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Fast Times at the Lexington Hotel
Part II of this infamous hostelry includes Prohibition raids, brothel arrests and the KKK
This month, I conclude my story on the interesting history behind the Lexington Hotel, which lies just north of Lititz.
The dawn of 1923 saw the hotel become the site of a series of illegal activities. In February, a front page headline in the Lititz Record read:
Free For All Fight at the Lexington Hotel
Three disturbers of the peaceful atmosphere which prevails in the village of Lexington on Saturday night were arrested by state police, when a detail of five men arrived post haste from Troop E barracks in response to a riot call from the proprietor of the Lexington Hotel, David L. Kirk.
Corporals Mulluenkopf, Gahlstron and Hunter, and privates Goucher and Davis, made up the squad who rushed to Lexington to quell the disturbance. They arrested Harvey Strauss and Paul Heberling, of Brickerville, and Jacob Hackman, of Brunnerville, who, it is alleged, arrived at Lexington intoxicated and proceeded to “raise Cain.” Others escaped, several of whom were said to be from Lititz. The three men were committed to the county jail until Monday morning, when they were required to pay fines and costs at a hearing before Alderman Doebler.
Strauss, ringleader of the trio, paid a $10 fine. His two companions, Hackman and Heberling, were fined $5 each. Two other men, Stephen Demmy and Irwin Dull, who were alleged to have assisted, escaped but will be taken into custody later, it is stated. Furniture was broken, the telephone wires were cut, and considerable other damage done. Further arrests will be made later.
In July of that same year, The Lititz Record also reported on an event that shook the small village during the grip of Prohibition:
Lexington Hotel is Raided; Found Liquor; Seized Slot Machines
Federal prohibition enforcement agents from Philadelphia late Saturday morning raided the Lexington Hotel and seized small quantities of alleged liquors. Fifteen minutes later, Constable Martin Doutrich made a similar raid, this time hunting for slot machines on a search warrant issued by Alderman Burkhart of Lancaster on the complaint of north-end residents.
The constable seized two slot machines and other alleged gambling paraphernalia. David L. Kirk, the proprietor of the hotel, who some weeks ago made serious accusations against prominent city and county officials after he had taken slugs from his gambling device, was immediately placed under arrest and taken to Lancaster for arraignment.
The prohibition enforcement men who made the raid also intimated that Kirk will be arrested on charges of violating the liquor laws. The arrest will have to be made by a U. S. marshal.
The seized liquor, together with the slot machines, were taken to Lancaster as evidence. At a hearing Tuesday afternoon, Kirk was charged with maintaining gambling devices and was held for trial at the September term of court.
Trouble was no stranger to the inn during the next year, when an article published in October 1924 reported on the owner failing to appear in court:
Lexington HotelProprietor Skips Town
David L. Kirk, the Lexington Hotel proprietor for the past several years, who was found guilty of violating the liquor laws, failed to appear for sentence for the third time at court last week. Kirk can not be found. He paid his rent to date to the owner of the property, Mrs. Althouse.
A furniture house of Lancaster loaded up most of the furniture in the place and a sale was held on Saturday by his brother for the remainder of the things.
Kirk was in several liquor and slot machine cases before, and Ku Klux Klan representatives burned a cross near his place. It was generally believed that Kirk would receive a jail sentence this time. He was under bail. He originally came here from Canada and it is believed that he returned to that country. He is a mechanical draftsman by training.
By June 1927, the hotel was operated by Mr. George Drybread. Sadly, trouble kept finding its way to Lexington. The following was reported in the Lititz Record:
Hotel Raided by Police
Ten men and two women were arrested by State Police, and about six quarts of alleged liquor was seized when a detail of State Policemen from Manheim raided the Lexington Hotel, north of here, last Friday night. George Drybread, proprietor, is held in the Lancaster county jail for violating the liquor laws and operating a bawdy house. The girls charged gave their names as Grace Herr and “Miss” Leber. They were also committed to the county jail to await hearings before Justice of the Peace George C. Danner of Manheim. Nine men arrested at the hotel on charges of disorderly conduct were arraigned before Squire Danner immediately after and ordered to pay fines of ten dollars and the costs.
Drybread had operated the hotel only a week. He previously ran a hotel at Talmage, now taken over by John Hartranft, formerly of Lititz. Drybread is a former resident of Ephrata and a brother to Samuel Drybread.
At least up until the late 1930s the hotel was owned by a Mr. John Gerhart. Then, in 1940, a gentleman named Morris Eckert purchased it.
In 1952, Eckert’s estate placed the hotel and many of its contents up for public auction. The sale took place Saturday, Jan. 12, 1952. Up for grabs that day, along with the two and a half story, 15-room structure, were many of the contents of the infamous hotel, including a piano, chairs, porcelain top tables, beds, bureaus, bedding, blanket chests, dishes and cooking utensils, antiques, and a whole lot more. It was about this time when the hotel ceased to operate and the building was converted into several apartments.
The story of the Lexington Hotel had come to a close, 120 years after it began. The successful bidder for the property was Urias Miley. Then, in 1957, it was sold to Abram and Arlene Groff.
Although there is no sign these days that the property was once the site of many illegal activities, ask a few select citizens of Lexington that have been around for a while. They will surely tell you tales that their parents or grandparents have told them. Although there are many wild stories about the Lexington Hotel, there are probably dozens more that have sadly been lost through time. For now, we can only speculate on what else could be said if those walls could talk.
Cory Van Brookhoven is president of the Lititz Historical Foundation. He has written several local history books and is actively involved in Lititz community events. He welcomes your comments and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part I of this feature was published in the March 27 edition of the Lititz Record Express. Back copies are available at our office by calling 626-2191, or you can read it on our website, LititzRecord.com. Just do a site search on “Lexington Hotel.”