The Early Years of St. Joseph Catholic Church

Jim Gerhart, December 2019

St. Joseph Catholic Church was founded in 1849, when a group of German parishioners from St. Mary’s Catholic Church convinced the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that a second Catholic church was needed in Lancaster to serve the growing German population on Cabbage Hill. The new church quickly became the spiritual, cultural, and social hub of the Hill, roles that it continues to fill today. Here, in honor of the church’s 170th anniversary, are nine factoids about the church’s early years, some of which may be familiar and others which may not.

Lot purchase: The lot on which St. Joseph Church was built was purchased for $260 from Casper Hauck on January 8, 1850, by Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick of the Diocese of Philadelphia, on behalf of “the German Catholics of the City of Lancaster”. The lot, which was on the southeast slope of Dinah’s Hill, was 137 feet wide and 191 feet long, and had no buildings on it. In fact, at the time the lot was purchased, there were no buildings at all on the first two blocks of the streets that would soon become West Vine, St. Joseph, Poplar, and Fremont. The lot and the land surrounding it were pastures.

Church and street names: The original St. Joseph Church, the first ethnic Catholic church in the U.S., was built in 1850. Although it was St. Joseph Church from day one, it was commonly known around Lancaster as the “German Catholic Church” for its first few years. Also, when the church was built in 1850, the street on which it fronted was known as Union Street (not to be confused with today’s Union Street, which didn’t yet exist in 1850). Then, for a brief time, the street appears to have been known as West Washington Street. Finally, by the mid-1850s, at about the time the church became commonly known as St. Joseph Church, the street became St. Joseph Street.

First building: The original church was 50 feet wide and 105 feet deep, and it seated about 350 people. Its cornerstone was laid in May 1850, it went under roof in the fall of 1850, and it was consecrated in December 1850. It was made of brick, had a slate roof, and had five tall windows on each long side. There was a basement for the school and society meetings, and a small tower at the front entrance. By 1852, the tower had been built taller and a wooden spire had been added. By 1854, the finishing touches were completed—adding pews, finishing the basement, installing an organ, adding the altar, installing bells in the tower, and adding a clock with four faces in the tower.

Pastor conflict: St. Joseph’s had five pastors in its first five years. The third pastor was John Dudas, a young Hungarian priest who turned out to be a controversial choice. He had only served about five months when his pastoral assignment was revoked by the Diocese of Philadelphia because he had taken sides in political matters and had consorted a little too freely with Lutherans. In March 1852, he was asked to vacate the rectory next to the church, but refused to do so until the church paid him some money he was owed. Dudas then refused to open the church for a funeral, and when he left the locked church and went downtown for breakfast, a group of church founders broke into the building and threw his belongings out on the street. Dudas pressed charges against the offending parishioners but a verdict of not guilty was delivered. He quickly left his post at St. Joseph’s, and within a few years he had become a pastor of a Christian congregation in Constantinople, Turkey.

Cemetery: The lot purchased in 1850 did not include the cemetery that is now southwest of the church. Early burials took place in a narrow strip along the northeast side of the church where the driveway to the left of the church is today. The current cemetery lot next to the rectory seems to have been acquired by the late 1850s. The early graves on the northeast side of the church were moved to the larger cemetery on the southwest side in 1881 to make room for a new school building.

Political dispute: The German immigrants on the Hill had always been staunch Democrats, and were not shy about voicing their views on political matters. In early July 1863, just days after the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln, a Republican, declared a new military draft to replenish the Union troops. Many members of St. Joseph Church, including a small group of about a dozen vociferous German women, disagreed with the draft and a large demonstration took place at the Courthouse on July 16, as draftees were about to start signing up. The demonstration was led by the German women, and a major riot was just barely averted. In his sermon the following Sunday, Pastor Schwartz of St. Joseph’s admonished his parishioners, especially the women who were “a disgrace to their womanhood”, making it known that good citizens of this country must obey its laws whether they agree with them or not.

Unique construction approach: By the early to mid-1880s, the growing number of St. Joseph’s parishioners necessitated a larger church. To avoid missing any Masses, a clever approach was taken to replace the old smaller church with a new larger one. The new church was to be 15 wider, 54 feet longer, and significantly taller than the old one. The church leaders decided to build the new church around the old one, enabling the congregation to continue to have Mass in the old church while the new one was being built. When the external structure of the new church was completed, the basement of the old church was set up for Mass, and the congregation then worshipped in the basement while the old church was dismantled and taken out from inside the new one. When the old church had been removed, Mass was held in the new church while the finishing touches were completed on the interior. Even the extensive painting and frescoing in the upper reaches inside the new church did not prevent the use of the church for Mass. Scaffolding that would have interfered with Mass was not required, as the artisans doing the high decorative work did so from scaffolds hung from ropes through holes in the roof. When the new church was completed in 1885, the only vestige of the old church that remained was the tower and spire, and even that had been modified a bit to harmonize better with the taller roof.

The builders: The new 1885 St. Joseph Church building, which seated more than 1,100 people, was designed by William Shickel, New York City. The principal contractor for the construction of the building and the finishing of the interior was Dionysius Rapp. John Mentzer and William Westman supplied the stone. The stone-cutting was done by Zeltman & Cron. Krieg & Streiner did the stone steps. Henry Drachbar laid the bricks and the lumber was provided by Sener & Sons and Baumgardner, Eberman, and Co. William Wohlsen provided the millwork. The plumbing was done by L.H. Bachler, and George M. Steinman & Co. provided the hardware. Jerome Dosch & Son did the plastering and Leonard Yeager did the painting.

German craftsmen: Tradition has it that the craftsmen and artisans who built the larger St. Joseph Church in the mid-1880s were German immigrants who lived on the Hill. This is mostly true. Indeed, nearly all of the principal contractors and companies were of German heritage, and about half of them had been born in Germany. Dionysius Rapp, Krieg & Streiner, Jerome Dosch & Son, and Leonard Yeager had their businesses on the Hill, while the remaining contractors were from other parts of Lancaster City. Most of the laborers on the contractors’ crews were no doubt Germans from the Hill. The gravestone of superintendent Dionysius Rapp and his wife Rosina still stands near Poplar Street in Old St. Joseph’s Cemetery.

There is much more to the story of this venerable old church on the Hill. Another 135 years of history has happened since the mid-1880s when the present-day church was built. The gravestones of the Old St. Joseph Cemetery adjacent to the church represent many interesting stories of the church’s founders, some of which may be explored in future posts on this site.

As many of you know, St. Joseph Church has willingly allowed SoWe to occupy office space in one of its buildings, and to hold monthly Board meetings in another of its buildings. Happy 170th anniversary from SoWe to the centerpiece of Cabbage Hill!

The George Moser Family of Cabbage Hill

Jim Gerhart, November 2019

We are all familiar with stories of immigrants who arrived in America with nothing and ended up being very successful. In fact, Cabbage Hill has had its share of German immigrants who were very successful through some combination of talent, ambition, hard work, perseverance, and luck. But no less important to the progress of the Hill were the many hundreds of German immigrants who struggled for years just to get by.

The great majority of German immigrants to the Hill in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were only able to achieve modest success, and for many, the fruits of their struggles only accrued to their children or grandchildren, who often succeeded because of the foundation laid by their parents’ and grandparents’ struggles. The small successes of these struggling immigrants, in aggregate, helped build a strong, resilient neighborhood. Their stories, as painful as some of them are, are an important part of the history of Cabbage Hill.

One such story is that of Georg Friedrich Mosser (George Moser), who arrived in New York City from Bavaria, Germany, on May 8, 1906. He was a single, 23-year-old laborer with $25 in his pocket. He was quickly processed through Ellis Island and got on a train to Lancaster, where he came to meet up with his friend Frank Bernauer on St. Joseph Street. George got a job as a laborer at a brewery, and started what he hoped would be a successful life in America.

Back in Bavaria, George had fathered two children (Theresa and Alphonse) with Rosa Reitberger, a woman five years his senior, who also had relatives and friends who had immigrated to Lancaster. A year later, in 1907, Rosa followed George to Lancaster, leaving her two young children with her widowed mother in Bavaria. On November 19, 1907, George Moser and Rosa Reitberger were married at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

In 1909, as they were getting settled in their new life on the Hill, George and Rosa brought daughter Theresa and son Alphonse to Lancaster from Germany, along with Rosa’s mother, Anna. One month after Anna, Theresa, and Alphonse arrived in 1909, George and Rosa bought a two-story frame house at 662 Poplar Street for $1,050. George and Rosa had two more children (Mary and George Henry) in 1908 and 1910. The Moser family unit had been established. Things were going according to plan.

George became an American citizen in 1912, and for the next eight years, he worked in various capacities at breweries in Lancaster, including laborer, brewer, and delivery wagon driver. He was arrested but found not guilty of assaulting a strikebreaker at Sprenger Brewery. He was elected vice-president of the Brewery Workers labor organization. By 1920, he was working at Empire Brewery on Locust Street.

Although George was having some success in the brewery business, he and Rosa had to borrow money several times in the 1910s, and each time they were unable to keep up with payments on the resulting debts. They were sued by their creditors and were just barely keeping up with the required payback plans handed down by judges in civil court.

Then, Prohibition took effect in January 1920, and it became illegal to make, sell, or transport alcoholic beverages. The Empire Brewery closed and George’s income from the brewery industry was suddenly gone. Out of necessity, George started his own business—peddling ice. He had a wagon and two horses (Jim and Dick) to pull it, and he and his 16-year-old son Alphonse began selling blocks of ice around Lancaster. His was one of eighteen ice-peddling operations delivering ice from the Lancaster Ice Manufacturing Company at Engleside. He ran his ice business out of the rear of the Moser house at 662 Poplar. To augment the family income, daughter Theresa worked as a weaver at the Conestoga Steam Cotton Mills on South Prince Street.

The ice business must have seemed promising. In 1921, George and Rosa purchased another two-story frame house and three lots at 615 Fremont Street for $1,500. They likely had to borrow money to make the purchase, but they must have thought the investment would pay off in the long run. When their daughter Theresa married Charles Kirchner in 1922, the new couple moved into the house on Fremont. George and Rosa continued to live with the rest of their family at 662 Poplar, and George and his son Alphonse continued to peddle ice. Soon, the youngest son, George Henry, was old enough to help in the ice business as well. Alphonse also worked for a while at the Conestoga Steam Cotton Mills, and daughter Mary took a job at the Follmer-Clogg silk mill on Manor Street to help out.

Despite all the hard work, the Mosers still struggled financially. Several times between 1920 and 1925, they were again unable to pay back various loans, and they were taken to civil court and ordered to pay off the loans, which they seem to have somehow done. Then, in 1924, their son Alphonse left Lancaster, and George lost a key pair of hands to help in the ice business. Again, out of financial necessity, George and Rosa decided to start a second new business—a café.

By 1927, they had established a café in the first floor of their house at 615 Fremont, and sold “light lunch and tobaccos”, as their sign on the front door stated. Daughter Theresa and her husband Charles continued living upstairs, and an extra room was rented to boarders. George brought on Philip Kirchner, a cousin of son-in-law Charles, to run the day-to-day café business. When Theresa and Charles moved out of the upstairs living quarters, George and Rosa rented out their rooms as well and the café became known as a hotel. George continued to peddle ice, with his son George Henry’s help, and daughter Mary continued to work at the silk mill. It seemed that George and Rosa and their family were finally going to be able to make ends meet, but things were about to take a turn for the worse.

George had purchased a touring car and in April 1927, he had a serious accident on Lincoln Highway East near Bridgeport. His car was demolished and he was taken to the hospital with what was feared to be a fractured skull, a broken jaw, and broken ribs. Fortunately, his injuries turned out to be only severe cuts and bruises. In October 1927, he had another accident in which his car was broadsided and overturned at the intersection of Manor and Filbert Streets. Again, he was not badly injured. Adding to the family’s problems, George, who had been a drinker for a long time, began to drink too much. Prohibition was in full effect, but George seemed to be able to acquire illegal beverages. In the same year, 1927, that he had his two car accidents, he was cited for being “drunk and running a car”.

Then, in December 1928, the police raided the café/hotel on Fremont and confiscated three cases of “high-powered beer”. It seems the Moser establishment had become one of the numerous speak-easies in Lancaster, and that George was manufacturing illegal beer for sale to his café customers. As a result of the raid, George was charged with violating the Prohibition liquor law, a crime that often carried a large fine and substantial jail time. A mid-January trial date was set, and George was released on $500 bail put up by his close friend and neighbor on Poplar, Albert Scheuchenzuber. But just two weeks before the case made it to trial, George suddenly died on January 3, 1929, at the young age of 45. The doctor attending him attributed his death to chronic alcoholism complicated by influenza.

Following George’s death, Rosa tried to make a go of the café and hotel business, but within a few years, the business had closed. Their son Alphonse, who had come back to Lancaster after his father’s death, teamed up with his younger brother George Henry to keep the ice business going, moving it from 662 Poplar to where Alphonse was living at 615 Fremont. This last of the Moser family’s two business enterprises lasted until the early 1940s.

In the less than 25 years since George Moser had immigrated to Lancaster, he had accomplished a lot. He had gotten married, bought two houses, raised four children, worked in the brewing industry, and started two businesses of his own. On the other hand, he had failed to repay loans, violated the liquor laws, and become addicted to alcohol. Although George’s immigrant experience was certainly not an unqualified success, he had accomplished enough to allow his four children to succeed. All four of the children of George and Rosa Moser got married and all four owned their own houses on the Hill by the 1940s.

George Moser’s story, with different details, has been repeated many hundreds of times over the years on Cabbage Hill, and the true history of the Hill cannot be told without those stories. Today, new immigrant families are creating their own stories of struggling to succeed on the Hill. A much more diverse group of immigrants are now calling the Hill their first American home, but their language, housing, and employment struggles are not all that different from those of German immigrants more than 100 years ago. SoWe is helping today’s new immigrants overcome their struggles, by trying to create a neighborhood that is safe, clean, and welcoming, and by providing services that facilitate their transition into their new community on the Hill.

Postscript: This story of George Moser and his family was prompted by correspondence with Robert Moser, Ph.D., former Executive Director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of San Diego. Bob, who was raised on Manor Street , contacted me after reading a history piece on the SoWe website, and expressed an interest in learning more about his grandfather George Moser’s business enterprises on the Hill. I thank him for allowing me to present this story of his grandfather’s immigrant experience. Appropriately enough, Bob’s position with the Diocese of San Diego involved helping immigrants—in this case refugees—start new lives in California.

The Run That Ran Through Cabbage Hill

Jim Gerhart, September 2019

The title of the 1992 film, “A River Runs Through It”, once applied to Cabbage Hill. Up until the early 1880s, a stream flowed where New Dorwart Street is today. It was a tributary to a larger stream that drained a watershed that covered about two-thirds of Lancaster City. The entire stream system has long since been buried in sewers that run under some of the major streets of the city.

When Lancaster was founded in 1729, James Hamilton named one of its north-south streets Water Street, and with good reason. A stream ran from near the intersection of West Walnut and North Arch in northwest Lancaster, southward down most of Water to Engleside, where it emptied into the Conestoga River. The stream was called Roaring Brook in the mid-1700s; Bethel’s Run from the late 1700s to early 1800s; Hoffman’s Run from the early 1800s to late 1800s; and finally Gas House Run around the turn of the 20th century, before it completely vanished.

There were several tributaries to the larger stream that flowed down Water, including one along West King between Christ Lutheran Church and Water; one along West Vine between what is now the Convention Center and South Water; and one from Union through Brandon Park to South Water. But the largest tributary was the one in Cabbage Hill that used to flow where New Dorwart is now, which was sometimes referred to as simply “the Run”.

The Run began at several springs and seeps northwest of Manor between Dorwart and Caroline. From there, it flowed southeast a little more than a half mile before it reached the larger stream on South Water. The area of the Run’s watershed was about 250 acres, covering most of Cabbage Hill. The bedrock beneath the Run was limestone, like under the rest of the city, and the stream banks were lined with trees and wetland vegetation.

Comparing the Run to same-sized streams in similar settings in Lancaster County today, it is possible to estimate its flow characteristics. The Run was likely only a few feet wide and less than a foot deep most of the time, but probably reached more than twenty feet wide and several feet deep during heavy rains. Between storms, the flow rate was probably only a couple hundred gallons per minute, but during storms, the rate would have reached several thousand gallons per minute, enough to flood adjoining streets and basements. High flows would have made it difficult to cross the Run by foot, horse, or wagon, without a bridge.

In the early days of development on the Hill, the building lots containing or adjacent to the Run were among the most desirable lots to own. The Run provided not only water for drinking, cooking, washing, and conducting business, but also a conduit for carrying away the wastes generated by residents and businesses. The first house built in the central part of the Hill—Catharine Yeates’ summer home, known as Green Cottage, now 613 Fremont—was built fronting the floodplain of the Run, taking advantage of the benefits of being located near flowing water (see 1850 map). However, when Lancaster’s public water supply became available in the mid-1800s, the problems of flooding, insects, rodents, odors, and pollution associated with the Run soon outweighed the benefits.

In 1878, the city developed a plan for the addition and extension of numerous streets. On the Hill, the plan included many street improvements, including the opening of Fremont and Union and the extension or widening of Filbert, Laurel, Hazel, and Wabank. The plan also included the opening of a new street, soon to be called New Dorwart, which was to be built from Manor to Union, where the Run and its floodplain were located. In 1880, a trench was started down the middle of the street to contain the stream. In 1883, the construction of a six-foot-high brick sewer was started in the trench. By the late 1880s, the sewer had been completed from Manor to Poplar, the new street had been built over it, and new houses had begun to spring up on both sides.  By the early 1890s, the sewer had been completed all the way to Union. The Run had disappeared from view, a casualty of development.

But, before it was diverted underground, the Run had a major impact on the establishment of the streets on the Hill. Manor Street, which had existed in the early 1700s as the road to Blue Rock on the Susquehanna River, had long required a bridge over the Run (see 1850 map). High Street, on the other hand, did not extend beyond the Run in 1850, being truncated by the difficulty of crossing the Run during high flows. The newly constructed Poplar Street also was truncated by the Run in 1850.

As the Hill developed rapidly from the late 1860s to the mid 1870s, additional streets were extended to the Run and required bridges. By 1874, in addition to a bridge having been built to carry High over the Run, Lafayette and St. Joseph had bridges over the Run as well (see 1874 map). But the recently proposed West Vine and the fledgling Poplar and Fremont did not have bridges. Instead, they had to be forded when the flow was low enough to safely do so.

Prior to being buried in a sewer, the Run also affected the geometry of the design for New Dorwart.  Due to the slightly northeast-bending shape of the Run east of Manor, and the resulting widening of the floodplain northeastward, New Dorwart was offset from the first to the second block, and again from the second to third block. The resulting stair-step pattern along the northeast edge of the first two blocks of the street remains today. Also, the wider floodplain where the Run curved to the northeast is probably the reason that New Dorwart between Lafayette and High is about twenty feet wider than elsewhere.

Another way that the Run affected early development was that the northwest side of Manor between Caroline and Dorwart was the last stretch of Manor to be developed (see 1874 map). The wetlands associated with the springs and seeps at the head of the Run made that area perpetually wet and difficult to build on. Even as late as 1897, almost two decades after the Run had been diverted underground, this stretch of Manor was still not heavily developed due to wet ground.

The Run that once ran through Cabbage Hill last saw the light of day almost 140 years ago. But it clearly had a significant impact on the development of the Hill, an impact that can still be seen if one takes the time to look for it on historical maps and in today’s arrangements of streets and houses. And, although its time on the land surface has long since passed, the Run still trickles along in the large brick sewer beneath New Dorwart, albeit a mere subterranean shadow of its former self. Now…”a river runs under it”.

The Largest Celebration in the History of Cabbage Hill

Jim Gerhart

August 1, 2019

The greatest expression of civic pride ever to take place on Cabbage Hill in the Eighth Ward of Lancaster occurred on June 15-16, 1923. On the evenings of those two days, a huge festival drew close to 10,000 people to Manor Street to celebrate the long-awaited completion of the paving of the street. More than $6,000 (about $84,000 in today’s dollars) was raised to benefit Rodney Park, a new city park on a triangle of land between Third, Rodney, and Crystal Streets.

The surface of Manor Street had been in terrible condition for many years. Finally, in early August 1922, work crews began the process of excavating the street so it could be paved with concrete. The city’s contractor, Swanger-Fackler Construction Company of Lebanon, was responsible for the overall project and the paving of most of the street, and Conestoga Traction Company was responsible for moving the trolley tracks from the edge of the street to the middle, and paving the street around the trolley tracks. The work proceeded slowly, as the crews ran into several unexpected complications as they excavated 150 years’ worth of old street surfaces.

When cold weather set in during the late fall and concrete could no longer be poured, work was halted for the winter, leaving some sections of the street torn up and virtually impassable. Fortunately, by the first week of April in the spring of 1923, the weather was good enough for the crews to get back to work. Progress was steady throughout April and May, and by late May the residents of the Eighth Ward were hopeful that the work would finally be completed by mid-June.

The Eighth Ward Community Association met on May 25, May 31, and June 7 to develop plans for a festival to celebrate the opening of the newly paved Manor Street. The festival was scheduled for June 15-16, 1923, and the Association decided to dedicate the proceeds of the festival to outfitting Rodney Park—acquired by the city just two months earlier—with playground equipment and a surrounding sidewalk for roller-skating.

Advertisement for festival in Examiner & New Era, June 15, 1923

In late May, the Association canvassed door to door in the Eighth Ward to gauge the level of interest and ask for donations to support the festival. The canvassing generated much enthusiasm and many donations; in fact, the level of interest was so high that the Association decided to expand the scope of the event from just a Manor Street opening  to “A Cabbage Hill Celebration and Festival”. One of the leaders of the Association said that “this is the first time in the history of the city that such a celebration has been held” and that “it is for all the people”.

To plan the festival, twenty-six committees were established, with each committee having a chairman and three to five other men as members. The women had their own committees, most of which corresponded in topic with the men’s committees, and the two sets of committees worked together to prepare for the festival. Committee chairs were selected for their expertise in the area of the committee’s topic. For example, Christ Kunzler of Kunzler’s Meat Market was the chair of the Hot Frankfurter committee, and Leo Houck of boxing fame was the chair of the Sports committee.

The committees included: Program, Publicity, Music, Decorations, Amusement, Sports, Dancing, Candy, Prizes, Hot Frankfurters, Soft Drinks, Popcorn, Flowers, Ice Cream, Fruit, Truck, Ice, Printing, Cigars, Equipment, Lumber/Chairs/Tables, Public safety, Tags, Cakes, Novelties, and Fancy Work. Probably to many people’s chagrin, there was no Beer committee—at least not officially—because the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) had gone into effect a few years earlier.

Advertisement for festival in Intelligence Journal, June 15, 1923

In the days leading up to the festival, several items were donated to be used as prizes. Congressman William Griest donated a new Ruud water heater that was put on display in the window of Louis Fellman’s hardware store (568 Manor Street) to help ratchet up interest. The Conestoga Traction Company donated a new Clark Jewel gas range, which was also displayed at Fellman’s store. The Friends of the Eighth Ward Community Association donated a $550 mahogany bedroom suite that was displayed at Hoffmeier’s furniture store on East King Street near the square.

Cash donations also were made. Christ Kunzler took up a collection of $87 at an Elks Club dinner held the week before the festival, and he also paid for the first hour of music by a band at the festival. Hamilton Watch Factory and Armstrong Linoleum Company each gave $50, as did the Fraim-Slaymaker Lock Company. The Select Council also presented a cash donation. In addition, the Intelligencer Journal and the Examiner-New Era newspapers would supply Rodney Park with a drinking fountain and a flagpole.

To the relief of all the committees, the paving of Manor Street was completed on time, and by the afternoon of Friday, June 15, the final preparations for the festival were underway. Two large banners were strung across the street at the ends of Manor Street—one at the crest of the hill near West King Street and one near South West End Avenue. American flags and bunting were displayed along the street and on many of the houses (Flag Day was the previous day), and colored electric lights were strung along and across Manor Street from West King Street to Fairview Avenue. Dozens of booths that had been built by the residents and decorated with flowers lined the street on both sides.

It was partly cloudy and about 80 degrees when the festival kicked off at 6:30 p.m. Friday evening. At that time, the leaders of the Eighth Ward Community Association, the American Legion Band, and some 500 school children of the Eighth Ward departed in a parade from the intersection of Manor and Dorwart Streets. They marched to City Hall, where they met Mayor Frank Musser and other city officials and escorted them back in the parade to the intersection of Manor and West King Streets, where a fence barrier had been erected across Manor Street.

At the barrier, the mayor was presented with a new axe, and with one stroke he broke through the ceremonial barrier, officially opening the newly paved street.  Immediately after the barrier was broken, a chorus of children sang a welcoming song, and a switch was flipped, lighting all the colored electric lights along the street. The Star Spangled Banner was played, followed by a short speech by the mayor. At the end of the ceremony, the whole group of officials, school children, and the American Legion Band paraded the length of Manor Street to great cheering. The festival was officially underway.

Photo of the ceremonial breaking of a barrier to open the newly paver Manor Street on June 15, 1923. The barrier is in front of 412-414 Manor St. Mayor Frank Musser stands in front of the barrier to the left. The banner reads, “Welcome to the Manor Street Opening, Friday & Saturday, June 15 & 16, A Cabbage Hill Celebration and Festival”.

For the festival, Manor Street was divided into three segments, each with a distinct focus—dancing, boxing, and amusements. Four bands, including the American Legion Band, the Iroquois Band, and the City Band, participated over the two nights, and each one was stationed at a different segment. The segments were linked together by the strings of colored lights that extended along the entire stretch of the street, and by 33 booths that lined the streets between the segments, offering the Eighth Ward’s best food, drinks, clothing, novelties, and hand-made items for sale.

The block of Manor Street between Laurel Street and Fairview Avenue was set aside for street dancing, with the music supplied by the American Legion Band. Rousing Roaring Twenties music was no doubt on the program, and the young people of the Eighth Ward danced until the festival closed each night. At one point during the dancing, the lights briefly went out, and the newspaper slyly reported that this unexpected feature was much appreciated by the young revelers.

The intersection of Manor and Dorwart Streets was designated for exhibition boxing matches, and a ring was set up in the street. Each night, there were five, three-round exhibition matches arranged by Leo Houck, the Eighth Ward’s own boxing hero. One match was for the championship of the Fraim-Slaymaker Lock Company (Young Biddy vs. Willie Bloom) and another was for the 125-pound title of Manor Street (Battling Fuzzy vs. Kid Carney). The final, much anticipated match was Leo Houck, who had fought many of the world’s best boxers in the previous two decades, facing off against his long-time sparring partner, Jule Ritchie. Unfortunately, Ritchie was late and the feature bout had to be replaced with a quickly arranged one between two different boxers.

The intersection of Manor and Third Streets was set up for amusements. Eddie Fisher, a well-known local clown, was in charge of the program at this location. Each night, the YMCA provided a gymnastics and stunts exhibition, and Fisher and a troupe of clowns performed. A little farther down the hill, the Strand Theater in the 600 block of Manor Street provided a free showing of a silent movie, and Brinkman’s Metropolitan Four sang a selection of songs. On Saturday night the Strand hosted a public wedding of a couple from Columbia, officiated by a pastor from Marietta.

An unusual feature of the festival that must have served as a good ice breaker was the Miss Rodney Park contest. Each evening, in three different hour-long time slots, a secretly selected young woman was designated as Miss Rodney Park for that hour. She went out among the crowd incognito and the first person who approached her with “You are Miss Rodney Park”, would be the prize winner for that hour. No doubt many young women were approached by many young men, but Miss Rodney Park was only correctly identified three times.

By the time midnight rolled around on Saturday night and the festival was over, it was clear to everyone that it had been a much bigger success than anyone had imagined. The crowds had been huge (almost 10,000 over two nights), the booths were almost completely sold out of their merchandise, and every featured event on the program had been a big hit. Over the next couple of days, as cleanup took place, the Eighth Ward Community Association counted up the proceeds and decided on the distribution of prizes, which were then awarded on Tuesday night, June 19, at Fellman’s hardware store. The amount of money raised exceeded $6,000, and on the night of June 20, again at Fellman’s store, the Community Association met with the City Parks Committee to discuss how to best use the money for Rodney Park.

The Eighth Ward had done itself proud. For two nights, the residents had channeled their abundant civic pride into accomplishing the largest festival ever seen on Cabbage Hill. The people of other parts of Lancaster who had joined in the festivities left with “a lot of respect for the manner in which the Eighth Ward does things”, as one of the newspaper articles put it. It was hoped that the paving of the street and the successful festival might end the long held opinion that Cabbage Hill was not treated like a fully accepted part of the city. In fact, one of the newspaper articles stated that the reconstruction of the street was “the first thing worth while the Hill has ever gotten from a city administration”. At least for two nights, on June 15-16, 1923, Cabbage Hill had finally gotten its due.

The City of Lancaster and SoWe are committed to promoting the same kind of neighborhood pride that made the 1923 celebration such a success. The city has installed pedestrian-style streetlights along Manor Street and part of West King Street, and has started the process of planting trees along the street as well. And SoWe, with its many partners, is working on numerous initiatives to build neighborhood pride, including a cost-sharing program to improve building façades on Manor Street, especially those that once had storefronts. It is hoped that all these efforts will help rekindle some of the proud neighborhood spirit of the past.


Business Was Booming on Cabbage Hill a Century Ago

Jim Gerhart

July,2019

In 1919, things were generally looking up in the U.S.—World War I had just ended, unemployment was nearly negligible, and women finally were getting the right to vote. On the other hand, the Spanish flu pandemic made a comeback, and the Ku Klux Klan continued to stoke fear in many states. And, for better or worse, depending on your point of view, the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) went into effect. In the midst of these national events, Cabbage Hill was beginning to recover from the anti-German sentiment brought on by the war. As part of that recovery, the Hill was definitely “open for business”.

Ever since its first neighborhood was established in 1762 on Manor and High Streets, Cabbage Hill has been home to enterprising residents who have operated their own local businesses. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, these businesses provided necessary subsistence services that reflected the trade skills of its mostly German immigrants. Blacksmith, shoemaker, carpenter, and butcher shops were common local businesses.

During the late 19thcentury, Cabbage Hill businesses continued to evolve with the times, and businesses such as bakeries, barber shops, tailor shops, cigar factories, and grocery stores were common. A community of immigrants that often felt somewhat separate from the main part of Lancaster, the Hill seemed to have at least one of every type of business, allowing it to get along without depending too much on the rest of the city.

In the early years of the 20th century, continuing technological change led to another gradual shift in the types of businesses on the Hill, but the businesses still offered nearly every possible desired service no more than a couple blocks away. The businesses continued to provide what the residents needed and wanted, but they also embraced new technologies. For example, one might find a car repair shop around the corner from a blacksmith shop, or a new movie theater on the same block as an old beer saloon.

The year 1919 was typical of this evolving business environment on the Hill, as the following paragraphs will show. But first, let me define what I mean by “the Hill”. For this discussion, I focused on what many consider the historic core of Cabbage Hill, that is, the area bounded by Manor on the northwest, West Strawberry on the northeast, Fremont on the southeast, and Laurel on the southwest. Defined this way, the Hill contains seven main streets running northeast-southwest, and four main streets crossing those seven in a northwest-southeast direction, resulting in 21 blocks and 28 intersections.

The 1919 directory for Lancaster City advertised 125 businesses in the 21 blocks of the Hill. They ranged from the small scale (a nurse operating from her house) to the large scale (Follmer-Clogg Silk Mill). Most of the businesses (32) were on Manor, but High, West Vine, St. Joseph, and Poplar each had about 15 businesses. Fifty-eight of the 125 businesses were located on a corner of one of the 28 intersections. Nearly every business was owner-operated, and nearly every business owner lived in or next to his/her place of business.

All the major types of businesses were found in multiple locations on the Hill. Amazingly, there were 28 grocery stores (see map), more than one per block on average. The Hill also had six hotels, six meat markets, five bakeries, five shoemaker shops, five tailor shops, five dressmaker shops, and five barber shops. Additionally, there were seven contractors and eight nurses offering their services on the Hill.

As a sign of the changing times, there was a car repair shop (Crawford Garage, on New Dorwart) and a movie theater that showed early silent moving pictures (The Manor, on Manor). Twenty-five other types of businesses—ranging from a jewelry shop to plumber shops to cigar stores to saloons—were represented at least at one, and at as many as four, locations. No doubt the owners of the two saloons (Joseph Fritsch’s, on High, and Charles Kirchner’s, on Poplar) were wondering how the new Prohibition law might affect them.

Also of interest are the types of businesses that were absent from the Hill in 1919. Despite there being 70 physicians in Lancaster, there was only one doctor’s office (Lewis Shear, on Manor). There were 86 lawyers in Lancaster, but no lawyer’s offices were located on the Hill. There were no banks, insurance-agent’s offices, dentist’s offices, real-estate offices, optician’s offices, photography studios, or restaurants. Clearly, Cabbage Hill was very much a working-class neighborhood. The businesses on the Hill served the basic, day-to-day needs of its residents, who had to go into Lancaster proper on occasion to avail themselves of the professional services found there.

The plethora of businesses on the Hill, and the fact that business owners were also residents, helped make the Hill a dynamic and pleasant place to live in 1919. Starting in the second half of the 20th century, for a variety of reasons, the number of businesses on the Hill declined dramatically. Today, there are only six groceries, and only about a dozen other businesses with advertising signage, and most of the businesses on the Hill today are no longer owned and operated by Hill residents or located in their houses.

SoWe hopes to reverse that trend. One of SoWe’s goals is to improve support for southwest Lancaster’s entrepreneurs and small business owners, which among other approaches involves revitalizing abandoned business locations and opening up old storefronts. If SoWe is successful, perhaps the Hill can recapture some of the favorable business environment that allowed the neighborhood to be so “open for business” 100 years ago.

If you know of a historic Cabbage Hill business that may have an interesting history, and think that its history might make a good topic for a future post on this blog, please contact me at SoWeCommunicate@sowelancaster.org, and I will look into it.

For those of you who like the details…….here’s the list of 125 businesses on the Hill 100 years ago, alphabetically by street name:

East Filbert Street

304-6     Jerome Yecker                  Baker

Fremont Street

413         Mary Brodhecker             Nurse

446         Michael Schaller               Cleaner

447         Matthias Kraft                   Tailor

458         George Smith                    Grocer

478         William Murr                     Grocer

532         John Morrison                   Drayman             

High Street

413         Joseph Kohler, Jr.             Barber

413         Freda Kohler                      Florist

415         Barbara Brehm                  Ladies’ tailor

416         William Bonasch               Painter

425         Samuel Rawhauser          Contractor

440         Harry Morrison                 Upholsterer

450         Joseph Fritsch                    Saloon

464         Lavina Emerine                 Dressmaker

501         Ludwig Stoeckl                  Grocer

502         Leo Huegel                         Grocer

511         Harry Bear                           Barber

558         Merle Gorrecht                 Glen Hotel

627         Anna Baechle                     Music teacher

669         Charles Krimmel               Contractor

705         Abraham Ansel                 Grocer

Lafayette Street

422         Harry Benn                         Grocer

446-48   Samuel Bitner                    Glassware

456         Henry Miller                       Coffee roaster

629         Catharine Mohr                Dressmaker

Laurel Street

—             Follmer, Clogg & Co.       Silk mill

116-18   Fritsch & Son                     Cigarmakers

121         Albert Benn                        Grocer

302         Jacob Gilles                         Grocer

Manor Street

423         Phares Hertzler                 Shoemaker

427         Frank Simpson                  Plumber

428         Louis Shipman                   Music teacher

432         Jacob Hartman                  Used furniture

434         John Gill                               Contractor

446         Louis Kiphorn                     Contractor

464-66   John Stumpf                       Stumpf’s Hotel

471         Henry Kieffer                     Confectioner

503         Frederick Oakley              Grocer

504-6     Barnet Miller                      Dry goods

514         John Kieffer                        Jeweler

519         Jacob Otthofer                  Meat market

528         Jacob Schwendt                Bottler

550         Daniel Brown                     Produce

560         William Paulsen                Baker

561         Albert Fawber                   Grocer

568-72   Louis Fellman                     Hardware

601         Lewis Shear                        Druggist/physician

603         Harry Schmidt                    Gilder

604         Henry Breiter                     Cigars

609         The Manor                          Movie theatre

610         Daniel Engle                       Baker

616         David Harnish                    Painter

622         Dominick Viscuso             Shoemaker

623-25   Harry Goodhart                Confectioner

628         Frank Kirchner                   Grocer

652         Christian Kunzler              Meat market

653-57   Thomas Goodhart            White Horse Hotel

659         Charles Bair                         Barber

661         Anthony Lichty                  Blacksmith

681         William Fox                        Confectioner

703-5     Ambrose Kirchner            Grocer

New Dorwart Street

9              Crawford Garage              Car service

19           George Hauser                  Plumber

23           L & P S Ansel                      Grocers

—             Philip Fellman                    Sheet metal

45           Harry Helfrich                    Grocer

118         Theresa Fisher                   Dressmaker

120         Philip Fisher                       Barber

301         Hyman Cohn                      Grocer

Poplar Street

476         Charles Kirchner               Saloon

501         Joseph Taub                       Shoemaker

505         Sarah Hodgen                    Nurse

512         Fred Shroad                        Tailor

514         Edward Stumpf                 Plumber

532         Paul Meyers                       Tailor

539         Charles Trees                     Baker

546         Reuben Shear                    Grocer

616         Charles Koller                     Grocer

630         Rosa Baechle                     Nurse

634         George Draude                 Painter

648         Anna Gross                         Nurse

667         John Wuerdinger             Cooper

702`        Julius Hoffman                  Grocer

St. Joseph Street

406         Minnie Knodel                   Grocer

409         Anna Hahn                          Nurse

423         George Gerth                    Confectioner

463         Herbert Henkel                 Plumber

503         Philip Kirchner                   Grocer

509-11   Charles Falk                        Butcher

510         Daniel Marks                      Cigars

539         August Krimmel                Carpenter

544         Philipina Ganse                 Nurse

549         Peter Rietschy                   Grocer

551         Adam Burger                      Meat market

552-54   Henry Pfaeffle                   Eighth Ward Hotel

601         George Carroll                   Barber

602         American Stores, Inc.      Grocery

651         John Studer                        Drayman

706         Benedicto Cicero              Shoemaker

West King Street

351         Amos Musser                    Grocer

353         David Wiker                        Wiker’s Hotel

401         Clarence Ergood               Grocer

402         Harry Meily                         Furniture

West Strawberry Street

100         David Stauffer                   Butcher

101         Wilson Stauffer                 Grocer

128         Edward Kirchner               New Centennial Hotel

204         Peter Stratos                      Grocer

209         Otto Paving & Constr.    Contractor

215         Katherine Otto                  Grocer

238         Christian Vollmer             Shoemaker

West Vine Street

306         George Gesell, Jr.             Contractor

404         Rosa Hergenrother         Nurse

459         Elmer Scheid                      Music teacher

467         John Beilman                     Baker

—             Philip Kirchner                   Slaughterhouse

503         John Bernhard                   Cigarmaker

503        Mary Bernhard                 Nurse

534         Burkhart Schlereth          Tailor

543         Henry Benner                    Cigarmaker

611         Rosa Keller                          Dressmaker

629         Rolandus Goda                  Paperhanger

630         Katherine Bartholomae Dressmaker

666         George Kirchner               Player pianos

796         Amelia Strosser                Grocer


An Old Lithograph Captures Cabbage Hill on the Cusp of Development

Jim Gerhart

Sometimes an image inadvertently captures a scene just before it changes forever, locking in all the little details that will never be the same again. A lithograph of Lancaster as seen from the southwest in 1852 is just such an image. It was drawn with such attention to detail that it is almost as good as a photograph. But in one way, it is even better than a photograph because a photographer in 1852 would not have had the specialized equipment to take an almost 180-degree panoramic photograph.

The lithograph is entitled “View of Lancaster, Pa.” It was drawn by Charles R. Parsons in 1852 and published by James T. Palmatary in January 1853. Parsons was an English immigrant who apprenticed under George Endicott in New York City, and “View of Lancaster, Pa.”, done when he was thirty-one, was one of the first works of his long and distinguished career. Palmatary, also an English immigrant, was a famous lithographer in the mid-nineteenth century, who published many innovative lithographs of birds-eye views of major American cities. Parsons and Palmatary executed their work well, as an article in the Lancaster Intelligencer of January 18, 1853, advertised their 18×34-inch product as being “drawn from nature” and having a “rich and life-like appearance”.

“View of Lancaster, Pa.”, drawn by Charles R. Parsons in 1852 and published by James T. Palmatary in 1853.

The “View” shown in the lithograph extends from Manor and High Streets (Bethelstown) on the left (northwest) to Woodward Hill Cemetery on the right (southeast). It shows Lancaster as it appeared in 1852 to an artist sitting on a hill with an unobstructed view of the city. It quite faithfully reproduces churches, schools, factories, public buildings, and other landmarks of 1852 Lancaster with exacting precision. It includes some landmarks that had only recently been added to the city’s skyline, such as Fulton Hall (1852), Woodward Hill Cemetery (1852), Conestoga Steam Cotton Mills (1847), St. Joseph’s Catholic Church (1849), and even the new County Courthouse (1852) shown under construction in the scene.

But even more noteworthy for the history of Cabbage Hill is what is captured in the foreground of the “View”—a nearly empty landscape that had no inkling it was about to experience a virtual frenzy of development leading to the densely built and populated neighborhood we see today. Open pastures separated by fences and tree-lined farm lanes dominate the foreground of the lithograph. There are only two buildings seen on the central part of what would soon be called Cabbage Hill—St. Joseph’s Church in the left rear foreground and a house in the left middle foreground.

The topography of the Hill, which is difficult to fully grasp today amid all the houses, is clearly depicted. One can see that Cabbage Hill is really two hills separated by a valley. The hill in the foreground where Charles Parsons stood to draw the “View” is the southern hill and the hill where St. Joseph’s Church stands is the northern hill. The valley traversing the scene from left to right is the valley in which a tributary of Hoffman’s Run flowed on its way to a larger stream along South Water Street.

Several features that are important to the history of Cabbage Hill are captured in the scene. On the far left, several rows of houses trail away from the city toward the edge of the drawing. This is the only part of today’s Cabbage Hill that was developed in 1852. It is the neighborhood of Bethelstown along the first two blocks of High and Manor Streets that was laid out by Samuel Bethel, Jr. in 1762, and that had just begun to finally take off in the late 1840s. In the right center of the drawing are the three large buildings of the Conestoga Steam Cotton Mills on South Prince Street. In the late 1840s, these three mills and St. Joseph’s Church played key roles in attracting the new residents that were about to lead to the explosive growth of Cabbage Hill.

New streets and future streets can be identified on the lithograph. St Joseph Street can be seen as not much more than a fence-lined  farm lane emanating from the left side of St. Joseph’s Church and heading down to the tributary stream in the valley, where some thirty years later, New Dorwart Street would be constructed after the stream was drained into a large sewer beneath the street. To the right of St. Joseph Street, another fence-lined and tree-lined lane—Poplar Street—follows the same slope down to the valley bottom (are the trees lining this lane by any chance poplar trees?). Less well defined to the left of St. Joseph Street is another parallel fence line that looks like it might be the future site of West Vine Street. A similar fence line to the right of Poplar Street could be the future Fremont Street, as it seems to be leading to the house in the left foreground, which stands on Fremont Street today.

Enlargement of the left side of “View of Lancaster, Pa.”, showing important features of Cabbage Hill in 1852.

That house, partially hidden from Parsons’ view by the southern hill, and nestled on the lower slope above the valley floor, was the summer cottage of Catherine “Kitty” Yeates, daughter of Jasper Yeates, prominent lawyer and judge of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Lancaster. The house, known as Green Cottage, was built about 1820 as Miss Yeates’ summer cottage, and was the first house other than small farmhouses in the central part of Cabbage Hill. The artist even captured the slight change in angle of the gambrel roof that can only be seen in today’s roof upon close inspection. The house was later owned by Alexander J. Gerz and used as a hotel, and it still stands today at 613 Fremont Street, adapted for use as apartments.

The buildings in the “View” are drawn with such accuracy that one can use their positions relative to each other to locate the general area where Charles R. Parsons positioned himself to make the drawing. The spot where Parsons set up his easel was the hilltop near where Frank’s Garage is located in the 600 block of Union Street. Only from that location does the alignment of the Yeates cottage with St. Joseph’s Church match the alignment in the “View”. And only there do the relationships among the buildings of the Conestoga Steam Cotton Mills (now Water Street Rescue Mission , Carter & MacRae Elementary School, and the office of the School District of Lancaster), agree with the relationships in the lithograph

Fortunately, a high-quality original of this lithograph survives in the Wheatland Collection at LancasterHistory. It currently hangs in what appears to be its original frame in the rear stair hall at Wheatland. It provides a rare glimpse of a moment in time, fortuitously captured more than 165 years ago, just before the central part of Cabbage Hill blossomed with development.

Who’s Who on the Hill: Vicente Ramos

A: I have been involved in this neighborhood since 2001 when we purchased a home on West Strawberry Street for my mother. Before that she lived with my wife and I. We found out about the house through some friends.

by Melissa Hess

Questions and photographs are from an interview Melissa Hess conducted with Vicente Ramos, SoWe Resident and Board Member in 2016

Q: How long have you lived in the neighborhood and why did you decide to move here?

A: I have been involved in this neighborhood since 2001 when we purchased a home on West Strawberry Street for my mother. Before that she lived with my wife and I. We found out about the house through some friends. I learned that even though two women can love each other, they don’t always fit in one kitchen. My mother raised 12 children and she always loved to cook so she was thrilled to have her own place and her own kitchen. A few years later we purchased the house across the street which has a side lot where we plant all kinds of flowers and vegetables.  Just a couple years ago we bought a third house on West Strawberry Street which I manage and rent out. We work with Water Street Rescue Mission to provide a transitional living community for people coming out of homelessness.

Q: What do you “do” (profession, hobby, etc)?

A: I work in the financial services industry and and at a property management company. I am also chairperson of a non-profit organization called Care Force. Right now I am selling a variety of flowers and vegetables at my home to raise money for a service trip to Honduras through Care Force. Every year I take a group of volunteers overseas with the organization. On the service trips we provide medical services to people in need and also bring children’s clothing and other basic hygiene supplies to give away. All of the flowers that I sell to fundraise for the service trip are donated from Esbenshade’s Garden Center. Soon I will have pumpkins and mums for sale which are also donated from a farm in the area.

Q: What is a favorite memory or moment you recall from living on The Hill?

A: My favorite memory is when we bought the house for my mom and I saw how she was so happy to have her own place that she could call home.

Q: If you could change or improve something about the neighborhood, what would it be?

A: I would encourage people to keep the streets and sidewalks clean. I feel that we are making a difference in the neighborhood by making the outside of our home look beautiful. People tell me that they slow down when they pass by to check out all the plants and flowers in front of our house. I hear comments like “we love your place and the way it looks.”

Who’s Who on the Hill

I’m Melissa Hess, a photographer and stay-at-home mom who has been living with my family on the 600 block of Saint Joseph Street for the past 7 years.

A few years ago I started forming an idea about how to tell the visual stories of the people and places in Cabbage Hill, a historic neighborhood in South West Lancaster City where my husband and I bought our first home in the spring of 2012. Supposedly the name comes from the large German immigrant population that grew cabbage on their land here in the early 1900’s. Though today there are not many original “Hillians” left, the narrow one way streets lined with brick row homes and angular intersections still remain a part of this unique neighborhood.

My main motivation for this personal photography project is to give a face to the diverse population of people who live here and bring a positive light to the good things I see happening in our neighborhood. Despite being pictured in several LNP articles as one of the city’s “aging and increasingly distressed neighborhoods”, I think there are a lot of treasures to be found in this historic part of town.

First, it is probably one of the most culturally diverse areas of the city. My neighbors are a mix of people; blacks, Latinos, “Hillians” who have lived here their whole lives, urban Mennonites and recently resettled refugees from Somalia, Iraq and Nepal to name a few.

Soon after we moved here my husband and I started the Cabbage Hill Supper Club in order to get to know more folks in the neighborhood through potlucks hosted in neighbors’ homes. It has been a great way to build community.

There are non-profits such as the Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership (LHOP), Boys and Girls Club and Habitat for Humanity who are doing great work in our neighborhood. There is also the newly formed SoWe neighborhood organization that has various committees that residents can become involved in from housing to parks and recreation to education. LHOP and local partners have refurbished and sold several formerly blight houses to first-time home buyers and with a grant from Wells Fargo they plan to continue this work. Since we moved here, I know of more than a dozen families who have purchased their first home in Cabbage Hill.

There are churches who are invested in the neighborhood, hosting block parties, teaching ESL classes to refugees, and providing a space to hold community meetings. There are businesses who contribute to the neighborhood such as Two Dudes Painting Company who have beautified the area with several murals over the years. Most recently Two Dudes organized a mini mural project where a dozen or more artists (including myself) designed and painted murals around the neighborhood.

In the coming months and beyond, I plan to create a series of blog posts called “Who’s Who on the Hill” featuring photo essays of local residents and businesses who are making a difference in the community. To kick off this project, I’ve decided to share some images that I’ve taken around the neighborhood over the years. I wanted to capture the images of Cabbage Hill that stand out to me as unique and beautiful, whether it be interesting architecture or the way light falls through the colorful autumn trees. Stay tuned for the first “Who’s Who on the Hill” post. If you live in the neighborhood, feel free to nominate someone to feature in this series or send me your ideas. I want to spread the SoWe pride! You can email me at: melissa.engle@gmail.com

History on the Hill

Cabbage Hill has a long history as one of Lancaster’s most vibrant and enterprising neighborhoods. Quaint houses, hilly streets, a diverse population, and many neighborhood businesses are some of its attractions. But as we walk or drive around the Hill, it is easy to miss the amazing amount of rich history right before our eyes. Just beneath the surface of what we see are a couple of centuries’ worth of fascinating stories about the people, buildings, and businesses that once existed here.

The William Paulsen family posed in front of their house and bakery at 560 Manor Street in the summer of 1902.  (From private collection of Suzanne Stalling)

I am a retired geologist who was born and raised in Lancaster, and I have always been interested in history. For the past fifteen years, I have been researching selected topics of Lancaster’s history, with a recent emphasis on Cabbage Hill. Much of my research has been focused on my Hill ancestors, with surnames such as Paulsen, Krentz, Scherer, Kautz, and Frey. In the last few years, I have started researching other aspects of the Hill’s history, including Christ Lutheran Church, Bethelstown (the first neighborhood on the Hill), and early businesses on Manor Street. Some of my research has been published in The Journal of Lancaster County’s Historical Society.


The 400 block of Manor Street near West King Street during the grand opening of the newly paved street in June 1923. (From Author’s Private Collection)

Under the auspices of SoWe, the Southwest Lancaster Revitalization Project, I will be using this blog space to share some of my research findings, and to explore with you some of the hidden history of the Hill. I will periodically update this blog with what I hope you will find are interesting tidbits of Hill history. Several members of SoWe committees are as interested in Hill history as I am, and they will be bringing their historical knowledge to bear by suggesting research topics and providing input to this blog.

The Plow Tavern (1745-1924) on the northeast corner of the intersection of Charlotte and West King St in the early 1920’s. (From archival collection of LancasterHistory.org)

I also want to try to answer any questions you may have about Hill people, buildings, and businesses of the past, by researching things that interest you and reporting back on them in this blog. If you have always wondered about an unusual building, or are curious about how a well-known family name became established on the Hill, or are interested in what kinds of businesses have operated in a particular corner store, bring it to my attention by commenting on this blog or emailing SoWeCommunicate@SoWeLancaster.org and we can try to find the answers together.

I look forward to sharing and discovering with you many fascinating historical details and stories of…..History on the Hill.  

Jim Gerhart