Lititz is one of those quintessential, Hallmark Channel-esque small towns here in Pennsylvania that I have always wanted to visit. Closer to my grandmother’s hometown of York, it is a good four-hour drive from where I am from. It’s less than two hours from one of Pennsylvania’s most historical places, Philadelphia, and a good three-hour drive from Washington, DC. Everything I’ve ever heard about this place makes it sound absolutely fantastical, and today I am going to take you on a virtual exploration of this place I’ve always wanted to visit. One of these days I’m going to get there. For now, this will have to do! So let’s learn a bit about the historical Eastern town of Lititz, Pennsylvania.
The first European settlers to live in the area arrived in the early 1720s, and Lititz itself was finally founded in 1756 by the Moravian Church as a community for church members only to escape persecution they experienced in Europe. Religious freedom was a big force behind the settlement of Pennsylvania as a whole, and this particular group sought peace of their own. In fact, until the mid 1800s, one had to receive special permission to live in Lititz if they weren’t a church member.
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is one of the nation’s oldest settled regions. Due to its close proximity to Philadelphia, many immigrants – not just those of the Moravian Church – chose to call Lancaster their home. Not only does a significantly sized Amish community live there, but many German, Irish and English families were among the first to settle the area. source
According to census records dating back to the 1800s, the town of Lititz has seen a steady increase in population. This fact speaks volumes, as many small towns lived hard and died harder as their main industries relied on the resources around them – coal, lumber, other forms of mining and so forth. Or the town ceased to exist due to a natural disaster. Examples include Centralia, Rausch Gap, Yellow Dog Village, and many more. You could say that Lititz’s longevity is both unheard of and well earned.
Speedwell Forge B&B
Built six years after the founding of the town of Lititz, the Speedwell Forge B&B is a collection of restored cottages that’s on historic lands once part of a forge that ran in the area in the 1700s. The Cornwall Iron Furnace and the Speedwell Forge both operated at the same time, and the Speedwell lands were under ownership of the families who owned those businesses.
By the 1850s, improvements in coal technology had produced anthracite coal, which burned hotter than bituminous coal. New furnaces burned hotter and were much more efficient, and the industry was moving west to places like Pittsburgh. As a result, many of the furnaces and forges closed. Speedwell closed in 1854; Cornwall held out until 1883. Some of the furnaces (including Cornwall and Hopewell) survived, simply because the furnaces were too massive to do anything with. Forges, on the other hand, could be completely dismantled and abandoned. As a result, there are no extant forges remaining in America.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speedwell_Forge
Due to the rich history surrounding the bed and breakfast, “The associated ironmaster’s mansion was fully restored in 2005 by Dawn Darlington, granddaughter of Gerald and Kathryn Darlington, and converted into a bed and breakfast. In 2006, the property, which included a summer kitchen and paymaster’s office, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”
Wilbur Chocolate Factory
Another place many visit is the Wilbur Chocolate Factory. In business since 1894, I can only imagine this place providing sweet treats to those in the coal and oil fields in Lititz and beyond. Known for their signature chocolate designs, Wilbur’s continues to have success with chocolate and history lovers alike. In fact, Wilbur’s and Hershey’s were both founded in the same year, and would’ve known of each other’s failures and successes. Read more about the Wilbur Chocolate Factory here.
Lititz Moravian Historic District
The Lititz Moravian Historic District is a stretch of buildings within Lititz that have been lovingly preserved over the centuries and contain many of the original homes that were built when Lititz first began. It gained historical status and significance when it was added to the national registrar in 1986. Several architectural styles are represented, as it was built up during the course of several decades.
Lititz Springs Inn & Spa
Touted as a “historic property in the heart of Lititz,” the Lititz Springs Inn & Spa is often regarded as a gem of the town. Not only is it a large enough space for sixteen rooms, but it is a very popular wedding and event venue. The hotel hasn’t always been known as Lititz Spring. Both “General Sutter Inn” and “Lititz Springs Hotel” came before it. There’s also local folklore connected to this space, so if you’re a fan of such tales, have a read here.
The Reading & Columbia Railroad
In a time when canals were quickly becoming a thing of the past, and the coal and oil industries things of the future, the Reading and Columbia Railroad saw the growth of Lititiz as an opportunity for expansion. Beginning in Sinking Spring and ending in Columbia, this railroad grew to become an important transit line north of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. While its popularity continued all the way into the 1900s, remnants still exist and are used today for some transit but mostly tourism.
Today, because of efforts of many dedicated citizens, the right-of-way was bought by the County of Lancaster and made into a rail-trail. It was officially dedicated on October 14, 1987, and is managed by the Lancaster County Department of Parks and Recreation.source
This particular railroad is quite significant because it is one the earliest ever built in the United States, with the first tracks laid in 1834. It consisted of several connections (as well as types of connections) as canals were still in use at the time. The addition of rail travel greatly shortened many trips, including those who chose to journey to Lititz.
Festivals and Celebrations
For more recent history, there are walking tours and several festivals held throughout the year that attract residents and visitors alike. While the most well known is their Fire and Ice Festival held every winter, they also host Farmer’s Markets, Chocolate Walks, Film Galas, 5K walks/runs, Rock Fests, Holiday Gift Shows and so much more. If Lititz were a Hallmark Channel small town, then they’d be right up there in competition for the best one alongside Blairsville and Middleton (points if you know what show those names are from!)
One of these days I hope to explore Lititz myself. As it’s on the opposite end of the state, and with work obligations to fulfill, I don’t see that happening until (maybe) next year. The town sounds like the perfect getaway for a long birthday weekend, and I just may begin making plans to do so.
I hope you enjoyed today’s Blogtober post about Lititz. There’s so much more history that I know I’ll be doing some more posts about it in the future. Have a great weekend, fellow history lovers, and I’ll see you for Blogtober Day 2!