Cabbage Hill

ltrabbage Hill was the neighborhood of German immigrants in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was settled after the 1840's by people who left Europe for religious and economic reasons. First known derisively as Sauerkraut Hill, the name was later softened to Cabbage Hill. It referred to the large vegetable gardens which contained row on row of cabbage, to be pickled into sauerkraut in wooden kegs and served as a staple in the German diet.

Cabbage Hill is actually a series of hills, with steep and sometimes narrow streets that run at southwest angles to the rest of the city. cabb hill map

The Hill extends from the area of the present Manor Shopping Center to Water Street and includes St. Joseph Street and Fairview Avenue, formerly Love Lane.             

Some of the land, which is located directly southwest of downtown Lancaster, was originally owned by a well-to-do Quaker family named Bethel, and even as late as 1840, most of the area was still open fields. But immigrant Germans, attracted by the location of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, then the only Catholic parish in the city, had begun to settle there. By 1849, with increased immigration, the area population rose to about 25 families.

Immigration from Germany to Lancaster was a steady process from mid-19th century into the first decades of the 20th, with most newcomers making their homes on the Hill. Some arrived as refugees from the German princelings who were impressing their sons into the military service. Others came through a sense of adventure. But the rank and file arrived in the wake of earlier relatives who wrote of opportunity and work.

St. Joseph's Parish
In 1850, this small group of German families banded together and petitioned Bishop Wood of the Diocese of Philadelphia to establish of a German-speaking parish. St. Joseph's parish was established, and by 1850 construction of a church was begun at the crown of the hill at what is now St. Joseph St., almost within calling distance of old St. Mary's. The new church eventually became a kind of city hall, recreation center and mediation center for the succeeding generations. From that day on, St. Joseph's was known locally as the German church, while St. Mary's became the "Irish" church.

The history of St. Joseph's parish is intertwined with the history of the Hill. By 1882 the parish numbered about 1,200 members in more than 300 families, and maintained a school in which
320 pupils spoke both German and English.
The original church was constructed in 1850 on a lot purchased from Caspar Hauck for $260. The growing congregation soon outgrew the building, in spite of the fact that several additions had been made.

The German community in Lancaster had burst the bonds of Cabbage Hill by 1871, with many of the later arrivals settling in the eastern part of the city and traveling a long distance to St. Joseph's. In that year St. Anthony of Padua parish was established for the German-speaking residents of the eastern part of the city.

In 1884, construction was begun on a new church at the Hill site and a novel approach was used to make use of the old structure. The new building (the present church) measured 150 feet long and 65 feet wide and was designed for 1,000 worshippers. It was built around the old church, which measured 105 feet by 50 feet. When the new building was under roof, the basement was furnished for services, and the old church was taken from inside the protective shell of the new one. The parishioners had built a new church on the old site without depriving themselves of a house of worship for even one Sunday.

The Rev. Henry S. Christ came to the church as pastor in 1899, and served 40 years until his death. During his tenure he was judge, jury, spiritual leader and friend. He was often referred to as "mayor of Cabbage Hill," and many a family dispute, neighborhood spat, and mischief case which would ordinarily have ended up in the courts ended up, instead, over his desk in the rectory where his decisions were carried out to the letter. Monsignor Joseph J. Schweich performed the same function on Cabbage Hill from Father Christ's death in 1939 until his own passing in 1961.

While the Hill's population was predominantly Catholic, there was also a group of German Lutherans, many attending Saint Stephen's Evangelical Lutheran Church, a German-speaking congregation formed in 1874 with 17 families at Duke, German (now Persting Avenue) and Church Streets. This church counted more than 300 members at its peak in 1883.
in thıs section of town were scattered, but by 1886 about 60 percent of the building lots had been occupied. By 1930 the entire area was built up and beginning to spill over to the southwest.

Houses on Cabbage Hill seem to have been built with stolid German values in mind, unlike the graceful Colonial homes in other parts of the city. Most date from after 1850.
One-third of the houses were wood frame and two-thirds were brick. Typical of houses in the period 1896-1890, they cost between $2,000 and $3,000 and were either single, two family, or row structures, two stories in height with gable roofs, brick arches over doors and windows and brick cornices. Architectural touches might include iron grating and railings, ornate dormers and gingerbread-laden porches.

The brewery, where youngsters "rushed the growler" for a dime pail of beer for supper, was also a part of the local German communıty. Lancaster had several breweries before the repeal of prohibition, and one of the largest was the Reiker Star Brewing Co., located at First and Old Dorwart Streets, convenient to all of Cabbage Hill.  Later more breweries came along-- Sprenger's, Haefner's and Wacker's. Rieker's became the Star Brewery but still retained a German brew master. The brewery stood on the site now occupied by Crystal Park. It turned out 50,000 barrels of beer a year, much of it finding its way into the Hill homes via the "growler" (a small tin container) which was taken home to tap.

In 1901, young Christian Kunzler arrived from Germany, sank his entire fortune of $700 into a defunct butcher shop and, using, secret family recipes, became a successful neighborhood butcher with markets extending beyond Cabbage Hill. Kunzler not only helped to preserve the tradition of German food, he also brought German butchers to Lancaster to work in his factory. Some of their descendants still work at the Kunzler plant on Manor Street, now one of the leading meat packers on the eastern seaboard.

Most people worked either in the J. Farnum cotton mills at the edge of Cabbage Hill on Prince Street, the tobacco company across the street from the Liederkranz/German Society or at the Armstrong plant. (The Liederkranz scheduled their activities to coincide with paydays.)  The cotton mill, established in the 1840's and the biggest employer in Lancaster, made Cabbage Hill a veritable company town, with entire families working as weavers, spinners, dyers, and spoolers, going home covered white with lint from the looms. Many worked in breweries, or as teamsters, butchers, and artisans practicing trades brought from the old country. In some families the kids worked at home, stripping tobacco or pressing snaps for clothes on cards.
All understood English, but German was commonly spoken at home. The butcher spoke German, the grocery man spoke German, and of course most everyone who lived in the area spoke German.

The Lancaster Liederkranz is an old-fashioned German singing society of the type which once flourished in almost every hamlet with German roots across the country.

The Liederkranz was chartered in 1888 and moved to quarters
at the base of Cabbage Hill in the Schiller Haus, 283 North Queen Street. Its purpose was to promote German culture and customs through music, song, dance, art, language and international exchange.  

In 1909, the Lancaster Männerchor and the Arbeiter Männerchor consolidated with the Liederkranz.  Frank Reiker, Lancaster’s brewing king, arranged for the money to renovate a building on Prince and German Streets (now Prince and Farnum) with the addition of a concert hall/ballroom and Ratskeller.  The Liederkranz moved into these facilities in 1910.

The Liederkranz was a meeting place for a host of people of German descent as well as others who gather to the strains of Schnitzelbank, Ach Der Lieber Augustine and Hi Lee Hi Low. They would sing in tune to the rapping of steins on long tables, as well as the choral music of Wagner, Schumann and Beethoven, still treasured beneath the red and black banners of a pre-World War I imperial Germany, and they would dance the old dances.

With the coming of World War I, German-American identity became a liability.  German Street became Farnum Street after the name of the adjacent cotton mill, and Freiburg Street was renamed Pershing Avenue after the name of the general. The Liederkranz remained intact and continued with its singing of Deutsche Lieder.

With the German influence in the neighborhood declining, in 1993 the facility at Prince and Farnum Streets was sold and the Liederkranz moved to the clubhouse and grounds of the Mt. Joy Legion at 722 South Chiques Road in Salunga, PA.

Many remember days when wagons hawking fish, meat and fruit made their stops around the neighborhood, days when you never had to leave the Hill for any reason. They remember Friday evening dances at the church during the 1930s, when a boy met his girl at the dance so she would have to pay her own nickel to get in. They remember unlocked doors and wandering hobos who were fed warm food before continuing on their way.


Liederkranz:  http://members.tripod.com/lancasterliederkranz/id39.htm

Article, Lancaster New Era, 1979

 J. Farnum Cotton Mills


  memoir link