By John Cowgill
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is known for its Amish lifestyle and its rich farmlands. It is a county built around Lancaster, the oldest city in America that is not on a navigable waterway. Although many are familiar with Lancaster and the suburban town of Strasburg with the famous Strasburg Railroad, another suburb has also been getting noticed.
Welcome to Lititz, Pennsylvania. Lititz was established by Moravians in 1756 and named by Count Zinzendorf after a town in Bohemia, Germany. It was the second oldest Moravian established town in America behind Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In 2013, it was named the Best Small Town in America, and it is still considered one of the top small towns in the nation. However, the town has grown from its small-town status.
The Lititz Museum is a good place to learn about this town. Founded by the Lititz Historical Foundation and housed in the original home of Christian Schropp, it provides a detailed history of the Moravians escaping persecution in Germany and settling in the town. The home of Johannes Mueller, the town dyer, is available for tours. (A dyer is one who colored threads.) A visit here displays the life in the town during the late eighteen early nineteenth century. The Mary Oehme Garden is behind the house.
Across the street from the museum and Mueller house is the Lititz Moravian Archives Museum where you can learn more about the Moravian history. The building next to it is part of the Moravian Church and was used a hospital during the Revolutionary War to care for the Continental Army under the command of General George Washington. (This building is not open to the public.) The Moravian Church is next door, and Linden Hall is nearby. Linden Hall is a girl’s college preparatory school, and it is one of the oldest girl’s resident schools in the United States. Although the buildings area not open to the public, you can walk around and see the various structures.
Although the Moravians established the town, the town is not all about the Moravians.
Sturgis Pretzel House
Just a block away is the Sturgis Pretzel House. Founded by Julius Sturgis in 1861, it is the oldest commercial pretzel bakery in the United States. Pretzels are still baked and sold here, although most of the baking is done at an off-site factory north of the town. Tours of the factory are available and guests can make their own pretzels and be certified as a pretzel maker. You will want to buy a few pretzels for yourself.
The General Sutter Inn is to the west along Main Street. Born in Germany, General John Sutter came to the New World and made his way out west and was a pioneer of California. He established Fort Sutter in the area that is now Sacramento, California. He made many travels that would eventually bring him to Lititz later in life. Although he died in Washington, D.C., he is buried in the Moravian cemetery in town. The General Sutter Inn is named for him and has a hotel and a restaurant.
What really brought John Sutter here? One reason was the Moravian school. The other reason is Lititz Springs Park.
Lititz Springs Park
Although Lititz Springs Park is privately owned, it is open to the public. It features the spring itself with water that flows through the park. There is also a pavilion and a playground. There is a fountain at the end, and if you like you can feed the ducks along the way. A caboose houses a small railroad museum operated by the Reading Railroad Historical Society and old train depot houses the visitor center.
The great thing about Lititz is that although the town is growing, all the main attractions are within walking distance. There are many small shops and restaurants to visit. Like Sturgis Pretzel, Wilbur Chocolate is also a landmark in the town. The original factory across the street has been preserved and is currently being converted into condos.
There is so much in so little space, and it is just a three-hour drive from Prince William County. It is a hidden treasure in Lancaster County worth discovering. Along with the attractions there are also many special events. Be warned. When you visit, you may find it hard to leave.
John Cowgill ([email protected]) loves to visit historic places to include lesser known sites. He loves taking road trips, and he loves railroads.