Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: April 1967 Volume 14 Number 3, Pages 50–52

The oldest place of business in Berwyn - "Fritz's"

Sara B. Nuzum

Page 50

There is no one left in Berwyn today who remembers the origin of "Fritz's Lumber Yard" back in the early 1860's, and there is no record of the exact date. The Fritz family is of German descent; Gotlieb Fritz, the father of the founder of the business, lived most of his life in this country. He died in Strafford about 1835, at the age of twenty-eight.

Mr. Henry Fritz, son of Gotlieb Fritz, married Mary E. Lobb, daughter of William Lobb, in 1863. About that time he started a hardware and lumber business in what was then Reeseville.

Henry and Mary Fritz had three sons, William H. Fritz, Henry Fritz, and a third child who died in infancy. Their home was located on the north side of the railroad tracks, just east of the upper bridge in Berwyn. A beautiful sugar maple tree which graced the front yard delighted everyone who saw it in the fall, until it was cut down at the beginning of the construction of the apartment house. The Fritz property comprised practically all of the area now occupied by the Main Line-Berwyn Apartments. The lumber and hardware business prospered until the death of Henry Fritz in 1870.

Mary Fritz, Henry Fritz's widow, later married Hugh J. Steen. A bond appointing Mr. Steen guardian of William H. Fritz and Henry Fritz, minor children of Henry Fritz, deceased, and Mary E. Steen late widow of Henry Fritz, dated June, 1877, was signed by M. W. and F. J. Painter.

A paper dated 1892 advised the executors of Henry Fritz of a transaction in 1878 covering a strip of land, the southern boundary of which was the center line of the railroad, which center line is the middle of the tracks at that point, and is signed by John Wilson, Real Estate Agent for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

The Easttown School Board minute book of 1854 to 1871 records that Mr. Fritz sold lumber to Leopard and Ogden Schools in 1863 and 1864. In October of 1865 a bill of $162.86 was paid for coal and repairs. Coal was one of the major commodities for many years. The advent of the oil burners for home heating, and the use of gas and electricity for heating purposes greatly reduced the demand for coal, although some coal is still sold there.

Page 51

Incidentally in the aforementioned minute book the salaries of teachers is noted as $30.00 a month for female and $35.00 for male.

There is no record of the business from the death of Henry Fritz in 1870 until his son took over in 1885.

William H. Fritz, one of Henry Fritz's sons, married Mabel M. Thompson, daughter of William C. Thompson, on November 23, 1886. Two sons were born of that union; Henry Percival, and William H. Fritz, Jr. William H. Fritz and Preston Lobb had the business for some time. Receipts for $3500.00 and $200.39, dated 5-4-1886 and 12-30-1887 respectively, are headed "Lumber, Coal, Plaster, Cement, Feed, etc., Wm. H. Fritz and P. W. Lobb, Reeseville, Pa." There is no date known as to when Mr. Lobb left and went into the tinsmith business. He had a store on the corner of Lancaster Pike and Waterloo Road where Alleva's luncheonette is now located.

The present Mr. Fritz found a receipted bill to H. C. Hardy, painter, of Berwyn dated 1889 for four and a half days painting at $2.75 a day.

Mr. William H. Fritz was one of Berwyn's outstanding citizens. He was President of the Berwyn National Bank, and a leader in Trinity Presbyterian Church. He presented the church with a pipe organ and an endowment for its maintenance. Mr. Fritz employed many townspeople in his business, among whom were Mr. E. J. Fees, Mr. Milton Smedley, Mr. Warden McLees, Mr. Alfred Ritner, and Mr. William Dunkin. He also operated a wholesale lumber business in Philadelphia with Mr. E. B. Hayman. After several years, that business was closed out in 1937. The business in Berwyn was carried on by Mr. Fritz until his death in 1938.

Mr. William H. Fritz, Jr., conducted a wholesale office in Berwyn before his father's death. He married Marion Parke. Their son is William H. Fritz, III. Mr. Fritz, Jr., took over the business of his father until his own death in 1941.

Page 52

Mrs. William H. Fritz then ran the business until 1956 when she took her son into partnership, according to a Prothonotary's Certificate dated November 30, 1956, which reads as follows: "I do hereby certify that Wm. H. Fritz, III, and Marion P. Ryan carry on or conduct business under the assumed or fictitious name of Wm. II. Fritz". Mrs. Ryan moved to Florida, leaving her son to run the business.

William H. Fritz III, the fourth generation to conduct the business, has done extensive remodelling in the Colonial manner. Some of the work was undertaken after a fire destroyed one of the buildings in 1963. At that fire an unidentified man, asleep in the loft, lost his life. An earlier fire, in 1923, is believed to have destroyed most of the early records of the business.

The two employees with the longest service are Mr. Howard Yohn, and Mr. George Jacobs, both having started in 1941. Another old employe Mr. Sheppard, is not working at present because of illness.

Some of the present customers have been dealing with "Fritz's" for over fifty years, which is in itself a good testimonial to the oldest business in Berwyn.



Cyclopedia of Chester County by Samuel T. Wiley

School District of Easttown Township Minute Book 1854 - 1371 (sic)

"The Advertiser" March 21, 1963.

Papers, deeds, and bonds of the Fritz family.

W. H. Fritz Office - circa 1910


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