The origin of Manheim, Pennsylvania differs from most of the towns and villages of Lancaster County. The majority of the towns and villages of Pennsylvania Dutch country began modestly as roadside stops. For example, a tavern would be built along a popular road to cater to the needs of weary and hungry travelers. As the tavern became successful and attracted more passersby to the area, other businesses sprung up to meet the needs of the increased traffic. Eventually, a community would be formed, homes built and a governing body established.
Manheim, on the other hand, was developed from the start as a destination of economic activity. Under the guidance of its founder, Henrich Wilhelm Stiegel, the heart of the town's development has been industry.
The Colorful Baron
The land where the town is situated was originally presented as a gift in 1734 to William Penn's secretary from Penn's widow, Hannah, and her sons. However, its true beginnings as a town is historically credited to three German businessmen who purchased the land 28 years later.
One of these men was an ironmaster-turned-glassmaker named Henry Wilhelm Stiegel. His intention was to turn the area into a manufacturing center for his business. He named the town after Mannheim, Germany which is purported to be the town where he grew up.
A colorful character, Stiegler was nicknamed the "Baron" due to his extravagant and eccentric lifestyle. It was said that he always traveled in a luxurious carriage drawn by four horses. Whenever his carriage approached his home, a watchman sounded a cannon and a band played music to herald his arrival.
Fueled by favorable colonial-era regulations prohibiting importation, the Baron set up his American Flint Glass Manufactory in 1764. Employing first-class European glass-makers, the manufactory produced very beautiful varieties of molded, enameled, and engraved glass decorated with Pennsylvania Dutch motifs.
In addition to his lavish lifestyle, the Baron achieved local fame for his all-encompassing influence on the town. For example, he built schools to educate the children of his workers; supported the growth of the town's culture such as through the creation of a town band; and, donated land to the local Lutheran congregation to build the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church at 2 S. Hazel St. The church still remains to this day and is known as the Red Rose Church because the deed stipulated that one red rose be paid to Stiegler or his heirs every June.
So great was his influence, that the town was known among the locals as "Stiegeltown."
A Sad End
With the onset of the American Revolution and due to his extravagant overspending, the Baron suffered catastrophic losses to his personal fortune. Eventually, he even served time in a debtor's prison until a special act of the Pennsylvania Legislature allowed for his release.
Once a man of great wealth and power, Henry Wilhelm Stiegel was reduced to working as a clerk in the company that he once owned. Although he later found some satisfaction as a teacher in a local school, he never regained his earlier wealth. He is believed to have died around 1797. To this day, his gravesite is unknown.
The lavish Stiegler mansion, which was situated prominently in Market Square on East High Street, was eventually owned for several years by Robert Morris, Revolutionary War financier and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Unfortunately, where once a cannon sounded and a band played music to herald the arrival of a Baron, all that exists today of the former Stiegler mansion is the remains of the south wall.
Although Stiegel's industrial empire was relatively short-lived, lasting from 1764 to 1775, he did plant the seeds for the town of Manheim to prosper. More than 200 years after the demise of his beloved American Flint Glass Manufactory, Stiegel glass remains a highly sought after example of early American glassware ranking alongside names such as Tiffany, Steuben and Wistar.
Another example of the Baron's everlasting mark on the town is that to this day, the Red Rose Church holds a nationally renowned ceremony at 10:30 am on the second Sunday of every June where the church pays the same rent of one red rose to a descendant of Henry Wilhelm Stiegel at the town's Festival of the Red Rose.
An Industrial Center
Despite his own demise, Henry Wilhelm Stiegel's vision of Manheim as an industrial center was, indeed, fulfilled. Beginning in 1800, the town flourished as a manufacturer of bricks, hats and even grandfather clocks.
The town was also renown for their blacksmiths, coopersmiths, potters, tanners and wagon makers.
1862 saw the arrival of the Columbia and Reading Railroad which opened reliable trading routes so the goods manufactured in Manheim could be distributed throughout Pennsylvania and neighboring states.
The town's industrial base continued into the 20th Century until it was crippled by the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Today, Manheim remains as a trading center for farmers along the popular Route 72
Colorful Scene from the annual Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire
Log houses were once commonplace throughout Lancaster County. Examples of early log cabins can be found in Manheim. Fasig House
and Heath House
are examples. Although dismantled from their original location and moved to their present locations, these log houses remain as cherished landmarks preserved by the Manheim Historical Society.
Other buildings in the town are also noteworthy. Many of the town's structures display late Victorian and early 20th Century styles such as Italiante, Eastlake, Second Empire, and Renaissance Revival architecture. The homes tend to be Bungalow or American Four-square style.
The Manheim Heritage Center at 88S. Grant St. is dedicated to preserving the local histories of families, businesses, and community organizations. Artifacts from the past such as a collection of local newspapers exhibit the rich history of the town.
The Keiffer Museum, on Market Square, which is run by the Heritage Center, houses a collection of artifacts owned by Miles and Elizabeth Keiffler. These items were crafted in Manheim and date back to the 1700s.
There is also the Manheim Railroad Station at 210 S. Charlotte St., which was built in 1881 to serve railway passengers. Although abandoned in 1976, the building has been restored by the town's historical society.
Also popular among visitors is Mount Hope Mansion which had served as the summer residence of five generations of the Grubb family. Once very wealthy ironmasters, the Grubb family at one time owned the largest plot of land in Lancaster County.
The Grubb's former property now houses the Renaissance Faire as a well as a first-class winery. Seasonal theater productions are even performed in October and December.
The Mount Hope Mansion and surrounding gardens have been placed on the National Register of Historic places.
Also worth visiting is Root's Country Market & Auction which is the oldest single-family-run market in Lancaster County. Open on Tuesdays, for over 80 years, Root's Country Market & Auction has sold locally made clothing, crafts, and furniture as well as locally grown fruits and vegetables.
In addition to the auction, there are over 200 stands for browsing and buying.
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