In 1861, Julius Sturgis founded in the town of Lititz the first commercial pretzel bakery in America. You can still visit the original pretzel factory in a historic stone house and see the brick ovens once fueled by wood where Sturgis baked his pretzels using an old German recipe. The same family is still baking pretzels but have moved to a modern factory near Reading, Pennsylvania leaving the old factory behind for visitors to explore.
A short tour is offered where you can learn about the company’s history, see the ovens and practice twisting a pretzel. Have you ever wondered what the shape of a pretzel means? The legend is bread dough was twisted into the shape of a child’s arms crossed in prayer by an Italian monk and given to children as a reward for memorizing their prayers. The three openings of the pretzel are also said to represent the Holy Trinity. But since documentation is limited, there are other theories on the shape as well. On our tour we were taken to a long table and given a piece of dough to practice making our own pretzel. We first had to roll our dough out into a rope shape with a thin rolling pin and then the twisting began.
Once twisted, it would have been great if we could have popped our pretzels to bake in one of those old ovens, but those ovens are now “stone cold.” It was a fun little exercise and we were given a certificate and a little bag of pretzels as a reward for our efforts. For those that are hungry after the tour, there are soft and hard pretzels for sale in the little store. They even have pretzels shaped liked a horse and buggy!
Lititz is really a cute town that was named the number one “coolest small town in America” in 2013 by Budget Travel. If you haven’t checked this site out on the internet, you might find it interesting to see if your town or another small town you have been to (with a population under 20,000) has been on the list over the years. Lititz was founded by a German Count in 1742 who named the town after a Bohemian Castle where citizens had taken refuge. Moravians are the oldest Protestant denomination in the world and they settled in this area of Pennsylvania to escape religious persecution. Below is a picture of the Lititz Moravian Church which began here in 1749 with the sanctuary built in 1787.
We visited a museum (pictured below) and toured a historic Moravian farm house that explained the history and culture of this group. It was nice because Sturgis Pretzel, Lititz Museum, Mueller farm house and the Moravian church as well as other historic buildings are all close to each other on a village green. Next to the church is Linden Hall, the oldest all girls boarding school in the U.S., founded by the Moravians in 1746.
There were once very strict rules in this Moravian only community where the church owned all the property. In 1759 church overseers established 45 regulations that everyone had to follow. You could only keep the trade or business you had when admitted to the community unless you received permission. You could not buy goods from outside of town. You could not borrow or lend money without consent of the committee. Below is a picture outlining a few of them including children not being able to play in the streets. I found that to be an interesting regulation.
Lititz is known not only for pretzels but also for chocolate. Wilbur Chocolate Company operated in a large brick building from 1899 – 2016. The old building next to the tracks still stands. The brick building is sure neat and it is sad to see old things go away, but as you know “the times they are a changing.”
Wilbur moved across the street to a much smaller brick building where they have a nice sized gift shop and you can watch through windows the workers forming chocolate creations by hand. The company is best known for their “Wilbur Buds” which were introduced in 1894 and are foil wrapped solid chocolate pieces. Below is a picture of the new store. Mark and I really enjoyed seeing their collection of chocolate pots which is the largest collection we have seen of antique pots made for drinking chocolate. They are located under the Wilbur sign.
Besides a number of historic homes that are always interesting to check out, Lititz has some nice restaurants and shops. We ate at Tomatoe Pie Cafe where of course I had to order their specialty, the tomatoe pie. I adore tomatoes in almost anything and found this pie full of tomatoes to be quite delicious. While walking the town’s Main Street we found two tea shops with the best selection of teas we have seen on our travels. It was hard to pass up restocking our tea selection in the trailer.
Although Moravians are known for their decorative stars often seen at Christmas time, Scherenschnitte or paper cutting is also popular here and is a German word for “scissors snips.” It was brought to Pennsylvania by German immigrants. I thought I would close with a picture of some decorating the window of a house I passed by. I find these cuttings so beautiful and intricate, how difficult it must be to make them. Thanks for stopping by and reading this post!