the neighborhood of German immigrants in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It
was settled after the 1840's by people who left Europe for religious
economic reasons. First known derisively as Sauerkraut Hill, the name
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
streets that run at southwest angles to the rest of the city.
from the area of the present Manor Shopping Center to
Water Street and includes St. Joseph Street and Fairview Avenue,
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
Immigration from Germany to Lancaster was a steady process from
mid-19th century into the first decades of the 20th, with most
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.
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
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,
and mediation center for the succeeding generations. From that day on,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Liederkranz is an old-fashioned German singing society of the type
once flourished in almost every hamlet with German roots across the
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.
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
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.
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
Lancaster New Era,
Farnum Cotton Mills