Fast times at the Lexington Hotel – Part 1
Let’s take a trip north of Lititz, to the Lexington Hotel. This property, which is located along Loop Road, stands about in the middle of what was once the original route 501 (also referred to as the Lititz/Lexington Turnpike), lies in the village named after the Battle of Lexington. Originally established in 1805, no research of mine to date can determine why it was known by its former name of “Dundee.” For now, the origin of that name must remain a mystery.
The tavern in this hamlet, which began circa 1832, was the site through the years of some very colorful events, and for decades the Lexington Hotel served as a crucial stopping point along the road between Lancaster and Lebanon for weary travelers. It also provided a place for a great meals and frothy beverages, going through multiple owners through the years (sometimes ownership changing after only a few months).
Let’s now go back to the very early days of the inn.
When the tavern went up for sale in 1851, it boasted the following, according to an early sale bill:
“Eight acres of excellent improved land, on which is a large frame and weather boarded tavern house and kitchen, with a barn 50 by 30 feet and stabling sufficient for 30 horses, together with the necessary out buildings. There are two never-failing wells of water (one on each side of the house), and a thriving young orchard of choice fruit trees.”
That same year, a turtle soup dinner was served by then owner Lewis Hibschman. A very large crowd was expected, according to reports.
The sale must not have found a successful buyer, because it went up for auction again the following year; and then one year later, in 1853, we discover that Hibschman was yet again applying for an application to renew his tavern license, finding no successful winning bids for his property.
By 1864, it was known as the “Lexington Inn,” and owned by Gabriel Schlott and his wife.
As I stated above, it was also the site of many rough occurrences throughout its legendary history– some that would make even “a sailor blush,” as the saying goes.
Through research, I was able to piece together a time line of some of these events.
In March 1882, Martin Hacker of Lexington was arrested on a charge of assault and battery, which was the result of a complaint filed by John K. Saylor, the incident taking place at the hotel. A constable with the last name of Helman then took Hacker to Squire Reidenbach’s office in Lititz. Here, it was reported that Hacker and Saylor made up or “smoked the pipe of peace” (as the newspaper reported) and shook hands. Hacker paid costs amounting to $3.15, and all was forgiven.
In April, 1884, ownership of the hotel transferred from Elias Sheetz to Henry Hartranft of Brunnerville, due to Sheetz moving out of town and purchasing a restaurant in Millway. In June of that year, a “dancing picnic” was held in the orchard of the property, which took place on “Whit Monday.” In addition to this celebration, other community events took place on this property through the years such as public auctions, turkey shoots, and festivals and celebrations on the grounds.
In 1887, it was decided that the hotel was to be torn down, and a brand new building be erected in its place. A Dr. J.K. Hertz owned the inn during this time, and demolished the old building to build a brand new two-story frame structure. During construction, Hertz and his family temporarily occupied adjacent buildings.
Two years later, in 1889, a Jacob Brandt of Mastersonville took ownership of the building. Within a year’s time, the hotel transferred hands again. This time, it was purchased by Henry Blecher of Manheim.
In 1892, D.H.Snyder was the current owner but sold the hotel, with a report in the Lititz Express newspaper stating “We can conscientiously say that Mr. Snyder conducted a very good public house while at Lexington and left there respected and honored by all.”
In January 1893, the hotel was purchased by John Steely of Kissel Hill. Two years later, in 1895, during renovations, the hotel was transferred to a gentleman named Dan Furlow, who happened to be the son-in-law of one of the previous owners, J.K. Hertz. According to a newspaper report from that era, it was written that “Mr. Furlow means to run a better house than ever before at this place.”
Although Furlow had every intention of running a smooth hotel operation, in June 1896, a Mr. Harry Kittle of Lexington was arrested and taken before Squire Derr of Lititz for stealing a keg of beer from the hotel. How he managed to sneak an entire keg out of the hotel is anybody’s guess. He could not produce bail money, so he was then taken to Lancaster to be committed to jail.
In December 1898, Miss Lottie Hertz entertained about 25 guests to a a chicken and waffle supper at the hotel. After the meal, the evening was spent playing games. In addition, the Lexington Mandolin and Guitar Club was on hand, and gave a performance.
The beginning of the new century saw Furlow still owning the hotel; and in February, 1901, The Kant Fale Medicine Company held the last of a series of entertainment on a Saturday evening. It was reported that Mrs. Furlow, the owner’s wife, was voted “the most popular young lady in town” and was presented with a silver sugar bowl and spoons. In August of that same year, The Chattawah Indian Medicine Company stayed at the hotel for one week, where they performed a show every evening, and sold some of their medicine to the public.
In March, 1903, it was reported that the hotel was purchased by George Heinsey of Farmersville.
Then, In the Spring of 1904, the hotel was sold once again. This time, the successful buyer was a gentleman named John Helman, who held a grand re-opening celebration in May; complete with music furnished by the Lititz Orchestra.
In September, 1910, a game was held between the Brunnerville and Lexington baseball clubs near the hotel. The next year, in 1911, the acreage was purchased by Lemon S. Roland at a cost of $6,200.
In late 1913, the owner of the hotel was now Norman Steffy. Then, in December, 1920, the hotel was put up for sale once more. Boasting eight acres of land, sadly, the auction had no successful winning bids. However, the next year (1921), the inn and property was sold by Mrs. Elam Althouse, whose husband owned the building up until his death. It is believed that the hotel was purchased around this time by a Lewis Yanko, who, not surprisingly, only owned the hotel for a brief time. By 1923, the concern was now being operated by David L. Kirk.
It was in this year that things at the hotel really got “interesting,” with many brawls, crimes, and illegal activities taking place. To learn more, stay tuned next month for part two of the story of the Lexington Hotel.
Cory Van Brookhoven is President of the Lititz Historical Foundation and has authored several books on topics involving LancasterCounty history, including Lititz. He welcomes your comments at coryvbhotmail.com.