Strawberry Hill Artful Intersection

Hello SoWe ! Let’s make some art.

The City of Lancaster is working with local artist, Fern Dannis, along with Two Dudes Painting Company to create an artful intersection at the  Strawberry Hill intersection.  This project is part of the Bloomberg Foundation’s Asphalt Art Initiative to create street murals and other creative interventions to improve pedestrian safety and enhance public spaces.

The intersection of West Strawberry Street, West Vine Street, and South Mulberry Street sits at the top of Cabbage Hill. This five-way intersection is a confusing space for pedestrians and vehicles and is integral to the neighborhood and city-wide traffic circulation. Public engagement is beginning  June 3rd, with the artwork being designed over the summer. The final application of paint-to-asphalt is set for September 11, 2021.

Community Engagement Sessions dates are below and are open to the public! Join us!
June 3rd 5:30 – 7:00 at Two Dudes Painting Co.– 750 Poplar St. Lancaster, PA 17603
June 26th 10:00 – 12:00 at 47 S. Mulberry St. Parking Lot

Cant make the community events but still want to provide feedback? Fill out this survey.

What is an artful intersection?
Artful Intersections connect artists and neighbors to work together to create street murals in their neighborhoods. The street murals serve as a reflection of the life and culture of the neighborhood; it is expected to expand the perceived public space to encompass the street; increase awareness and safety of alternative forms of transportation, and boost community development.

To learn more about the project, please visit https://engage.cityoflancasterpa.com. We are asking residents to respond to a community survey to provide input on pedestrian safety and the artwork for the intersection.

To view similar asphalt art projects, visit the Bloomberg Asphalt Art Initiative Website https://asphaltart.bloomberg.org/.

The Search for the Oldest House on Cabbage Hill

Jim Gerhart, May 2021

Cabbage Hill was nothing but forest, farmland, and pasture until 1762 when Bethelstown was laid out with 66 building lots on the first two blocks of what would become Manor and High Streets. Bethelstown grew slowly; by 1815, more than 50 years after its founding, there were only about 25-30 houses on its 66 lots. Nearly all of the houses were one-story houses made of logs and rough-sawn wood.

Most of the original houses on Manor and High were later replaced by two- and three-story brick houses built in the second half of the nineteenth century. However, at least one of the charter-member houses of old Bethelstown lasted well into the twentieth century before being razed—a log house with weatherboarding that used to stand at 442 Manor before it was taken down in 1963 to make room for a parking lot.

Which raises the question: Was 442 Manor the only survivor of the original 25-30 one-story houses from old Bethelstown, or is it possible that more of the original one-story houses are still present, hiding behind modern vinyl siding and form-stone? Most of the historical sources needed to answer this question are available online. The only one not completely online is county tax lists, and the staff of LancasterHistory was kind enough to supply the lists for the years not yet online.

Using Google Maps, I was surprised to discover that 27 one-story houses are still present in the 400 and 500 blocks of Manor and High. Of the 27, nine are single houses, fourteen are in seven house pairs, and four are grouped together in a connected row of houses. Using newspaper articles, city directories, street maps, property deeds, and other sources, I was able to determine that 20 of the 27 current one-story houses in the first two blocks of Manor and High were built in 1850 or later, and therefore are not old enough to be original houses from old Bethelstown. The remaining seven possibilities—two on Manor and five on High—were investigated in more detail.

The one-story log house at 433 High (right) and the one-story
frame house at 435 High (left). Author’s photo, 2021.

Of the seven houses that predate 1850, five were found to have been built in the 1840s, leaving just two—433 and 435 High Street—that had the potential to be old enough to be original Bethelstown houses. A couple of key deeds and tax records show that these two one-story houses, which are next-door neighbors on the northwest side of the 400 block of High, were built on Bethelstown lot 28, and that both houses were already present in 1840. The deeds show that 433 is a log house, adding to the potential that it could have been built quite a bit before 1840.

Making things a little more challenging, detailed maps and city directories do not exist before 1840, and many pre-1840 deeds that would be helpful seem to have gone unrecorded or have been lost. Consequently, tax lists took on a more important role in tracking these two houses before 1840. The continuity from year to year in the amount of ground rent paid for the lot, as well as the assessed value of the houses, enabled me to trace 433 and 435 High back in time before 1840 with some success. Also helpful were occasional notes written by the tax assessor when the properties were bought or sold.[1] 

The result is that “YES” is my answer to the question of whether any of the 25-30 houses from the pre-1815 days of old Bethelstown have survived. The weight of the evidence points to the one-story log house at 433 High as the oldest surviving house on the Hill. It appears to have been built no later than about 1801, and possibly earlier. Not surprisingly, because they are neighboring houses on the same original lot, the one-story frame house at 435 High also is old, having been built about 1814. I believe these two are the oldest surviving houses on Cabbage Hill—older by at least a couple decades than Catharine Yeates’ 1838 summer cottage at 613 Fremont, previously considered the oldest survivor. 

Part of county tax lists for 1840 that shows the properties on which Peter Bier III paid taxes. Note the second listing for Bier, which is for two houses on one lot in Bethelstown. These houses are now 433 and 435 High Street. Bier III paid ground rent of seven shillings on the lot, and the two houses together were valued at $360.

So, who built these historic houses at 433 and 435 High, and who were their early owners? The early history of the houses involves a couple generations of the Bier family. Peter Bier, Sr. (1701-1781) was a German immigrant who arrived in this country in 1748, bringing with him a teenaged son, Peter, Jr. (1732-1801), and settling in Lancaster about 1760. Peter, Jr. was a cordwainer (shoemaker) living in the southeast part of the city, but owning several other houses and significant acreage, including on the Hill. Peter, Jr. married Elizabeth Buch in 1760 at First Reformed Church, and they had a son, Peter III (1763-1843). Peter III also was a shoemaker, but later in life a farmer. Peter III and his wife Catharine had several children, including a fourth-generation Peter (1797-1849) who became a doctor.

Peter Bier, Jr., who died in 1801, appears to have acquired Bethelstown lot 28 shortly before his death. Peter, Jr. may have built the house now at 433 High as soon as he acquired the lot, or the lot may have already had the house on it when he acquired it. If Peter, Jr. built it, the house dates to about 1800-01; if lot 28 already had a house on it when he bought it, the house dates to the late 1700s and was built by an unknown first owner. I suspect the house was already there when Peter, Jr. bought the lot, because he died within six months, and probably would not have had the time to build a house. This means the house likely was built in the late 1700s.

As part of Peter, Jr.’s estate, lot 28 and the house on it was inherited by his widow Elizabeth. She may have lived in the house for a short time, but mostly she rented the house to a series of tenants, including, in the years immediately following Peter, Jr.’s death, to John Williams, a young mason who decades later would end up owning most of the land in the southern half of Cabbage Hill. Also, a few records suggest that John Drepperd may have lived in the house in the early 1810s. Drepperd was a gunmaker whose father and grandfather were both famous gunmakers supplying rifles for troops in the Revolutionary War.

Sometime about 1814, the widow Bier (or her son Peter III) seems to have added a frame house to lot 28 (now 435 High). Both houses were occupied by tenants for the next 10 years or so, but then, about 1824, Elizabeth transferred the deed for the lot and houses to her son Peter III. Peter III continued to rent the houses to tenants up until 1841 when he sold lot 28 and both houses to Jacob Liphart, a real-estate investor who lived in Marietta.

Map of part of the 400 block of High Street in 1850, showing the one-story houses  at 433 (owned by John Zimmerer) and 435 (owned by Robert Boas).  From Moody and Bridgens.

Liphart rented the houses out for a short while, and then split the 62-foot-wide lot in half, with the northeast half containing the one-story log house now numbered 433 High, and the southwest half containing the one-story frame house now numbered 435 High. In 1844, Liphart sold the half with 433 to John Zimmerer, a middle-aged tailor and his wife Sarah. Earlier, in 1842, Liphart had sold the half with 435 to Robert Boas, a middle-aged laborer, his wife Franciska, and their young son. Both Zimmerer and Boas were German immigrants, and both families lived in the houses they had bought, each of which was valued at $220 in 1845.

Part of  1857 deed (Book I, Volume 14, Page 478) with mention of the log house at what is now 433 High.

John Zimmerer died in 1857, and his wife Sarah sold the log house at 433 to Jacob and Susan Glassbrenner for $300. The Glassbrenner family lived in the house for a few years and then rented it out to tenants. After Jacob died, his widow Susan, who had moved to Philadelphia, sold the house to William Lebkicher in 1906.

Robert and Franciska Boas lived in the frame house at 435 High for many years. Sometime in the 1860s, they added the two-story brick house next door at 437 High, squeezing it into the remaining part of their lot. Boas and his wife moved into the larger 437 and rented 435 out to tenants until Boas’s death. In 1881, the frame house at 435 High and its larger brick companion at 437 were sold as part of Boas’s estate for $1,000 to John Kirsch. In 1920, after Kirsch had died, the courts granted the property to his widow Barbara at a value of $500 as part of her widow’s exemption.

Map of part of the 400 block of High Street in 1897, showing the one-story log house at 433 High and the one-story frame house at 435 High, as well as the two-story brick house at 437 High that was added next to 435 in the 1860s.  From Sanborn Fire Insurance Map.

Today, Peter Bier III would have difficulty recognizing his houses. The one-story log house at 433 High is covered with vinyl siding, and the one-story frame house at 435 High is sheathed in gray form-stone. Both houses have had their original doors, windows, and roofs replaced. Dormers have been replaced or enlarged, and concrete steps now lead up to the front doors. But behind all the modern features, more than 200 years of history lie hidden.

It is my belief that 433 and 435 High Street are the only two houses that survive from the original 25-30 houses built in old Bethelstown between 1762 and 1815. Since Bethelstown preceded the development of the rest of the Hill, these two houses also are the oldest surviving houses on all of Cabbage Hill.

Sometimes a little historical sleuthing can uncover some remarkable stories hiding just behind modern siding and form-stone on the old houses on the Hill.

Bloomberg Philanthropies Grant Creates Opportunity for Creative Traffic Interventions

The City of Lancaster has been awarded a $25,000 national grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, in partnership with the SoWe Neighborhood Group and the Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership to create a street mural at the intersection of West Strawberry, South Mulberry, and West Vine Streets in the Cabbage Hill neighborhood. Support is also being provided by Sherwin Williams. This project is supported by a grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Asphalt Art Initiative which helps cities use art and community engagement to improve street safety and revitalize public space. The focus of the initiative is asphalt art: visual interventions on roadways, pedestrian spaces, and vertical infrastructure. Lancaster is one of 16 cities to receive the grant. 

“To achieve the goals and programs outlined in our Ten-Year Plan for Public Art, we rely on grants like this. The support allows us to work directly with community members to create projects in their neighborhoods. An exciting part of this project is how it puts artists and neighbors together to solve design problems while working together with planners and engineers in our Department of Public Works. ” said Joanna Davis, City of Lancaster Public Art Manager. 

The project is in its early stages and set to develop through the summer of 2021 with the goal to install in early fall.  A steering committee consisting of Cabbage Hill residents, arts professionals and a member of the Public Art Advisory Board has begun to meet. The steering committee will help to move the project along by assisting in community outreach efforts, artist selection, and design review.  

“Public art has many useful definitions, but for our Lancaster community it needs to involve the public. This intersection [project] at Vine, Mulberry and Strawberry is about the decisions and process through which the art will come to be. It’s an exciting time–so get involved and make your voice heard!” said Mimi Shapiro, City of Lancaster resident, artist, and Steering Committee member. 

The artist call can be found here!

The community can send feedback or questions about this project to the project manager Yarlyn Rosario at yrosario@cityoflancasterpa.com.  

For additional information about other projects in the Asphalt Art Initiative, visit, https://asphaltart.bloomberg.org/.   

One-Story Houses on Cabbage Hill

Jim Gerhart, March 2021

They were once the dominant style of house on Cabbage Hill, but now they are far outnumbered by Victorian rowhouses and duplexes. Most have been torn down, and many of the ones that remain have been remodeled and disguised to the point that it’s hard to recognize them anymore. Nevertheless, if you pay attention, you can still see good examples of the original house style of old Cabbage Hill—the small one-story house (also sometimes known as the one-and-a-half-story house).

Before 1750, what would eventually become known as Cabbage Hill had only a few scattered houses and farm buildings, constructed mostly of hand-hewn logs. By 1800, a cluster of houses had been built in Bethelstown—the first two blocks of Manor and High Streets—while the rest of the Hill was still undeveloped. In Bethelstown, in 1800, the number of houses was only about 20, with some made of brick but still mostly of log, and nearly all one-story.

By 1850, Bethelstown had grown to nearly 100 houses, with a few two-story houses appearing but still with mostly one-story houses. Brick was fast becoming the most popular construction material. Shortly after 1850, the rest of the Hill began to be developed, with a mixture of two-story and one-story houses being built, mostly with bricks. By 1875, brick houses were being built by the hundreds all over the Hill, and nearly all of them were larger and of two or three stories. The era of small one-story houses was mostly over, and as they began to age, many were torn down and replaced with the larger, multi-story houses that dominate the Hill today.


The 57 one-story houses on Cabbage Hill today, shown on an 1874 map. 31 single houses are denoted by red circles; 11 house pairs are denoted by yellow circles; and a grouping of four houses is denoted by a black circle.

When the era of small one-story houses ended about 1875, there were about 150 of them on Cabbage Hill, as defined by the area bounded by Manor, West Strawberry, Fremont, and Fairview. By the early 1900s, that number had been reduced to about 120 as some were replaced with larger houses. Today, there are only 57 one-story houses left on the Hill. High Street and Manor Street, which include what used to be old Bethelstown, have the most, with 26 and 16, respectively. St. Joseph (5), Poplar (3), Lafayette (3), Fremont (2), Fairview (1), and West Strawberry (1) don’t have nearly as many. Of the one-story houses that remain, 36 are brick and 21 are wood frame.

Thirty-eight of the 57 remaining one-story houses were built before the Civil War, with 31 of them being built in the 1850s and the other seven in the 1840s or earlier. The great majority of the 38 houses built before the Civil War are in the first two blocks of Manor and High. Another 11 of the remaining one-story houses were built in the 1860s, and eight were built after 1870, including a few as late as the 1880s and 1890s. The great majority of the one-story houses built in the 1860s and later are not on Manor and High, but in surrounding blocks where development was spreading after the Civil War.


637 High Street was built by Frederick Heilman about 1859. Heilman was a weaver as well as a saloonkeeper on South Queen. After his death, when this brick house was advertised for sale in 1883, it was described as having a lot that was 54 feet wide and 226 feet deep, a one-story brick kitchen, a weaving shop, and fruit trees. Today, the house has a new door and windows, and is painted light green, but its basic appearance is pretty much the same as when it was new.

Although all the remaining 57 one-story houses are relatively small, they are not all the same size. The smaller houses have just two bays (a door and one window on the front), with the smallest two-bay houses measuring only about 11 feet wide (412, 545-547, and 549-551 Manor). The larger houses have four bays (a door and three windows on the front), with the largest of these approaching 20 feet wide (416, 539 High). All are at least as deep as they are wide, and some have additions attached to the rear of the house, some of which are original. Square footage ranges from less than 500 to more than 1,000 square feet. Most have two to four rooms on the first floor and one to two rooms in the attic. Even though many families were large, houses did not have to be big in the mid-1800s. Working-class families did not own much furniture or have many personal belongings, and for many, houses were mainly protection from the weather.


459 High Street was built by Xavier Frey about 1849, making it one of the 100 or so houses in Bethelstown in 1850. The original 62-foot wide lot extended to Lafayette Street, before the lot was subdivided both in width and length. The exterior of the wood-frame house has been altered from its original appearance, with a new door, new windows, and a new metal roof. However, it still has old wood siding and shutters.

An interesting feature of the one-story houses on the Hill is the fact that many of them were built as pairs. Twenty-two of the remaining 57 houses are combined in 11 pairs. In most of these pairs, the two houses are symmetrical pairs (mirror images), where the house on each side is the same size but reversed in terms of the location of the front door. In a couple of the pairs, one side is bigger than the other, which makes them asymmetrical. In addition to the 11 pairs, there is one grouping where four houses are grouped into a connected row (548-554 Manor). There are also several instances where one side of an original pair has been converted into a two-story house, in which case the two-story house has not been counted among the 57 remaining houses.

Most of the one-story houses have first floors that were raised above street and sidewalk level. Many are about two feet above street level, and some are three feet or more above. There may be several reasons for this: (1) To minimize excavation; (2) to allow the first floor at the rear of the house to be level with the higher backyard; and (3) to elevate the front door above the dirt roads that would frequently flood and get muddy when it rained.

523 High Street was built by George Hauser about 1847. At more than 1,000 square feet, it is probably one of the largest one-story houses still standing on the Hill. Hauser died shortly after building the house; his widow Catharine lived here for 25 years after his death. This frame house was built before any semblance of a real street was present, and it turned out to be set farther back from the completed street than the later houses around it.

Nearly all of the remaining 57 one-story houses have been altered over the years. Some have had dormers added and some have had their original dormers enlarged. Some of the brick houses have had their brick painted. Many of the houses, both brick and frame, have been sheathed in aluminum or vinyl siding, and a fair number have had form-stone installed on their front sides. Most have had their original doors and windows replaced, and some have had front porches added. Nearly all of them have had their original roofs—wood or slate shingles—replaced with composition shingles or metal. Despite the alterations to most of the houses, several have retained most of their original character and no doubt look much the same as they did a century or more ago.

549-551 Manor Street was built by John Campbell about 1850. The small two-bay brick houses are a symmetrical pair. The house on the left (551) looks somewhat the same as it would have in 1850, excepting the new door, window, and roof, and the paint color. The house on the right (549) has a new door, window, and roof, as well as an enlarged dormer. Campbell also built the identical pair of houses to the right in 1850. At one time, the Campbell family owned about 300 feet of frontage along the northwest side of Manor Street.

The 57 remaining one-story houses on Cabbage Hill are the survivors of a much larger population of such houses on the Hill. Most of the survivors have seen more than ten owners and dozens of different tenants, and some have undergone numerous and sometimes major alterations, both externally and internally. But even with all the changes, it is still possible to look at these houses today and imagine how the Hill must have looked in its very early years, when only widely-spaced houses like these were present. These early one-story houses are valuable in a historic sense, and they deserve to be respected by their landlords and tenants. It is important to make sure these old houses continue to survive as picturesque reminders of old Cabbage Hill.

412-414 Manor Street was built about 1842 by George Hartman. This pair of brick houses is an asymmetrical pair, with a two-bay house on the left and a three-bay house on the right. The Henry Buckius family lived in the larger house for 50 years starting in 1861, while Henry operated a cobbler shop out of the smaller house. The first Sunday school of Christ Lutheran Church was held here in 1867. The lower photo of the same two houses was taken about 1907.

Note: Once research facilities open up again, I will nail down a few loose ends and post a complete list of all 57 one-story houses on the Hill, along with dates of construction, builders’ names, and primary early owners.

The Streets of Cabbage Hill

(Plus a Valentine’s Day request)

Jim Gerhart, February 2021

A quiz for Cabbage Hill residents: Which of the following five street names were actual street names on Cabbage Hill in the nineteenth century? (1) Buttonwood Alley, (2) Roberts Street, (3) West Washington Street, (4) Williams Lane, and (5) Slab Alley.

The answer to the quiz: All five were actual street names on the Hill. OK, maybe the question is a little unfair, even for old-timers. You would have to be well over 100  years old to have any in-person memory of some of the street names in the quiz.

The point is that the names of many of the streets on the Hill have changed over the past 200 years. Specifically, there are 12 main streets in the historic core of Cabbage Hill, which is bounded by Manor, West Strawberry, Fremont, and Fairview. Those 12 streets have had more than 30 different names.

Streets on Cabbage Hill in the mid to late 1850s, shown on an 1858 map. From T.J. Kennedy’s Map of Lancaster.

Manor Street, the oldest street on the Hill, was already a well-traveled Native American trading trail when Lancaster was founded in 1729. It was known as the Blue Rock Road in the mid to late 1700s, because it led to an early ferry across the Susquehanna at Blue Rock just south of Washington Boro. In the early 1800s, the southwestern stretch of the street was often called the Manor Turnpike, because of the toll levied on travelers as they crossed the southwestern city limits. Finally, in the mid-1800s, the street became known as Manor Street.  

West Strawberry Street is the second oldest street on the Hill, having been a dirt cowpath that marked the southwest edge of central Lancaster when James Hamilton laid out his building lots in 1729. It was known as Slab Alley as late as the 1840s and then in the early 1850s, it became West Strawberry, to distinguish it from its continuation known as East Strawberry on the other side of South Queen Street.

On the opposite end of the historic core of the Hill, Fairview Avenue has been around a long time as a connecting road to South Prince and South Queen at Engleside. From the mid-1800s to 1915, it was called Love Lane, and it has been Fairview Avenue since then. The change of name to Fairview makes sense because it runs along a ridge from which expansive views were possible. I can find no explanation for its first, more amorous, name.

High Street originated with the founding of Bethelstown in 1762 when building lots were laid out on either side of its first two blocks (400 and 500 blocks). By the 1850s, High had been extended southwest to Love Lane, bridging the small stream at the bottom of the hill where New Dorwart is today. Presumably it was called High because of the location of the 400 block on a high point known as Dinah’s Hill.

St. Joseph Street has a complicated naming history. The 400 block of St. Joseph was established in 1850 when St. Joseph Catholic Church was built. At the time the church was built, the street it fronted was called Union Street (not to be confused with today’s Union a few blocks to the southeast, which didn’t exist yet). Then, in the early 1850s, just to make things even more confusing, the street was sometimes referred to as Poplar Street (before today’s Poplar a block over was established). Finally, by the end of the 1850s, the 400 and 500 blocks were renamed St. Joseph. However, at that time, St. Joseph did not extend beyond what is now New Dorwart, and in the meantime the 700 block between Fairview and Laurel had been laid out, and the street there was known as West Washington Street. In the late 1850s, when the two streets were connected by the building of a bridge over the small stream at the future New Dorwart, the entire street became known as St. Joseph.

Part of an article establishing Block Committees in the Southwest Ward, in which the early names of some streets are referred to; from the Daily Evening Express, December 15, 1857.

Now that we’ve brought up Poplar Street……When St. Joseph Church was built in 1850, the small alley behind the church with no houses on it had no name. In the late 1850s, it became Poplar and it was extended to the stream at the bottom of the hill at about the same time the future 700 block of Poplar was laid out on the far side of the stream. In 1870, building lots were laid out on the east side of the 400 block of Poplar. A year later, on the other side of the stream, the 700 block was named Poplar Alley. In the late 1870s, the street was connected with a bridge over the stream, and the whole street was named Poplar Street.

Moving farther east, Fremont Street was established in the late 1850s, starting with the 700 block between Fairview and Laurel. In 1870, when the building lots were laid out along the 400 block of Poplar, so too were building lots on both sides of the 400 block of Fremont. In the early 1870s, the two ends of Fremont were connected by completing the street in between them. Like Love Lane, I don’t know the origin of the name of Fremont Street, although when the street was first laid out in the 1850s, John C. Fremont was a popular national personality who had been an explorer of the West and then the Republican opponent of James Buchanan in the 1856 presidential election.

Now heading back to the west……West Vine Street started as a narrow alley behind the Bethelstown lots that fronted on the southeast side of High in 1762. The first inkling of the street that would become West Vine was born between Fairview and Laurel, where Buttonwood Alley was established in the late 1850s. When the blocks to the northwest up to West Strawberry were established by the 1880s, they were called Buttonwood Street. Buttonwood was renamed West Vine in 1890 as the southwestern continuation of the older West Vine on the other side of West Strawberry.

Next, to a street that cuts across the Hill from the northwest to the southeast—Laurel Street. It was first named in the early 1850s when it was a private lane providing access to the 25-acre property of John Williams between Manor and St. Joseph, and naturally enough it was called Williams Lane. In the 1860s, it was briefly known as New German Street, and then just New Street, and by about 1870, it became known as Laurel Alley, possibly named for local vegetation. From about 1885 to today, it has been Laurel Street.

Part of an article describing the city’s plan for naming alleys in the 8th Ward; from the Intelligencer Journal, November 21, 1871.

Another northwest-southeast street is Filbert Street. From the establishment of Bethelstown in 1762, there had always been an alley where the first block of Filbert is now. In the late 1850s to early 1860s, it was known locally as Gougler’s Alley, so named because of the house of Jacob and Rebecca Gougler at its intersection with Manor. But it wasn’t until 1871, when the city named or renamed all its alleys, that it became Filbert Alley. About 1890, Filbert Alley was promoted to Filbert Street. Because of irregular property boundaries near the old St. Joseph Cemetery, Filbert had to be offset slightly at St. Joseph Street.

Another alley that eventually grew up to be a street is Lafayette Street. In old Bethelstown, the lots on the southeast side of Manor extended back to meet the lots on the northwest side of High. They met at a narrow alley that would eventually become Lafayette Alley. In the late 1850s, houses had started to be built fronting the alley and the 400 block of the alley was widened to become Lafayette Street. At the same time, the 700 block of Lafayette was established, with a gap in the street where the 500 and 600 blocks would soon be. By about 1890, the two developed ends of the street met in the middle, making one continuous Lafayette Street. The street may have been named for the Lafayette Hotel, which existed on Manor in the 1840s and 1850s, and backed to the alley that would become Lafayette.

All the streets that run from West Strawberry to Fairview had to contend with the small stream that used to run where New Dorwart is today. For most of those streets, the last segments to be built (the 500 and 600 blocks) were the ones nearest the stream. In the 1860s, it appears that a rough path that ran along the stream valley was known as Roberts Lane, likely named for Anthony Roberts who owned land nearby. In the 1880s, the city placed a 6-foot-high brick sewer under the stream, diverted the stream into it, and built New Dorwart on top of it. New Dorwart was first named South Dorwart, a name that faded gradually over time and was finally replaced with New Dorwart about the 1920s. New Dorwart had to be offset at Lafayette, and again at High, because of bends in the now-vanished stream around which early houses had to be built.

Now, if your eyes have not yet completely glazed over with all these street names………In honor of this month’s Valentine’s Day, if anybody has any ideas on why Fairview Avenue was originally called Love Lane, please comment with your ideas!

The Humane Hose Company on Manor Street

Jim Gerhart, January 2021

Cabbage Hill once had its very own volunteer fire company. From 1838 to 1882, it served the West King and Manor Street corridors. Starting very humbly as the Humane Hose Company, it fought many fires and was a source of much neighborhood pride.

The Humane Hose Company was established in 1838 by a group of civic-minded citizens of the west and southwest sections of Lancaster. In August of that year, they purchased a hose carriage from a company in Philadelphia and paraded it through the streets of Lancaster, with the “uniform of the members neat and appropriate” and its members “entitled to much credit for their zeal and public spirit.”

First location of Humane Hose Company on the north side of West King, just west of Concord Alley. From  Moody and Bridgens, 1850.

In March 1839, the charter of the Humane Hose Company was approved, limiting the company to 40 subscribing members and establishing its hierarchy of officers and directors. The company rented part of a lot on the north side of West King just above Concord, and built a small frame building in which to keep its hose carriage.

In the early 1840s, a few of Lancaster’s more established fire companies had their own horse-drawn, hand-pumper engines, but the Humane only had a hose carriage, which was simply a large reel holding a wound-up hose on a four-wheeled carriage. The members of the Humane would pull the carriage to the scene of a fire using ropes, unwind the hose and hook it to one of the city’s new fire plugs, and use the hose to fill the tanks of the hand-pumpers of the other companies.

Remains of the first house of Humane Hose Company on West King. Photo taken in early 1880s by George M. Steinman, Humane treasurer, some 30 years after the Humane had moved from the site, and just before the building was torn down in the mid-1880s.

In June 1853, for $225, the Humane purchased the rear portion of a lot on West King to be the site of their new larger hose house. The Humane’s lot fronted 21 feet on the northwest side of Manor and extended 30 feet in depth. The Humane built a two-story brick hose house on the site, approximately where the rear parking lot for Reveron Electronic, Inc. is today, across from 424 Manor. The hose house was topped with a bell tower from which fire calls would ring out.

Location of Humane Steam Fire Engine Company No. 6 on Manor Street. From Everts and Stewart, 1875.

At the time the Humane’s new hose house was built, the company boasted 75 active members. Only six were property owners; the others were minors or those “who earn their bread by hard labor”. Their hose carriage had become old and was in need of repair, eight sections of hose were deemed too old to function dependably, and the company was $550 in debt. Other volunteer companies also were struggling with hose problems, and in 1854, the city allocated $3,000 to be shared among the Humane and four other companies for the purchase of new hoses.  

Humane Steam Fire Engine Company No. 6 on Manor Street, about where the rear parking lot of Reveron Electronic, Inc. is today, across from 424 Manor. This house was built in 1853, and was the home of the company for about 25 years. Note the steam-pumper fire engine proudly displayed in front of building. The Humane bought their steam-pumper in 1867, so this photo was likely taken shortly after then. Photo from collection of George M. Steinman, treasurer of the company.

By 1857, the Humane’s situation had improved to the point that it was able to purchase its first engine—a used hand-pumper purchased from the Union Fire Company for $300. The hand-pumper engine was a metal tank mounted on a horse-drawn, four-wheeled carriage. In the tank, which was filled with water, was a set of pistons that were operated by long horizontal levers called brakes extending from either side of the carriage. Teams of men moved the brakes up and down in rapid succession to activate the pistons, drawing water in from a hose connected to a water source with one stroke, and then driving the water out under pressure through a hose leading to the site of the fire with the next stroke.

The Civil War had a major impact on the Humane. The call for soldiers drew on the same pool of young men who were active in the Humane. In early September 1862, about 10 days before the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam), the Governor of Pennsylvania asked for all able-bodied men to start military drills in their neighborhoods, as the Confederate Army was moving north to invade the state. As a result, a large number of men from the “Hill” met at the Humane’s hose house to get organized. One of the speakers noted that 69 of the Humane’s volunteers had become soldiers and that only 18-20 volunteers were still available locally to fight fires.

By the mid-1860s, the Humane decided that it should have a steam-pumper like the one the Union Fire Company had recently acquired. A steam-pumper consisted of a steam boiler mounted on a horse-drawn, four-wheel carriage. The steam boiler was used to pressurize the water, forcing a stream of water through a hose directed at a fire. In 1866, the members of the Humane began canvassing the neighborhood for subscriptions to buy a new steam-pumper.

In early January 1867, after enough money had been pledged, a committee was appointed to purchase a steam-pumper. The committee went to Philadelphia to purchase the new apparatus, and a couple weeks later the new steam-pumper was delivered to Lancaster. The steamer was purchased for $2,800 from the Undine Steam Fire Company of Holland, New York, and had been built by A.B. Taylor.

On a cold January day, a parade was held to deliver the new steamer to the Humane’s house on Manor. Six Lancaster fire companies were represented, in addition to 75 men from the Humane. After the parade was over, the men of the Humane were anxious to see their new engine perform, so they took it back down to the square, where they fired it up and threw a stream of water 200 feet up North Queen.

In the early 1870s, the Humane is said to have declined in membership, and was saved from folding only by a reorganization in late 1875. Hugh Fulton was elected President, and the company officially modified its charter in April 1876, taking on the unwieldy new name of the Humane Steam Fire Engine and Forcing-Hose Company No. 6.

Lancaster City Fire Department Station House No. 1 in 1918. This house was completed in 1880 as the engine house of the Humane Steam Fire Engine and Forcing-Hose Company No. 6. The building is now occupied by Station One Center for the Arts. Photo courtesy of Ryan Conklin, Lancaster City Fire Department.

The revitalized Humane decided to move out of its aging house on Manor. A lot was purchased for $2,100 not far away on the north side of the 400 block of West King, and the foundation for a new larger building was laid there in 1878. The new engine house cost almost $5,300, and was completed in 1880. It still stands at 411 West King and is currently occupied by Station One Center for the Arts.

The grand opening of the new West King engine house in October 1880 was marked by a ball attended by 150 couples. The ball was held in the large second-floor room of the new house, which measured 40 by 100 feet. The newly energized version of the Humane seemed to be on its way, but within about two years, it went out of business when Lancaster City decided to take over the firefighting services that had heretofore been handled by the numerous volunteer companies.

In April 1882, the new city fire department was established, and in June 1883, the city purchased the Humane’s three-year-old house on West King for $5,200. The city designated the house on West King as its Station House No. 1, which would remain in use for many decades.

The Humane Hose Company on Manor is now a forgotten ghost of old Cabbage Hill, but in its time it was a formidable firefighting organization that helped protect the Hill’s buildings for some 40 years, as well as an important part of the Hill’s social scene.

We are HIRING!

We are hiring! We are seeking a dedicated community member to serve as a Housing Location Specialist. The Housing Location Specialist will develop and maintain working relationships with Lancaster landlords and property managers for the purpose of locating and securing housing for residents residing in Southern Lancaster City

Housing Location Specialist (part of the SoWe program)

Tabor Community Services, a non-profit community benefit organization providing programs and services to foster housing and financial stability in Lancaster County, PA, is seeking qualified candidates for a full-time Housing Location Specialist employed and supervised by Tabor/LHOP as part of the SoWe program.

The Housing Location Specialist will develop and maintain working relationships with Lancaster landlords and property managers for the purpose of locating and securing housing for residents residing in Southern Lancaster City. For the full list of functions, please read the full job description.

Key Qualifications include:

  • 2 years of post-secondary education required; Bachelor’s degree preferred.
  • One year of relevant experience required; two or more years preferred. Experience working in rental housing field preferred.
  • Commitment to housing as a human right.
  • Negotiation and sales skills are essential.
  • Ability to understand the interests and concerns of landlords/property managers, and develop effective working relationships with them.
  • Knowledge of available affordable rental housing in the County, building codes and safety standards for rental housing.
  • Knowledge/understanding of tenant’s rights and responsibilities
  • Excellent communication skills especially in listening and mediation.
  • Strong organizational skills with ability to meet a demanding workload.
  • Detail-orientated to complete requirements of files and contract compliance.
  • Ability to speak, write, and understand English is required; fluency in Spanish preferred.
  • Proficiency using computers and Microsoft Office.
  • Sensitivity to cultural and socio-economic characteristics of population served.
  • The ability to establish and maintain respectful relationships and healthy boundaries with residents.
  • The ability to work collaboratively with other personnel and/or service providers.
  • Valid driver’s license, a car, and willingness to travel in the community

Qualified applicants should send, via e-mail (preferred) or U.S. mail, a letter detailing their interest and qualifications, resume, and the names with contact information for 3 references to:

Jake Thorsen

jthorsen@lhop.org

Postal address:

308 E. King Street

Lancaster, PA 17602

The History of 434 West King Street

Jim Gerhart, December 2020

One of the better-preserved one-story houses in Lancaster is the blue house with the red door at 434 West King Street. This four-bay, center-chimney, Germanic-style house is typical of the many hundreds of such houses, also sometimes known as one-and-a-half-story houses, that once dominated the architecture of the city during the Federal period of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The 550-square-foot house is located on the very northern edge of the SoWe project area, less than a block outside of Cabbage Hill.

434 West King Street. Photo courtesy of its current owner, David Aviles Morales.

How old is the house? Who built it? Who owned it over the years? There is not much information available to answer these questions, and what little exists is somewhat contradictory. Real-estate websites date the house as early as the 1790s and as late as 1880. A 1985 survey by the Historic Preservation Trust and a 1995 report by the City of Lancaster both refer to the property as the Geise House and date it to about 1840. But an old map and tax records show that a Barbara Geiss owned the house next door instead. To try to resolve these conflicts and answer the questions above, extensive research into historic deed, tax, directory, newspaper, and other sources was undertaken.

The result of that research indicates that 434 West King has an interesting and fairly complicated history. Construction of this venerable old one-story frame house probably was completed in 1817. The lot where the house is located was originally 64 feet wide along the south side of West King and 245 feet deep to what would eventually become Campbell Alley. The house’s early history is closely tied to the Eberman family, a prominent family in Lancaster in the late 1700s.

John Eberman III (1776-1846) probably began building the house at 434 in late 1816. John III, a cashier and bank treasurer, was the son of John Eberman, Jr. (1749-1835), a famous clockmaker whose clocks are highly valued today. John, Jr. also was a prominent Lancaster citizen who served as Chief Burgess and Justice of the Peace, and as a sergeant in the Revolutionary War. John, Jr. made and installed the four-dial clock in the steeple of the second courthouse in the square about 1785. John, Jr.’s father, John Eberman, Sr. (1722-1805), was a soap boiler and tallow chandler who immigrated to Lancaster from Germany in the mid-1740s. The Ebermans were a prolific family: John, Sr. had 12 children, John, Jr. 13, and John III 10.

Part of the Lancaster County tax list for Lancaster Borough for 1817, the first year that 434 West King was on the tax rolls. Note that John Eberman, the owner,  had taken in “P. Sugar’s” as a tenant in his “unfinished” house. The four numbers at the end of the entry denote 1 house, 1 lot, 63 shillings ground rent, and $250 assessed value.

Several members of the extended Eberman family owned 434 from 1816 to 1838. Before John III had even completed the house, his first tenant moved in. Tax records show that John III rented the house “unfinished to P. Shugar’s” in 1817. (Presumably John III and/or Shugar completed the house shortly thereafter.) Peter Shugar was related to John III through marriage; he had married John III’s aunt, Elizabeth Eberman, in 1796. Upon marrying into the Eberman family, Shugar took over the aging John, Sr.’s soap and chandler business. The Shugars had six children.

Unfortunately, Peter Shugar, whose surname was later anglicized to Schucker, died a couple years after moving into 434. Immediately after Peter’s death, his wife Elizabeth bought the house, which was valued at $250, from her nephew, John III. A few years later, in 1823 or 1824, Elizabeth divided the lot into two, keeping 434 on the western half of the lot for herself and selling the vacant eastern half of the lot back to her nephew, John III. By 1829, John III had built a one-story frame house on the eastern half of the lot, the house number for which would eventually be 430. (This house, which had a brick front and was a little larger than 434, was torn down around 1900 and replaced with the three-story building that now stands to the east of 434.)

In 1830 or 1831, the ownership of 434 became more complicated. Elizabeth Shugar sold the house to Jacob Eberman, a shoemaker who was Elizabeth’s nephew, the son of her older brother Philip. Jacob was also Elizabeth’s son-in-law. He had married his first cousin, Peter and Elizabeth’s daughter Sarah Shugar, in 1824. Jacob’s ownership of 434 did not last very long. By 1832, Jacob and Sarah and their children had moved to Wooster, Ohio, selling 434 to Jacob’s cousin William Eberman, the son of John, Jr., the clockmaker, and the younger brother of John III. (Jacob and Sarah would return to Lancaster about a year later, and live in a one-story house on West King across from 434.) William Eberman, who bought 434 from Jacob, was a tinsmith and an innkeeper. William also bought the house at 430 at the same time.

Advertisement in the Lancaster Examiner, August 16, 1838, describing the public sale of William Eberman’s two houses, one of which was the house at 434 West King. 

William Eberman owned 434 and 430 until 1838 when he apparently ran into financial trouble and was forced to sell the two houses to pay off his debts. Dr. Charles Herbst, a pharmacist, bought both houses at a public sale in September 1838. In a newspaper advertisement for the sale, the houses were described as “two one story frame dwelling houses, one of which has a brick front a wood shed etc.” on a “full lot of ground on the south side of West King Street.”

Charles Herbst sold both houses on April 1, 1840. The house at 430 was sold to Barbara Geiss, a widow with a young son, for $475. The house at 434 was sold for $425 to Margaret Gantz, a widow who had two children. At about the same time widow Gantz bought 434, she remarried, to Joseph Kunkle. Joseph Kunkle was a peddler, and he and Margaret had four more children together over the next decade.

1850 map showing  the house at 434 West King and its owner J. (Joseph) Kunkle. Also shown is the house next door at 430 West King and its owner Mrs. (Barbara) Geiss (misspelled Dise).  From Moody and Bridgens.

Joseph Kunkle died in the mid-1860s. His wife Margaret continued living in 434 until her death in 1890. Margaret’s will stipulated that her daughters Mary and Rose were to continue to live in 434 as long as they wished. The two sisters lived there following Margaret’s death for five years until Rose came down from the attic level one day to discover her sister Mary dead in the summer kitchen.

Rose Kunkle continued living in 434 until she married Leo Myers in 1909 and moved with him to St. Joseph Street, where Leo ran a grocery store. (Leo Myers’ grocery was located in the recently-painted light green house on the corner of Filbert and St. Joseph Streets, with “Welcome to Cabbage Hill” painted on its side.) When Leo died in 1913, Rose moved back to 434, living there alone until her death in 1929.

After Rose’s death, the administrator for Margaret Kunkle’s estate sold the house at public sale to Sarah and Jack Winkoff, who paid $4,380 for the house and half lot. An advertisement for the public sale stated that the “Lot fronts 33 feet on the south side of West King street…” and “The improvements consist of a 1 ½ story frame house, with six rooms.”

The Minkoffs rented out 434 until 1965, when they sold it to Ronald Cook, who lived there until 1973, when he sold it to Carol Miller, who lived there into the 1980s. The current owner is David Aviles Morales, who has maintained it without changing its basic historical appearance. The house is now available for booking as an Airbnb rental.

So, to answer the earlier questions: 434 West King was built about 1817 by John Eberman III. For a 203-year-old house, it has not had very many owners, with the Eberman, Kunkle, and Minkoff families accounting for nearly 150 of those years. A good name for the house might be the Eberman-Kunkle House, in honor of its builder and the family that owned it the longest.

As a survivor from an earlier time in Lancaster’s history, 434 West King reminds us of what much of Lancaster used to look like. Hopefully, it will continue to have owners dedicated to its preservation, and serve as a reminder of our history for many years to come.

SoWe Give Extra

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).              

Helvetia Leather Company: A Ghost of Cabbage Hill Past

Jim Gerhart, November 2020

1887 advertisement for Helvetia Leather Company.

Cabbage Hill 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.

In the 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.)

The new 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.

Wetter and 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 leather field.

Diagram from patent application for “Machine for Treating Leather with Hot Air”, U.S. Patent No. 266,695, October 31, 1882, by Anthony Iske and Albert Wetter.

Ever since 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.

Unfortunately, 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.

1897 map showing the Helvetia Leather Company complex at 520-534 Poplar Street; from Sanborn fire insurance map

The 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 as others.

The Helvetia 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 time.

Throughout 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 1906.

Advertisement for public sale of Helvetia Leather Company in 1909.

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.

Building at 536-538 Poplar that was once part of the complex of buildings of the Helvetia Leather Company tannery and factory. The eight two-story houses at 520-534 Poplar, just uphill from 536-538, were built about 1911 where the factory and other buildings once stood.

Two small, 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.