The Lion Sleeps Tonight in Lititz Spring Park

The Path of God. Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.

Lititz Spring Lion before being damaged in 2006.

This lion’s head has been a prominent icon at Lititz Springs Park since 1857, when Lititz native Julius Augustus Beck carved it. He strategically placed it to the right of the Lititz Run springhead. Fun Fact: This strong flowing spring acts as the headwaters for Lititz Run, a 7.2-mile-long tributary of the Conestoga River.

Beck choose the world-famous “Lion of Lucerne” in Switzerland as his model. He planned to incise the head, the shoulders, and the forepaws of the mighty beast from the exposed stone. However, because of the extreme hardness of the rock ruining his chisels, he abandoned his original plans creating only the face and mane.

A Brief History of Lititz Spring Park

The seven-acre expanse that would eventually become the Lititz Springs Park was likely first traversed and inhabited by Native Americans for many centuries. For European settlers, it initially served as a watering hole for neighborhood cattle. Lititz Run, the creek that flows through the park today, was originally known as Carter’s Run, named after Richard Carter. He emigrated from Warwickshire, England, in 1729 and was one of the region’s earliest settlers. In Carter’s day, the headwaters of the Springs were marshes fed by several converging, underground streams that originated in the hills to the northwest of Lititz.

In 1780, the basin was surrounded by a rough stone wall. A broad swamp extended several acres on the northern side, and “in the springtime, the water was of sufficient depth to admit boats being rowed upon its surface.” However, it was not until 1792 that a meeting of Lititz citizens was called to take additional steps to improve the Springs. The town fathers, afraid that such a “Lustplatz” would encourage too much worldliness, reluctantly gave their permission to use an acre of the ground around the “Big Spring” and to begin work, thus providing a location for recreational activities. Trees were planted, arbors were built, and walks were laid. Also, at the same time, the arched stone bridge was constructed.

As the Springs became an increasingly popular gathering place, the need for additional upgrading of the environs was recognized. In 1810, the young men of Lititz “planted an avenue of locust trees leading from near the Springs’ head, on the south side, along a lane by the base of the hill to the Manheim road.” It was not until 1835 that further efforts were initiated to improve and beautify the spring and the grounds. The town committee approved the building of fences by voluntary labor. The cost of construction was $30. “Work was done each year,” an interested resident observed, “and from 1835 to 1840, first one thing and then another was added to the place, which was already becoming a thing of beauty.”

From 1846 to 1856, the Lititz Springs Park was placed under the care of John Beck, the Principal of the Lititz Academy, who expended a considerable amount of his own resources to plant trees, thereby enhancing the overall attractiveness of the grounds. When the steep bank around the springhead was contoured in 1855, three additional springs, which have continued to flow from the wall, were uncovered.

In 1856, a committee of the town’s civic-minded men, having accepted sandstone-in-the-rough from the Colemans of Brickerville, placed founts and coping around the head-end of the Springs, which was constructed in a graceful, elliptical design. At the foot of a ledge of rocks that formed the Springs’ western terminus, water gently bubbled to the surface and, from here, moved slowly along an easterly route through a narrow, walled channel shaded on both sides by beautiful trees. The Springs, dedicated in 1866 as a public park, had now become a favorite spot where townspeople leisurely gathered.

In addition to its beautiful stream, shaded walkways, and well-kept, natural environment, the Park was decorated with the previously mentioned lion’s head. Sometime later, Paul E. Beck, his father, Abraham, and his brother, Herbert, put a stone tablet into the wall at the Springs’ head-end, upon which was engraved a German inscription, “Gottes Brunniein hat Wasser die Fulle.” This translates to “God’s Fount is never failing.”

Tragedy Strikes

On April 26, 2005, it was discovered that the priceless lion’s head had been defaced beyond recognition when a vandal pulverized the carving when he struck it 13 to 15 times with another stone. All that remained of the statue was a vague facial outline and the mane. Fortunately, police captured the hoodlum.

The Return of the King

A special Lion’s Head Restoration Committee was appointed by the Lititz Springs Park Board of Trustees to determine how the lion’s head could be restored. After careful consideration, it was determined that restoring the lion’s head was not feasible.

It was decided that a full lion, symbolic of the “Lion of Lucerne,” be carved out of granite and placed directly above the original lion’s head. This new full lion completes Beck’s original dream.

Lititz Spring Park Lion

LiDAR Scan of the Statue

You can explore the Lititz Spring Park Lion in VR from this LiDAR scan I took of the statue.

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Planning Your Trip

The Lititz Spring Park is located at 24 N Broad St, Lititz, PA 17543. It is open from dawn to dusk. During your trip to Lititz, consider visiting the Lititz Historical Foundation, which highlights the town’s fascinating history. While there, see if you can find the buried treasure belonging to Hannah Hetherley, the “pow-wowing” witch doctor known as the “Sorceress of Lititz,” in this fun Uncharted Lancaster adventure at the Lititz Historical Foundation.

Lititz Historical Foundation’s “Walking Tour of Main Street”

For an even deeper dive into the communities’ surprisingly older-than-expected history, check out the Historic Lititz Walking Tours. I recently took the trip back in time and thoroughly enjoyed it. Your tour guide will come dressed in a period costume. Below is a selfie with walking tour guide Kristin Wenger from my recent Main Street of Lititz tour. Fun Fact: Her blue ribbon isn’t a simple fashion accessory. Lititz was a strict Moravian church community until the mid-1800s. All women wore a colored ribbon in their hair to signify which “choir” they were in. Not church choir but stage of life (for example, young girl, single woman, married, or widow). Kristin’s blue strip of fabric indicates that she is married.

The 45-minute expedition down Main Street discusses 25 historical structures as well as the people and fascinating stories behind them. Admission is $10 per person. To book your tour, call 717-627-4636 or email lhf@dejazzd.com. Click here to learn more at their website.

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Resources

Learn More

Meet Hannah Hetherley, the ‘pow-wowing’ witch doctor known as the ‘Sorceress of Lititz’

In 1879, a rag-tag group of Christmas day-born treasure hunters led by the “Sorceress of Lititz” Hannah Hetherley set out to find buried riches hidden near downtown Lititz. Legend holds that they found it, but the magic protecting the cache was too powerful to allow its removal. Can you break the spell?


Lititz answers the call of freedom; becomes a hospital town for Revolutionary War wounded

For eight months in 1778, the town of Lititz served as a hospital caring for hundreds of men. Unfortunately, typhus plagued the facility killing 120 soldiers of the nearly 1,000 men who stayed there.

For eight months beginning in December 1777, the town of Lititz, by order of George Washington, served as a military hospital. Unfortunately, typhus ravaged the facility killing 120 of the nearly 1,000 men who stayed there. The Moravian community also paid a heavy toll for their kindness when the disease killed many of its residents. Click the link to learn how Lititz answered the call of freedom.

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One thought on “The Lion Sleeps Tonight in Lititz Spring Park

  1. While you’re visiting the Lititz Springs Park, check out the stone “Wall” located at the bottom of the VFW parking lot, facing into the park. This is the “Lititz Wall of Remembrance”, dedicated on the 250th anniversary of Lititz. On the plaques in chronological order are the names of 302 former Lititz residents who contributed to their town in some way. See a familiar or a famial name? In the “train station” visitors center is a book about the wall and short biographies of all those named on it! The 2020 book also includes a listing of birth and death dates, and burial places of all the people listed on the “Wall”.

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