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The intense residential development of this area that commenced in the 1850s was spurred on largely by the founding of the Conestoga Cotton Mills. The establishment of more industries on and near South Prince Street in the period from circa 1870 to 1915 created a need for more housing in the neighborhood. Although there was limited residential growth in most of the South Side after about 1905, the area of Highland Avenue generally dates from the 1900s to the 1940s.

For descriptive purposes, the South Side divides into four general areas: the Conestoga Steam Mills, the South Prince Street Industrial Corridor, the South Prince/South Queen Streets Residential Area, and the Highland Avenue Area. These areas are architecturally distinct from one another, yet each is historically related. This relationship between factory and the housing for the factory workers remains very much in evidence today and is a key factor in the significance of the South Side.

The Conestoga Steam Mills complex remains as the largest historic industrial complex within the City of Lancaster (see photo on page 16). Constructed between 1845 and 1910 as the first steam powered cotton mill complex in Lancaster County, the Conestoga Steam Mills are a tangible landmark to the cotton industry, one of Lancaster's most important mid to late nineteenth century industries. The first section of this sprawling complex to be constructed was Conestoga Steam Mill #1. At the urging of Major General Charles Tillinghast James, a committee of five Lancaster businessmen travelled to New England in 1845 to inspect steam powered mills. Upon their return, the Conestoga Steam Mill #1 was formed and James was hired to build and outfit a major steam cotton mill in Lancaster. The mill was completed and operations commenced in March 1847. The largest structure in Lancaster at the time of its construction, Conestoga Steam Mill #1 dominated the local skyline.

Conestoga Steam Mill #2 was begun in 1848 and opened in August 1849. Also in 1849, work began on Conestoga Steam Mill #3, which started operations in 1851. During the period between 1855 and 1860, economic problems hampered operation of the mills and each experienced changes in ownership. Substantial production resumed by the beginning of the Civil War and, during the war, the Conestoga Steam Mills produced nearly eighty percent of the heavy fabrics used by the Union Army for tents, ground cloths, etc. After the war, the mills enjoyed considerable prosperity and were, by the 1880s, the largest industry in the city, employing almost 40% of all local manufacturing workers.

South Side Part IV

Lancaster City Living – Lancaster PA