Lancaster City in the Early Twentieth Century


Through the early decades of the twentieth century an industrial boom shocks Lancaster and forever shapes the city from a quaint country community into “the richest farming county in the United States.” The tobacco industry saw one of the largest advances in manufacturing with the Lancaster district deemed the top producer of cigars in the nation. There were technological advances as well including electricity, railways and automobiles. The District of Lancaster had a greater variety of manufactures than any other inland city and was home to over a hundred industries that were not even in inception thirty years before. With the evolution of a farming town into a booming city that was Lancaster, there came great advances in education, a decrease in unemployment and an overall improvement in living.

            This industrial revolution that struck Lancaster brought with it economic stability and expansion. This expansion needed a place to breathe and develop; the result was the growth of Lancaster’s architecture. With an influx of workers came families, which led to the establishment of academic institutions and new housing. Grand schools and apartment style housing replaced the cornfields and empty lots. It was more than an economic growth but the birth of a new, thriving city. The rising population also created the need for restaurants, the famous Dutch style dinning saw its inception during this time in Lancaster.  Business such as the Woolworth 5 and 10 cent store became so prosperous that it relocated to new quarters in the biggest office building in town. To accommodate the sick and elderly the city made possible the construction of the Long Home for the aged along with a new insane asylum on East King Street. City officials even took notice of its more aesthetic features including parks and reservoirs that which saw a facelift and the addition of theaters and bowling alleys. With the age of the automobile came improvements to the roads and the addition of gas stations through out the county. The city was shifting from a slower, more rural atmosphere into a new-age city with all the technology the turn-of-the-century brought with it. Improvements in water and sewage sanitation also under went construction and the Conestoga Traction Company laid down five miles of city track for the electric railway that brought a tremendous boom to the retail trade of Lancaster City. Other industries and businesses such as shoe making, the steel industry, the Armstrong Cork Company, the confectionery industry (Keppel’s Confectionery Factory) and tobacco all saw a rise in popularity and economic success during the first few decades of the twentieth century. The tobacco industry included over 200 warehouses city wide, 50 local firms that handled the processing and distribution of the tobacco and an overall annual revenue of 6 million dollars.

            The buildings that we have researched and presented in the blog are all apart of this industrial and economic boom. My building for example, Keppel’s Confectionery Factory was apart of the chocolate and candy expansion that began during this era and carried into present day times. A factory that could utilize the convenient dairy products of Lancaster’s farmlands and produce candies and treats that could be sold right there in its store to the citizens of Lancaster city.



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