, and served as
both a primary and secondary school. It was built to accommodate the growing
numbers of students that resulted from increased immigration to the Cabbage
Hill area in the late nineteenth century.
architect who designed the South Mulberry Street School (1892) was James H.
Warner, who also designed several other prominent buildings in Lancaster at
about the same time, including Central Market (1889) and Christ Lutheran Church
(1892). It is not surprising that the exterior of the South Mulberry Street
School bears a strong resemblance to the exteriors of these other two buildings,
in that all three are built in similar Victorian style with red brick
highlighted by decorative brownstone accents.
about the same time and in similar style was the three-story Victorian-era
brick building on the corner across West Strawberry that until recently housed
the Strawberry Hill Restaurant, and was originally the Centennial Hotel. In
addition, the grouping of three three-story brick houses diagonally across the
intersection, and directly facing the intersection on the south corner, was
built in the 1890s. The late Victorian makeover of the intersection was
complete by the late 1890s.
down in the layers of school history at this site is the fourth and earliest
layer. It begins in 1850 and ends in 1892, when the large school building now
on the site was completed. To clear the ground for the large current building,
the School District of Lancaster razed two older school buildings built in 1850
and a third school building built in the late 1860s. All three of the earlier
buildings were one-story brick buildings, with the third building being
slightly larger than the first two.
two of these early school buildings were among the very first public-school
buildings built in Lancaster following the implementation of the city’s common
(public) school system in the early 1840s. The first two buildings—essentially
double one-story brick houses—were built in 1850. They were built on Hamilton
lot 386, one of the original building lots laid out by James Hamilton in 1730.
Lot 386 had been purchased by the Board of Directors of the Common Schools from
Margaret and Catharine Yeates, daughters of Judge Jasper Yeates, on June 26,
1849, for $300. The lot was 64 feet on West Vine, extending 242 feet to
At the time
the Board of Directors purchased lot 386 and built the first two school houses,
South Mulberry did not yet exist; Mulberry’s southern extent ended at West
Orange. As a result, the two school houses were referred to as the West Vine
Street School until Mulberry was extended in the mid-1850s. Also, when the
school houses were first built, West Vine did not exist south of West
Strawberry. Therefore, today’s distinctive five-point intersection was only a
three-point T-intersection with the north part of West Vine truncating at West
Strawberry, which was still a narrow dirt lane. In addition, in 1850, the
foundation of the first St. Joseph Catholic Church was just being dug, and today’s
Christ Lutheran Church was still several decades in the future.
Lot 386 was
near the top of Dinah’s Hill and it looked out on downtown Lancaster to the
north and was bounded on the south, in 1850, by pasture land of the still undeveloped
central part of Cabbage Hill. Across West Strawberry to the south was Christopher
Zell’s one-story frame blacksmith shop that would soon be enlarged into the
Centennial Hotel and Saloon. There were only a few other buildings within a
block of the two school houses, including the small log cabin across West Vine
where 113-year-old ex-slave and fortune-teller Dinah McIntire had lived several
decades before, giving her name to the hill on which lot 386 was located.
first two small school buildings opened in 1850, they served both primary- and
secondary-age children, mostly of German heritage. It didn’t take long for the
two school buildings to become crowded as Cabbage Hill began to grow.
Anticipating and reacting to that growth, the Lancaster School District acquired
two more pieces of land adjacent to lot 386—a 16-foot strip of land between lot
386 and the recently extended South Mulberry to the west in 1860, and a 24-foot
strip of land on the east side of lot 386 in 1878. Both strips of land extended
school building was added to the south of the first two in the late 1860s to
serve as a primary school for both boys and girls. It was a little larger and
sat a little closer to South Mulberry, taking advantage of the strip of land added
in 1860. By the late 1880s, the three small school houses were again becoming
crowded as well as outdated, prompting the School District to plan for their
replacement by a larger, more modern building—the one that is on the site
It would, of
course, be historically interesting to have a photograph of the three early
public-school buildings before they were torn down in the early 1890s, but it
seems there are none devoted to just the three buildings themselves. However,
partial images of the first school houses on the site were inadvertently
captured in the corners of two other photographs before the early school houses
were forever lost to history.
the late 1880s, a few years before the current building was built, a
photographer from the Fowler Gallery took a picture of the Rose Bros. &
Hartman Parasol & Umbrella Factory in the first block of South Mulberry.
This factory would soon be expanded down to West King and become the Follmer, Clogg
& Company umbrella factory, and today the Umbrella Works Apartments. On the
right edge of the photograph one can see the fronts of the first two small,
one-story, brick school houses built in 1850.
1892, when the current larger building had just been finished, a photograph was
taken to commemorate its completion. On the left edge of the photograph can be
seen the side of one of the first school houses built in 1850, and on the right
can be seen the front edge of the third school house built in the late 1860s.
It seems that only the middle school house had to be torn down to build the new
larger school, and the other two were used for classes while the new larger
school was being built. Then, when the new school opened, the remaining two old
school houses were torn down.
learn a lot about the evolution of schools at this iconic five-point
intersection just by using historical records and photographs to peel back the
layers of history.
The 400 block of Poplar Street, one of the most picturesque blocks on Cabbage Hill, dates back to October 5, 1872. On that date, at 2:00 p.m., a public sale of building lots was held as part of the estate settlement of Henry C. Locher, the developer of the lots, who had died the previous year.
First, by way of a little background…..In 1872, the central part of Cabbage Hill was in the midst of a development boom, spreading from Manor Street eastward. In the west, the 400 and 500 blocks of Manor and High Streets in the Bethelstown neighborhood were almost completely built up, with the former Lafayette and Buttonwood (West Vine) Alleys beginning to be built on as well. Moving east, the 400 and 500 blocks of St. Joseph Street had acquired houses on about half of their lots. But on Poplar Street, although St. Joseph Catholic Church was on the northwest side, the southeast side of the 400 block was devoid of houses. With the October 1872 sale of Henry C. Locher’s lots, that was about to change.
Thirty-one lots on the southeast side of Poplar had been staked out by Locher and his family in early 1870. All but two of the lots were 20 feet wide by 100 feet deep; the exceptions were the two end lots that were a little wider at 30 and 27 feet. All the lots backed to an alley that would eventually become South Arch Street. The lots were numbered from 7 to 37. Bidders on the lots could bid on single lots or as many as three contiguous lots.
The sale took place across Poplar from the rear of St. Joseph Catholic Church and the adjoining cemetery, which had been established less than 25 years earlier. According to an announcement of the sale in the Lancaster Examiner and Herald: “These lots are pleasantly situated, on high ground, and in an improving and rapidly growing part of the city, and very desirable for building lots…”
The land had been purchased by Henry C. Locher and his wife Cecelia Margaretta from Daniel Harman just two years earlier in 1870. Locher laid out building lots shortly after buying the land, and first tried to sell the lots privately, without success. When Henry died in April 1871, Charles A. Locher was assigned to be the guardian of Henry’s and Cecelia’s youngest daughter, Laura, who was 10 years old and still a minor. The public sale of lots was arranged to generate enough funds to provide for Laura’s share of her father’s estate, to be managed by her guardian until she became of age.
Henry C. Locher was able to invest in real estate because of his successful tannery located at the corner of West Strawberry and South Water Streets, where the wading pool in Culliton Park was until recently located. He and his wife Cecelia and their four daughters lived in a house next to the tannery. The tannery was established by Henry C.’s father and from the late 1830s to the early 1870s, it produced a specialized leather known as Moroccan leather that was made from goatskin.
The public sale of Locher’s building lots on October 5, 1872 went well. A dozen lots on the southeast side of Poplar were sold that day, ranging in price from $48 apiece for lots 11 and 12, to $69.25 for lot 7 (the widest lot). The purchasers were required to pay half the price by April 1, 1873, and the other half, with interest, by April 1, 1874. The twelve lots that were sold that day in the 400 block of Poplar were:
The building of houses on the recently purchased lots began shortly after the public sale. Most of the new lot owners kept their lots at the original 20-foot widths, but a few lot owners subdivided their lots before houses were built. Lot 7, with an original 30-foot width, was divided into two 15-foot wide lots. Also, two pairs of 20-foot wide lots, each pair having a total of 40 feet of width, were each divided into three lots a little over 13 feet wide. Lots 8 and 9, and lots 10 and 11, were combined and then subdivided in this way, so that four 20-foot wide lots became six 13-foot wide lots. The result was that thirty-four houses could be built on the original thirty-one lots.
The first two houses to be built were completed by 1874 (see 1874 map). They were built by Frantz Siebold (lot 12) and Henry Bertschi (lot 13). Today those houses are 424 and 426 Poplar, across the street from the SoWe office in the rear of the St. Joseph Church annex. The third house built was that of Martin Kempf, who bought lots 36 and 37 for $475 about six months after the public sale. Kempf built a larger house on lot 37 on the corner of Poplar and Filbert, where he opened a beer saloon on the first floor. Kempf’s house and saloon is now 476 Poplar.
The purchase of lots from Locher’s heirs, and the building of houses on the lots, continued for another fifteen years. In 1880, eight years after the public sale, eight houses had been built (416-424, 476). Just six years later, in 1886, another twenty houses had been built (412-414, 426-430, 434-436, 442-448, 456-472). Finally, by 1888, sixteen years after the public sale, all thirty-one lots had been sold and all thirty-four houses had been built (see 1897 map). Every house was a 2-1/2-story brick Victorian house.
In a little more than fifteen years (1872-1888), the southeast side of the 400 block of Poplar Street had gone from boundary stakes in the ground to fully built out, testifying to the intense development of the Hill that was occurring at that time. Today, the same thirty-four houses that were built more than one hundred and thirty years ago are still present, making the 400 block of Poplar perhaps the only block on Cabbage Hill where all the original houses pre-date 1890 and are still in use.
Today’s residents of the 400 block of Poplar are living with a lot of history just waiting to be discovered. If you live in one of those houses, the history of your property dates back to the lots laid out by Henry C. Locher in 1870. That would be a good starting point from which to develop the rest of your house’s history to the present. If you are interested in researching your house’s history, you can contact me at SoWeCommunicate@sowelancaster.org, and I will try to point you in the right direction.
Shane’s pigeon arrived at its loft behind the Shane house at 608 High Street at
4:44 p.m. on June 10, 1908. The pigeon had been released, along with fellow
competing pigeons, in Concord, North Carolina, at 5:10 that morning. It had
averaged almost 35 miles per hour over its 400-mile journey back to Lancaster, winning
the competition arranged by the members of the Lancaster District of the
International Federation of Homing Pigeon Fanciers (IFHPF).
breeding, raising, training, and racing of homing pigeons became a popular
hobby on Cabbage Hill in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The
sport of pigeon racing had been imported from Europe in the 1860s, with most of
the bred-for-speed and bred-for-homing-ability pigeons coming from Belgium. In
the U.S., it first blossomed in the big East Coast cities of Boston, New York,
and Philadelphia, but by the 1880s pigeon racing had found its way to
organized group of homing-pigeon owners in Lancaster was established in early
1889. It was called the Lancaster Homing Pigeon Club and it was made up of nine
members owning some 200 pigeons. By the early 1890s, at least several pigeon
owners from Cabbage Hill had joined the club—the aforementioned Oscar Shane
(556 Manor), William Paulsen (560 Manor, the author’s great grandfather), and
Adam Danz (606 High). In 1894, a second racing club was formed, the Hillside
Homing Pigeon Club, possibly named so because it was headquartered on the Hill.
pigeon racing work? The clubs organized races on weekends during the spring,
summer, and fall, with the participating members shipping their pigeons in
crates by train to wherever the starting point of the race was. Most of the
starting points were southward, usually in Virginia or the Carolinas. Each
racing pigeon would have a metal band on one of its legs inscribed with the
owner’s initials and a unique identifying number. At a designated time, usually
in the early morning, all the pigeon contestants would be released and the trek
home to Lancaster would begin. The pigeons would use their acute sense of smell
and their uncanny ability to discern minute differences in the Earth’s magnetic
field to find their way home to where they knew they would be fed and reunited
with their mates.
Lancaster, an official judge would be stationed at each loft where a competitor
made its home, ready to read off from synchronized clocks the exact time at
which each pigeon would alight at the door to its loft. The judges would then
compare the times, and award a prize to the owner of the winner and runners-up.
The prizes were often of significant value, and an owner with an especially
accurate and fast-flying pigeon could offset the expense of his hobby.
But it was
not always easy or pleasant for the pigeons. Often, some would not make it home,
especially when flying through bad weather. In one particularly bad storm in
1911, only 15 of 73 pigeons made it home to Lancaster within four days of being
released in Newberry, South Carolina. Others would finally arrive long after
the race was over. For example, in at least two extreme cases, Hill pigeons
returned nearly two years after their release.
On the other
hand, there were some feel-good stories as well—for example, after one loft owner’s
death, his many pigeons were sold to a place in New York for butchering. A few
days after their arrival in New York, two of the condemned pigeons were found
back at their original loft, “strutting around the old coop, contented and
cooing”, having escaped and found their way home. One hopes double jeopardy
ensured them a long happy life.
high tide of early pigeon racing in Lancaster occurred in the latter part of
the first decade of the twentieth century. In 1908, there were three clubs in
Lancaster, each with at least ten members and many hundreds of pigeons. The
Lancaster District of the IFHPF, with about half its members being from Cabbage
Hill, and the Red Rose District of the IFHPF, with nearly all of its members being
from the Hill, were two of the clubs. The third club was the Keystone Homing
Pigeon Club, which was not affiliated with the IFHPF and which had no members
from the Hill.
To give an
idea of the makeup of these clubs, here are nine Cabbage Hill members of the
Red Rose District, with their 1907 addresses:
Gustavus F. Lutz
Herbert J. Henkel 436 West Vine
Henry P. Keller 636
William Paulsen 560 Manor
Elias E. Herr 638 Lafayette
Charles J. Fritsch 812 High
Adam J. Danz 826
Philip Etter 725 High
Otto Hecht 530 Lafayette
Of these nine
club members, six of them lived on High and Lafayette. Their average age was about
35, and all of them were tradesmen, with six of them working in the cigar
industry. Only two of them had been born in Germany, but the majority of them
were sons of German immigrants.
decade from 1910-1920, which included World War I, the Red Rose District of the
IFHPF continued to actively compete. Even during the war, the club continued
racing, but the number of Hill members dwindled to just four—Oscar Shane (657
High), Charles J. Schill (618 West Vine), Frank Wechock (420 High), and Frank
Martin (710 St. Joseph). Perhaps this had something to do with the members of
German heritage wanting to avoid the spotlight during the intense anti-German
sentiment directed at Cabbage Hill during the war.
In 1917, Red
Rose member Charles Schill was elected Secretary of the entire IFHPF, and in
his official capacity he was asked by the Army to provide an inventory of all
the homing pigeons affiliated with the IFHPF. The inventory was essentially a
draft registration for homing pigeons, because there was a need for their
service at the European war front. The pigeons were expected to be “doing a bit
as a patriot, to help our country in this great crisis.” In fact, in May 1918,
General Pershing directed 3,000 homing pigeons and 100 trained handlers to be
dispatched to the European front.
Once at the
front, homing pigeons were used to deliver messages back from the front lines.
As a 1918 newspaper article noted, “They did work which the wireless, telegraph
and telephone could not do under certain conditions.” Homing pigeons with
rolled messages in containers banded to their legs would circle up from the
trenches, dodge through the shells, bullets, and poison gas, and deliver their
messages to military headquarters miles behind the battle lines. They were said
to have a 97% success rate, and there was at least one pigeon who was hit by
German fire and still was able to deliver its message.
Cabbage Hill after the war, pigeon racing continued for many years. As just one
example, Charles Schill, the Secretary of the IFHPF during WWI, went on to own race-winning
homing pigeons well into the 1940s. However, about ten years ago, due to
complaints of unsanitary conditions in backyard lofts, Lancaster was forced to
ban the keeping of pigeons within the city limits. That ended more than 100
years of the homing-pigeon sport in the city, but many rural clubs still exist,
and a large national network of racing aficionados still compete in much the
same way as before.
you stop on Cabbage Hill and listen carefully, especially around High and
Lafayette, you might be able to pick up the last echoing coos from the golden
age of homing-pigeon racing on the Hill.
In the mid-19th
to early 20th centuries, Cabbage Hill boasted numerous hotels. Most
didn’t look like the typical hotels of today, but instead looked like larger
houses, with saloons on the first floor and rooms for rent in a rear wing. The
proprietor and his family usually lived on the second floor above the saloon. Often
hotels had a main front door for the saloon and hotel, and a second door off to
one side for the proprietor’s upstairs living quarters. Most old hotels were on
corners at intersections.
By far the
earliest (1745) hotel near Cabbage Hill was the Golden Plough (later the Plow
Tavern) at West King and Charlotte, just north of the Hill proper (razed in
1928). Probably the earliest hotel actually on the Hill was the Lafayette Hotel
operated by George Hinkle in the 400 block of Manor Street in the mid-1840s (no
longer there). After the Lafayette went out of business in the early 1850s,
there were no more hotels on the Hill until after the Civil War, although there
were always a couple saloons.
Civil War and the beginning of the 20th century, eight iconic hotels
were established in the historic core of the Hill, bounded by Manor, West
Strawberry, Fremont, and Fairview. Each of these eight hotels flourished at
least until the back-to-back challenges of Prohibition and the Great Depression,
which put several of them out of the hotel business. The saloon part of their
business, however, persisted through Prohibition, with many of them becoming
speak-easies and occasionally running afoul of the Volstead Act. After World
War II, many of the saloons in the old hotels were transformed into cafes,
taverns, and bars through the late 1900s. Although none of the eight iconic
hotels is a hotel anymore, all eight hotel buildings survive, and some still
house successful businesses.
In their heyday,
the eight hotels were the hubs of many Hill activities. Political meetings,
speeches, and rallies often took place in the hotels, sometimes drawing
hundreds of people. Many of the hotels served as polling places as well.
Special events and celebrations often took place at the hotels, and music and
dancing were common on weekends. Athletic, shooting, and other competitions
between different hotel were frequently arranged. And, of course, Hill
residents spent many a night gathered around the long bars drinking locally
brewed beers. Occasionally, fights would break out and the police would be
iconic Hill hotels are briefly described next, starting with the oldest:
Hotel, 128 West Strawberry—Established by Samuel Erisman in 1865, and named in 1876 during the
Nation’s 100th birthday, the Centennial started out as a saloon in a
one-story frame building. In 1892, the old building was replaced with a 3-story
brick one (the current building) with 15 rooms, one bath, and a large bar room.
Edward Kirchner ran the hotel and saloon during the challenging Prohibition
years. Obie Miller’s Steak House operated in the building from the mid-1940s to
the mid-1980s, and then Strawberry Hill Restaurant from the mid-1980s to 2012.
The scars of two large saloon windows remain near the angled front door.
Hotel, 450-452 High—In
1865, Christian Diehl built a 2-story frame building and opened a saloon in it.
When he died in 1877, his wife Victoria took over running the saloon, added a
hotel component, and named it Victoria Hotel. She replaced the frame building
with the current brick one about 1890. Joseph Fritsch ran the hotel and saloon
until Prohibition in 1920. The hotel business closed in 1937, and Ziegler’s
Café operated here in the 1940s. The outline of the old hotel entrance is still
visible in the brick pattern on the façade.
House, 476 Poplar—Martin
Kempf built the current building and opened it as a saloon in 1873. After
Kempf’s death, John Snyder took over in the 1880s and 1890s and added the hotel
business, calling it La Pierre House. Lancaster brewer Charles Wacker bought
the hotel and saloon in 1900 and Charles A. Kirchner ran it for him until 1930.
At that time, the hotel business closed, and Albert Karch ran Fibber’s Café in
the old saloon until 1953. Since then, it has been Danz Café, Brau House,
Farrell’s Café, and My Linda’s Tavern, which closed in 1992.
Horse Hotel, 653-657 Manor—Albert Kohlhaas opened a saloon at this location in 1874, and built the
current building as the White Horse Hotel about 1880. He sold the hotel to
Frank Rieker of Rieker’s Brewery in 1899. John Kirchner ran the hotel for Rieker for
about 20 years, followed by Thomas Goodhart for 15 more. Since the 1940s, the hotel
has been closed, but numerous drinking and eating establishments have used the
building—Noden’s Café, Bishop’s Café, Bartnichak’s Café, and most recently,
O’Henry’s, which closed in the 1980s. Kunzler’s now uses the old hotel as its
corporate offices. Multi-colored formstone now covers the original brick
Hotel, 464-466 Manor—Started
as Charles Vogt’s saloon in 1874, the original building became William
Schneider’s Manor Street Hotel in the 1880s and 1890s. John Stumpf built a new
hotel (the current building) on the site in 1902, with 16 rooms, hot and cold
running water, and a huge cherry bar. Stumpf ran his hotel until 1937. After
Stumpf’s Hotel closed, a series of owners operated cafes, taverns, and bars
there, including Pat & Denze Café, Manor Bar, Gold Brick Tavern, Manor
Tavern, and Cosmos Bar & Grill, which closed in 2011.
Ward Hotel, 552-554 St. Joseph—Alexander Gerz built the current building about 1874 as the
new Green Cottage Hotel. Gerz’ heirs sold the hotel to Lucas Fritz, who ran it
as the Eighth Ward Hotel until the late 1880s, when it was taken over by Fritz’
son Charles until about 1900. William Hoenninger, Jr., ran the hotel and saloon
until about 1915. During Prohibition, Albert Hall sold soft drinks (at least) out
of the dormant saloon. The hotel part of the business closed during the Great
Depression. John Lermer and his wife Fannie ran Lermer’s Café from about 1940
to 1970, and from the late 1970s to 2012, it was the Starting Gate Inn. Formstone
now disguises any covered-up doors and windows from the old building.
Hotel, 764-766 High—In
1894, Frank Schwarz bought a relatively new store and house on the corner of
High and Fairview and a few years later he opened the Hotel Schwarz. Next, Casper
Kirchner ran the hotel until 1910, naming it the Fair View Hotel. Matthew
Miller, Carl Koenig, and Albert Bishop were the main proprietors of the Fair View
for the next 30 years. From 1947 to 1990, William Steinbaecher took over,
naming it Steinbaecher’s Hotel and expanding it farther along High. From the
early 1990s to today, it has been O’Halloran’s Irish Pub. Formstone covers up
any remnants of doors and windows from the old hotel and saloon.
Hotel, 558 High—The
current building was built in the early 1890s as a grocery store for John Kaetz.
By 1903, it was the Glen Hotel licensed to George Kirchner, and one owner
later, William Kirchner was the proprietor until 1909. Several different men
operated the Glen from 1909 into the 1930s, when the hotel closed and a series
of cafes and taverns and other businesses took over, including Hammel’s Café, Koenig’s
Café, Armand’s Tavern, the Glen Tavern, Tan Hoa Grocery, Peniel Church, and
currently Sunshine Nursery Daycare Center.
age of Cabbage Hill hotels is long past, but the buildings remain to remind us
of how important they were to the social lives of Hill residents. Now the rooms
in the old hotel buildings are apartments, as are many of the proprietor’s
quarters on the second floor. But many of the old first-floor saloons have been
converted for businesses, which is key to maintaining some of the neighborhood atmosphere
of the old days on today’s Hill.
thing: Did anybody notice while you were reading this how many of the hotel proprietors
were Kirchners? Edward, Charles, John, Casper, George, William—the Kirchners
must have had the hospitality business in their genes!
Life on old Cabbage Hill had many
qualities worth waxing nostalgic about—neighborhood solidarity, a wide range of
owner-operated neighborhood businesses, and vibrant social, cultural, and
religious institutions, among others. But life in the good old days on the Hill
also had its serious drawbacks, some of the worst of which were frightening
outbreaks of infectious diseases, including smallpox, typhoid fever, cholera, diphtheria,
and consumption (tuberculosis), in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Scientific understanding of the causes
of contagious diseases, and therefore their proper prevention and treatment, was
just in its infancy in the late 1800s. Ignorance and misinformation were rampant,
as were fraudulent prevention and treatment recommendations. Doctors did the
best they could, some heroically, but in many cases all they could do was try
to alleviate the victims’ suffering.
Today, these once feared diseases have
been eradicated in the U.S. through the implementation of public-health measures,
including sanitation and vaccines. Because we are no longer threatened with
these diseases, it is hard for us to imagine how frightening and panic-inducing
they used to be. But the impacts on communities could be truly devastating.
Cabbage Hill was often hard hit when
these diseases visited Lancaster. In some outbreaks, many dozens of Hill
residents came down with the disease, and numerous residents died. The city
Board of Health did its best to monitor and control the diseases, and there are
records of the statistics and public-health responses related to each outbreak.
It is important to remember, though, that behind the faceless statistics were
real families that were changed forever.
In the late spring and summer of 1883,
Lancaster endured a smallpox outbreak that severely impacted a family on the
slope of Dinah’s Hill, on the northern edge of Cabbage Hill. On May 8, Charles
Carr, a 20-year-old bill poster, was committed to the county prison for 45 days
on a charge of drunkenness and disorderly conduct for breaking a transom window
at the Seventh Ward Hotel. Charles lived with his parents, David and Kate Carr,
and seven siblings in a 1-1/2-story frame house at 330 West King Street.
Charles’s family immediately began the
process of trying to get him released through a writ of habeas corpus. In the
meantime, six inmates of the prison, including Charles, had come down with what
appeared to be the early stages of smallpox, a highly communicable disease
caused by the variola virus. The early symptoms of smallpox are fever, back
pain, and red spots on the face, arms, and legs. The prison-keeper was reluctant
to acknowledge this threat to his prison, and despite the warning symptoms,
Charles was released on bail to his family on May 22, just two weeks after he
had been committed. Two of Charles’s older sisters, Annie and Katie, took on
the job of nursing him back to health at their crowded home on West King.
But unlucky Charles was soon beyond
help, and he died on June 4. By then, Annie and Kate had contracted the
disease. Katie, age 25, died June 10, and Annie, age 26, died June 18. By that
time, several of their siblings also had contracted smallpox, and the disease
took brother John, age 18, on June 21; sister Ida, age 17, the next day; and
brother Elmer, age 22, on July 2. In less than a month, six of the Carr’s adult
children had died from smallpox. Of the eight children who had still been living
at home, only George, age 23, and Emma, age 15, survived, and Emma would die
the next year from a “lingering illness”, possibly related to the same outbreak
of smallpox that had devastated her family.
Many neighbors chipped in to provide
support for the Carr family during their crisis, although David Carr refused to
accept any donations. Unfortunately, however, one person saw an opportunity to
take advantage of the family. On the night of July 9, just a week after the
sixth Carr child had died, someone broke into the Carr’s fenced backyard and
stole nearly 100 chickens, prompting the local newspaper to editorialize that
“the thief deserves to be shot”.
The Carr family was the hardest-hit
family, but throughout Lancaster, 85 people contracted the disease, and 15
people died. The prison-keeper, the prison doctor, and the lawyer and judge who
had overseen Charles Carr’s release, were all criticized in the local
newspapers, as was the Board of Health for not acting sooner and more
forcefully. A new position of Health Commissioner was added to the city government,
and three special police officers were assigned to guard the houses that were
under quarantine during the outbreak. The new Health Commissioner led a sanitary
cleanup and free vaccination effort in the hardest-hit areas of the city.
Slowly, the city went back to its normal routines, but for the Carr family,
life would never again be normal.
Eight years later, in the spring of
1891, a different scenario involving an infectious-disease outbreak unfolded right
in the center of Cabbage Hill. The disease was typhoid fever, and the location
was the neighborhood around the intersection of New Dorwart and High Streets.
This time, the disease was transmitted by way of water from a polluted backyard
In September 1890, John Dinges, a
carpenter living at 434 High Street, bought a house (602 High) on a large lot
on the south corner of the intersection of High and New Dorwart Streets. Behind
the house was a shallow well that had been dug when the house had first been
built, at least 20 years earlier. The well was in the floodplain of a small
stream called the Run, which in the 1870s and early part of the 1880s ran where
New Dorwart Street is today.
The well also was only about 12 feet
away from the house’s cesspool, making it likely that human waste from the previous
residents of the house had made its way to the well. Typhoid fever is caused by
a Salmonella bacterium that is found in human excrement. The bacteria that
cause typhoid fever are easily transmitted in water. The symptoms of typhoid
include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and eventual delirium.
When Dinges acquired the lot and
house, the well had been abandoned for some time, but he installed a pump on it
and put the well back in use. He did not move his family into his new house,
continuing to live at 434 High, but his family started using the well behind
the new house. Dinges also allowed a few other families to use the well,
including neighbors around the corner on New Dorwart—Andrew Braungart and his
wife and seven children. Braungart’s wife was the sister of Joseph Hildmann,
who lived at 414 Poplar with his family, and Hildmann’s family was permitted to
use the well also. At least two other families who were neighbors of Dinges
also began using the well.
Soon after Dinges and his neighbors began
using the well, many of them came down with typhoid fever. Dinges was the first
to contract the disease, and he died on May 24. At the time of his death, a
local newspaper reported that 20 other people had become sick with typhoid.
This number included Dinges’s three children, all nine people in the Braungart
family, and Joseph Hildmann and his wife and children.
When Dinges died, the city Health
Commissioner directed the well to be shut down. Dinges’s widow refused to do
so, so the Commissioner had the pump handle removed and announced that anybody
using the well would be prosecuted. Although some 20 people had already contracted
typhoid fever, no new cases would appear after the well was shut down.
One more person died in the typhoid
outbreak. David Hardy, a 30-year-old tobacco packer and shortstop on the “Ironsides”,
a city baseball team, was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital on May 28 and died
on June 2. Hardy had been boarding on Fremont Street with his wife and one
All the others recovered eventually,
but not without a disturbing incident involving the Braungart family. Andrew
Braungart and three of his children were sick enough to be admitted to the
hospital in late May. On June 5, Braungart was given permission to leave the
hospital for a few hours to visit the rest of his family at home, including a young
daughter who had been too sick to be taken to the hospital. On his way home, Andrew
stopped for whiskey and arrived home drunk, where he “abused his family”. The
authorities were called, and the sick daughter was removed to the hospital for her
In this 1891 typhoid fever outbreak,
the city was better prepared than it had been in the smallpox outbreak in 1883.
The Health Commissioner position that was established in 1883 was right on top
of the typhoid outbreak as soon as the first death was reported, and his quick actions
put a halt to any further spread of the disease. Also, while the crisis was
still evolving, the city Water Committee decided to install a 6-inch water pipe
under New Dorwart to replace the lost water supply of the polluted well. The
testing of water in all the wells in the city also was begun. However, as
efficient and effective as the city’s response had been, it was still too late
for the Dinges and Hardy families that were forever impacted by the typhoid
Today, sadly, we continue to be
plagued by outbreaks of new infectious diseases caused by viruses and bacteria.
Each new outbreak has some distinctly unique features, but our reactions and
behaviors often seem to follow the same sequence of steps and missteps as we
try to deal with them. Revisiting past outbreaks like the ones in 1883 and 1891
can perhaps help us make better decisions about what to do and what not to do
during new outbreaks. Reviewing past outbreaks like these two also reminds us that
the good old days on Cabbage Hill and the rest of Lancaster included some
pretty bad moments.
We want to share some news about resources that Tabor and Lancaster
Housing Opportunity Partnership (LHOP) have put together to help everyone navigate their
housing and financial challenges during this time of COVID-19. We know that times are very
tough, and we feel for our neighbors. We are rooting for our health care
workers, grocery store workers, law enforcement, emergency responders, delivery
drivers—people who are on the front lines of this fight. And of course,
our team members and our partners at the HomelessnessCoalition, who are making sure that individuals who are especially
vulnerable—people living in the streets, people living in
shelters—are not forgotten and are well supported during this
Tabor’s website, LHOP’s website, and social media channels, you will find a
series of factsheets that will help you to talk to your landlord, talk to your
lender, and to make a plan. We are also putting together a series of videos
over the next few weeks that will help walk through those materials.
We will continue to update this document, so as new
information and materials are available from our legislators in Washington or
other reputable sources, we’ll make sure that information is current
and a great resource to you.
Remember that your friends at Tabor and LHOP are here for you.
We’re rooting for you, and we will get through this thing together.
There’s a good chance you have walked or driven by the three-unit
apartment house at 613 Fremont Street without thinking twice about it. It’s
really not much more remarkable than other nearby houses, except that the lot
is larger than most and there is a privacy fence around it. But the house has a
long remarkable history. In fact, it was the first house built in the central
part of Cabbage Hill.
The two-story, frame house with a gambrel roof, now clad with
modern siding, was built in 1838 as the summer cottage of Miss Catharine “Kitty”
Yeates. The house has had many owners and tenants over the last 180 years. I
will briefly trace its history here, with closer looks at two of its most
interesting owners—Miss Yeates, a wealthy philanthropist, and Alexander J.
Gerz, a Civil War veteran and entrepreneur.
The house’s first owner, Catharine Yeates (1783-1866), was
the daughter of Jasper Yeates, a famous Lancaster lawyer and State Supreme
Court Justice. Starting in 1820, after she had inherited part of her father’s
considerable estate, Catharine bought several tracts of land in what is today
the heart of Cabbage Hill. Her property totaled almost ten acres and, in terms
of today’s streets, was centered on the 500 blocks, and part of the 600 blocks,
of St. Joseph, Poplar, and Fremont.
In 1838, Catharine built her summer cottage (now 613 Fremont)
on the southernmost corner of her property. At that time, there were no other
houses in the area, and there were no streets, only tree-lined dirt paths separating
fenced pastures. A stream starting near Manor Street and ending at South Water
Street, ran in front of her house. The setting was perfect for what she
wanted—a cool place where she could escape from her family’s mansion on South
Queen Street near the square when the summer heat and city life got too oppressive.
Catharine, who never married, lived in her cottage during the
summers for the next fifteen years. She sometimes rented out rooms on the
second floor to various tenants. The property required maintenance, and she had
a caretaker to tend to the lawn and flower beds, the fruit trees and
grapevines, and the fenced pastures where her horses and cattle were kept. The
stream in front of her house, which flowed where New Dorwart is today, supplied
her house, livestock, and chickens with water.
In 1855, Catharine deeded the cottage and all of its
surrounding acreage to her nephew Jasper Yeates Conyngham. Catharine died in
1866, and in her obituary in a Lancaster newspaper, she was praised as “…one of
the most estimable ladies that ever resided in the city…” Perhaps her most
consequential act of philanthropy was the founding and endowment of the Yeates
Institute, a private school in Lancaster intended to prepare students for the
Catharine’s nephew Conyngham did not live in the cottage,
renting it out instead. In 1869, he sold the house and its property to David
Hartman, who was a city tax collector and wealthy real-estate investor. Hartman
later was elected county sheriff. He bought the Yeates property as an
investment for $5,500, and sold it the following year to Alexander J. Gerz for
Gerz (1826-1876) was an immigrant from Lorraine, near the
border of France and Germany, who was part of a successful family pottery
business in Lancaster. He enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War,
serving in the 79th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers. Shortly
after returning from the war to Lancaster, he moved with his wife to Mexico,
where he enjoyed success in the pottery business there. He was forced to leave
Mexico during a revolution, and enroute back to Lancaster, his wife died of
yellow fever in New Orleans. Back in Lancaster, he resumed his pottery business,
ran the Eagle Hotel on North Queen, remarried, and had four children.
In 1870, Gerz bought the former Yeates property, where he opened
a hotel and saloon in the summer cottage, calling it the Green Cottage Hotel. He
held events on the property, including dance parties and reunions for his
fellow Civil War veterans. The one-acre lawn around the hotel and saloon
consisted of well-kept grass, flower gardens, and fruit and shade trees. Next
to the hotel on the northwest side was a large pond stocked with a wide variety
of fish. (The site of the pond was an abandoned, short-lived quarry that Gerz
had dug when he discovered marble under his property in 1870.) Also on the
grounds were a small deer park and a large wooden platform (thirty-two feet
square) for dancing. The grounds could be accessed by a bridge over the stream
that ran in front of the hotel.
Gerz died at the age of fifty in 1876. His widow, Margaret,
sold his remaining property, including the cottage, at auction in November
1878. Henry Haverstick bought the cottage property for $2,100. For the sale, the
lot on which the cottage was located was reduced in size to 200 feet square, bordering
on New Dorwart and Fremont.
In 1884, Haverstick sold the property to John Snyder, who was
a hotel proprietor and tobacco merchant. The Snyder family would own the property
and live there for the next forty-five years, with son Michael Snyder taking
over ownership when his father died in 1930. John Snyder built a tobacco
warehouse on the opposite corner of the lot from the cottage, at the
intersection of Poplar and New Dorwart.
A year after John Snyder’s death, his son Michael sold the
property to Harry M. Stumpf. Stumpf was a building contractor and Michael
Snyder’s cousin. He built garages on the property between the cottage and
Poplar, and ran his contracting business from there. He converted the cottage
into two apartments and rented them out. The Stumpf family was prominent on the
Hill and in Lancaster for many years. Harry’s father, John, owned a hotel in
the 400 block of Manor Street, and Harry’s brother, Edward, owned a service
station and garage in the 500 block of Fremont, and also was the owner of
Stumpf Field along the Fruitville Pike.
In 1952, Harry Stumpf sold the lot with the cottage to Samuel
Lombardo for $15,000. Lombardo and his wife Elsie got divorced in 1956. Elsie
got the cottage, remarried to Maurice Brady, and lived in the cottage until her
death in 1991. Elsie and Maurice added a third apartment to the house, living
in the main apartment themselves and renting out the other two. The house remains
divided into three apartments to this day.
To be sure, Miss Yeates’ 1838 summer cottage has changed a
lot over the years. It no longer sits all by itself in the middle of pasture
land. It doesn’t have a stream in its front yard. It has been added to and
modified numerous times. But the basic structure of the cottage is still
intact. The next time you pass the house at 613 Fremont, try to visualize it as
it was 150 years ago, when it was a hotel and saloon surrounded by well-kept
grounds that were home to a fish pond and a deer park. It’s just one more
example of all the history hiding just below the surface on Cabbage Hill.
Applications are now open for Lancaster City’s Love Your Block, Park Adoption Mini-Grants, and the Neighborhood Leaders Academy!
Want to clean up your stretch of road? Have a project idea
on how to fix a local issue? Love Your Block provides funds of $500-$2000 for
community-led projects addressing issues surround litter, urban blight, and
façade improvements. The projects must affect the whole block and require a
coalition of at least 5 neighbors from 3 different households. Americorps
VISTAS, Renee and Christian, will assist with project management, scheduling,
budgeting and implementation, so don’t worry about needing experience. Find
more information about Love Your Block, along with an online application here.
Additionally, Lancaster has a Park Adoption grant that also
provides $500-$2000 for projects improving and expanding the usability of local
parks or green spaces. Find more information about Park Adoption, along with an
online application here.
Applications for both grants are due by March 20, 2020. They
can be submitted online or, physical versions can be mailed to City Hall at 120
N. Duke Street, Lancaster, PA.
The Neighborhood Leaders Academy is open for applications as well! The program is a six-month training and grant program for community leaders to imagine, develop, test and realize projects that build community and provide positive outcomes. The program will empower leaders in all Lancaster neighborhoods to encourage one another, identify problems, plan projects to beautify the neighborhood and remedy issues, and celebrate the community and each other. Applications are due March 27th, 2020. For more information click here.