Rittersville History to 1899

The Rittersville Hotel


                The Rittersville Hotel - August, 1891

The Manhattan Hotel circa. 1900

The original tavern was purchased by Michael Ritter in 1808 and the Rittersville Hotel was built some time after that. Although the exact year the hotel was built has not been established, the 1850 census of Hanover Township shows the hotel in operation with a total of 8 residents as of August of that year.  In 1825, Ritter opened a store and in 1828, Rittersville's first post office was established here.  Michael Ritter was the postmaster until 1832, at which time his eldest son, Charles, became postmaster (until his death in 1883).  Charles also ran the hotel until 1865.

The Rittersville Hotel, (later renamed the Manhattan Hotel after it was acquired by the Lehigh Valley Traction Co.), in the 1891 photo above, burned down in March, 1897, and the new hotel, above right, was built.  The new Manhattan Hotel was three stories and had 20 rooms. 

The rumor of the day was that Central Park, which was across the street from the hotel, had a menagerie but decided to close the menagerie in 1896 .  The hotel's owner at the time was enamored of the two monkeys in the menagerie and decided to buy them.  One of the monkeys supposedly started the fire that destroyed the hotel; however, there is nothing in the following newspaper stories to substantiate that rumor. 

The Allentown Morning Call, Allentown, Pa., March 15, 1897


A HOTEL IN ASHES, The Hostelry at Rittersville is a Mass of Ruins --- The Loss is $12,000 --- The Insurance $10,000 –It is Likely the Hotel Will be Rebuilt at Once – The Fire Started in the Animal Quarters


The Manhattan Hotel, at Rittersville, was burned to the ground yesterday morning.  The fire was first noticed by Milton Reichard and then by Harry and W. Moyer.  They tried to get into the hotel to telephone to Superintendent Coleman, but they could not get in on account of the smoke and heat.  W. Moyer then got a horse and hurried to Mr. Clader’s house, halfway between this city and Rittersville, and there telephoned to this city that the hotel was burning.  Chief Grim ordered the Allen steamer to be taken there.  The latter was hitched to a trolley car, but when they got as far as Clader’s the power gave out and the engine had to be taken to Rittersville with horses. 


When they got there with the steamer the supply of water had been exhausted and they could do little.  The residents of Rittersville had used the local hose and kept the streams on the surrounding buildings, so as to save them. 


The fire is supposed to have originated in the monkey house at the rear of the hotel through an overheated stove.  The monkeys, parrots and other fowls were kept in the rooms, which were formerly used for the dressing-room of the baseball players.  All the animals were burned to death. 


Mr. Morrell, the manager, left the hotel at 12:50 o’clock and says all was in good condition.  The only thing remaining is part of the walls.  The cooking stove, which was walled in, seems pretty well preserved.  With the exception of a pair of scales and a few benches which were on the outside, all the contents were destroyed.  Chief Grim, who had accompanied the Allen, had the extreme pleasure of walking home yesterday morning.


The hotel was a two and one-half story frame house.  It was the old Rittersville hotel remodeled.  In 1888 George Weldner bought it and remodeled it.  When the electric road was built he sold it to the trolley people.  They still further improved it.  It was insured for $10,000 and the loss is estimated at about $12,000.  The interior was valued at $4,000 and the building at $12,000. 


The difficulties of getting a steamer to such a distance are not few.  Mr. Clader first called up Mayor Lewis and asked that an engine be sent to Rittersville.  Mr. Lewis then called Chief Grim and Mr. Coleman, and the latter tried to raise the power house for power.  One of the Sixth and Hamilton street men walked down to the power house and got the power started.  With the advance car went Chief Grim, Mr. Coleman, Mr. Walters and several others.  The steamer did not get over, but the truck was taken there by horses after the break down had occurred in the power house.  In the morning, after the fire was out, the break had not yet been fixed, so the Allentown party had to walk home.


Superintendent Coleman and Secretary Walters will to-day go to New York and they expect to return this evening with full plans as to the future.  Mr. Walters says it is likely that the rebuilding will begin in a few days.  Plans will be drawn up at once and it is likely that the new hotel will be something more of an architectural display than the old one was.


The Inquirer, Philadelphia, Pa., March 15, 1897

 SUMMER HOTEL BURNED – Lot of Parrots and Pet Monkeys Find Death in Flames


ALLENTOWN, March 14 – The Hotel Manhattan, at Rittersville, was destroyed by fire to-day, entailing a loss of $25,000 on which there is insurance of $15,000.  The hotel was a summer resort, and belonged to the Allentown and Lehigh Valley Traction Company, under the name of the Rittersville Hotel Company.  A lot of pet monkeys, cockatoos, parrots and peacocks, forming part of a zoological park exhibit, were burned.  The fire originated from the stove in the animals’ quarters.


The New York Times, March 15, 1897

 ALLENTOWN, Penn., March 14 – The roadhouse of the Rittersville Hotel Company, three miles from here, was destroyed by fire to-day.  The fire started in the room in which the pet animals and birds of Central Park of this city are kept during the Winter.  All the birds and animals were burned.  Loss, $25,000.



The Allentown Morning Call, Allentown, Pa., March 16, 1897

 WILL BE REBUILT --- Work to be Commenced on Rittersville Hotel --- WORKING ON THE PLANS --- It is to be Ready for Business by May 15 – It Will be Frame and Two Stories High – Mr. Morrell Will Again be Manager


Superintendent J. J. Coleman and Secretary A. F. Walter, of the Traction Company, were in New York yesterday and consulted Mr. Johnson with reference to rebuilding the Rittersville Hotel.  The new hotel will be a two-story frame, built on the same site as the old, only about six feet further back from the street.  Lehr & Martz are already working on the plans, and the same will be finished in a few days.  By May 15 the hotel is to be ready for business.  The architecture will be in considerably better style than that of the old hotel.  A veranda is to extend around the entire second floor and three-fourths around on the first floor. 


On the first floor will be a lunch-room, kitchen, dining room, gentlemen’s café and a bar room.  The bar will be somewhat circular with the “magazine” in the centre. 


Upstairs will be a private dining room and ten sleeping rooms.  As much as the old foundation as possible will be used.  Harry Morrell will again be in charge.


At some point in the early 1890's the Rittersville hotel was owned by the Allentown & Bethlehem Rapid Transit Company and managed by Cornelius Acker.   In 1894, the ownership of the hotel passed to the Lehigh Valley Traction Company, the successor to the A-B Rapid Transit Co.  The 1891 photo above was taken in celebration of the inauguration of trolley service from Allentown to Bethlehem by the Allentown and Bethlehem Rapid Transit Company. 

Later, probably following the 1897 fire, The Manhattan Hotel was subsequently owned and managed by James Smith and Charles Huver, and then Charles Huver, until April, 1906, when Charles Widman took it over.  After Widman's death, his wife, Ida, managed it and was running the hotel in 1919.  After that time, the hotel was torn down and in its place, the Manhattan Auditorium and Skating Rink was built.  The auditorium was also the site of the Lehigh Valley auto shows.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 21, 1919

Manhattan razed

Nazareth Item, Jan. 18, 1923

auto show

When the Lehigh Valley Traction Company began service to Portland at the Delaware Water Gap from Philadelphia in 1912, the Manhattan Hotel was a favorite stopping place for dinner for the travelers.

Below is a copy of an original, unused stock certificate for the Rittersville Hotel Company, dated 189_ .


The site of the tavern which became the Rittersville Hotel was originally located on the north side of Hanover Ave. just before the Hanover Ave. and Eaton Ave. split.  Today, N. Wahneta St. marks the approximate western boundary of the original site.

Site of the Rittersville/Manhattan Hotel today. Hanover Ave in the foreground at the intersection with Wahneta St.

(As an aside...my great-great-grandfather's farm was immediately behind the hotel.  On the 1900 photo at the top of the page, you can see part of his barn behind and to the right of the hotel.  This barn was the original site of the Klotz & Bregenzer ribbon mill.)




©2005, 2013 Robert M Reinbold Jr