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The story of 66 E. Main St. Historical landmark, Lititz’s first bank, has been standing for 250 years
By: CORY VAN BROOKHOVEN Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer
My final story for the year takes us to 66 E. Main St. in downtown Lititz and involves a home built in 1762 by John William Werner.
This year of 2012 is a very special one as the Werner House celebrates 250 years. It was the seventh to be built on Main Street, with Werner’s profession being that of a cooper, a bleeder and a tooth drawer.
After serving the closed Moravian community well, many years passed; then, in about 1827, Rev. John Frederick Loeffler purchased the home. He passed away in 1841 and his wife continued to live there until her death in 1849. That same year, Salome Huebener moved into the home with her nine children. One of her sons, Matthias Huebener, married Mary Lichtenthaeler in 1873 and began to raise a family there. Their children were Louis, Robert and Mary. In 1962, the home was left to David and Peggy Jones. In its 250 year existence, it has only been sold twice and has had only four different owners.
This past July, I had the pleasure of meeting current resident, Peggy Jones, at her wonderful home so she should could give me a tour. I had heard about the history behind this house for many years, but it was only after meeting and talking with her that I fully learned how much history it really does contain – and I was astounded by every single tidbit.
Peggy shared with me the fascinating story behind how she and her husband came to inherit the house. While they were living in Bluefields, Nicaragua, serving as missionaries, her husband asked her where she would like to retire. After thinking it over, her thoughts turned to her childhood hometown of Lititz and of the Huebener house on Main Street. However, she felt that the house was out of reach because it would probably fetch a very high price since so many locals loved it as well. A few years passed, and one day she received a telephone call from her brother, Senator Richard Snyder, who gave her the sad news that their Aunt Mary Huebener had passed away. Although she was not technically their aunt, she was affectionately given this name because Mary was their mother’s best friend.
Sorrow turned to surprise as Richard began to tell Peggy that Mary had left her home on Main Street (including most of the contents) to her and her husband. Her dream of living in this quaint home in Lititz had actually come true! Peggy later found out that Mary and her brother Louis had to make decisions for their final wills, and they agreed that since the Jones were missionaries in Nicaragua and would not have a home upon retirement, they would leave their home to them. Peggy and her husband then inherited the house, and began to rent it out. Finally, in 1985, they moved in themselves.
She explained to me that due to its historic significance, this home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984; and although the home has been modernized, the original structure is comprised of cedar beams, straw, and mud. Talk about Lititz history! This building has it, and then some.
From 1867 to 1872, it served as the first bank in Lititz — The Lititz Deposit Bank — with Matthias Huebener acting as the cashier. It is said that each night, the shutters were bolted via “spring bolt” which allowed for added security. Peggy then takes the time to point out the safe that is even still attached to one of the walls in this room.
She goes on to tell me that after Mr. Huebener’s death, Mrs. Huebener began a notions store in this home in 1885, selling items like yarn, needles, pins and buttons. The store lasted until 1903.
As we sat in her living room talking about the house, I learned that Peggy led a very interesting life as well. Although now retired, she originally grew up in Lititz on Spruce Street. She is a strong believer in the Lord, and her travels throughout the world made for some very exciting once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Holding the Hope Diamond, being a telephone volunteer for the 700 Club, and even writing a book are just some of the highlights of the very blessed and fruitful life she has led. But then she begins to tell me the story that topped them all.
Back in 1950, she had a thriving wholesale note paper business. One day, she came up with an idea to do a set of note cards for Princeton University. Her brother then suggested that Albert Einstein’s home should be included in the series as well, since he was currently serving on the faculty. Her brother’s thinking was that Peggy could present a packet of cards to Einstein in exchange for an autograph. The day came, and she knocked on Einstein’s door. His secretary answered and had Peggy come inside the house and have a seat. A few moments later, Albert Einstein himself emerges through double doors to meet her in person. She had no idea what to say to him, so she asked about his views on pacifism.
“Do you have a copy of my latest book?” he asks her.
After answering no, he leaves again and comes back with the book in his hands and autographs it for her.
Her warm smile and laughter becomes contagious as we make our way to another room where she shows me Mary Huebener’s personal writing kit. As many Lititz historians already know, Mary was the author of the very popular booklet about our town entitled “A Brief History of Lititz,” which was published in 1947. I am in awe as I get to see the original pens and writing instruments that she most likely used to write the original edition.
Peggy then pointed out another special feature inside her home. It is an old clock which was placed in the wall in 1868. This clock is very special in that it was created by Henry William Hall of Lititz, who was a well known clock maker throughout Lancaster County. Even more unique is that the clock is double sided. The front of the clock faces the room which used to house the bank and the store, and the back of the clock faces the middle room. The works of the clock are handmade and contain a grid-iron compensation pendulum to ensure the utmost accuracy. In fact, the clock is so accurate it is said that the town sexton used to set his pocket watch to it many years ago.
She goes on to tell me that in 1849, a bake oven and trap door were removed from the home to make way for a more modern kitchen. In addition, the front porch was replaced in 1906.
Peggy and I continue to sit and chat about her lovely home as the hours pass. We discuss Lititz history, writing and some of the residents who lived in Lititz many, many years ago. We both share a great appreciation for our hometown’s history, and we both jump at the chance to discuss it with others.
For many years to come, I will cherish spending that afternoon with Peggy. I have always been fascinated with the history of that house, and all of the stories and unique features that are contained within its 250-year-old-walls.
I then remind myself that every home in our unique town is special in its own way, whether it’s newly built or several hundred years old. Certainly, it’s the welcoming owners and the many generations of caring families raised inside that makes a house a loving home.
May you all have a very Merry Christmas, and a happy and prosperous New Year! More 66 EAST MAIN, page A22