While there are numerous unreliable accounts of the origins of pretzel-making, one thing is perfect for sure: it is a time-honored tradition. Its roots are prone to go as far back to 610 AD when it's believed the pretzel got its start in Europe with Italian monks. However, through the 12th century, the pretzel had become a symbol of southern Germany as bakers perfected the art throughout the region.
While the jury continues to be on which country or region, specifically, gets the credit for that pretzel, one thing we do know is when the first commercial pretzel bakery was opened. Throughout the mid-19th century, Pennsylvania's Dutch Country saw its first – and oldest – bakery operation, which starred in making these twisted bits of dough.
To this very day, that bakery is still open and it has be a historical landmark in Lititz, Pennsylvania. And never to say, a must-try for those visiting.
The Oldest (Pretzel) Bakery In The U.S.
The good reputation for the way the pretzel made its method to the U.S. is perhaps even more convoluted than the origins from the snack itself. Some think that it might happen to be brought over around the Mayflower, while some accept is as true was brought over later on by German immigrants. Based on History.com, an argument for the former might have been that these doughy snacks were used for bartering with Native Americans. In any case may be, we're certainly glad the pretzel made its way here, particularly with how good it's evolved into American culture.
In speaking to the latter explanation for the pretzel's cross-pond migration, though, German immigrants could have been settling in America in the early 18th century. This timeline lines up with the very first commercial pretzel bakery to open in the country – which opened its doors in 1861. Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery is a historic landmark that can be found in Lititz, Pennsylvania. The site of the bakery today is precisely where it once stood more than a century (and then some) prior, which is a testament to both its history and its product.
The Famous Sturgis Pretzel
Those familiar with the area will also be likely familiar with the famous Sturgis pretzels. Whereas this bakery is renowned for to be the initial commercial pretzel-baking operation within the U.S., also they are credited with allowing the first (intentional) hard pretzel. Julius Sturgis was only 26 years old as he purchased the bakery after immigrating from Germany. The stone shop at 219 East Main Street looks very similar today because it did then with little having changed, save for the museum-esque part of the operation. Your building itself was built-in 1784, making it even more of a historic destination, even for those who aren't fans of pretzels.
Incredibly enough, for over a century now, the bakery continues to be run by the same Sturgis family who purchased the shop in 1861. Even today, the same recipe that Julius Sturgis used the day he opened is identical exact recipe that continues to be used today.
Touring Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery
The museum-esque part of the bakery which was discussed earlier is really a tribute towards the original manner in which was utilized when designing pretzels back in the 19th century. Antique baking devices are displayed for visitors to see, and tours are presently by appointment limited to time of writing.
Just going to the Sturgis home is an event, as it's one of the oldest homes within the town of Lititz. The home itself was constructed with locally-sourced construction materials, including stone dug from underneath the street, as well as timber from the forests surrounding Lititz. Everything about the interior of the home, from its original wooden doors to the plank pegged floors, talks to the historic recognition of the home itself.
- Fun Fact: Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Along with tours, people to the bakery may also sign up for classes to understand steps to make and hand-twist pretzels. As it turns out, this process of creating a classic pretzel is not as easy as it appears – but it never hurts to test one's hand at making one!
What To consume At Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery
For those more interested in the things they can eat at the bakery rather than what they can do there (although, we recommend both experiences), there are several options. Of course, the classic soft pretzel is a no-brainer, but Sturgis also creates hard pretzels and chocolate-covered pretzels. For those visiting the bakery gift shop, more souvenirs are available, including t-shirts, pretzel-themed gifts, and holiday items with respect to the season. People who aren't in the area but want to get a taste of Sturgis classic pretzels can check out their web store, too.