The first railroad train came to Manheim from Columbia in 1862, ushering in a period of development in the southern part of town. Mills, a foundry, a lumber yard and a hardware store were established and building lots were sold south of the railroad. The town population was 1,000.
Manheim was growing and J.S Henry saw the need for a hotel in the area. He built the American House Railroad Hotel in 1869 using some of the first bricks made at the Manheim Brickyard of E.F. Hostetter, just east of town.
The hotel was designed in the American style of architecture which included large parlors and hallways, bar room, dining room, pantries and comfortable sleeping rooms. There was a never-failing spring of good water in the vaulted cellar. Fully prepared to cater to the wants of the public, the hotel enjoyed widespread popularity as one of the best in eastern Pennsylvania.
Henry was creative and built an omnibus for the use of his patrons and those of the railroad for those who travel to and from all parts of the borough. His musical interest led him to build an organ which was housed in the candy store next to the hotel.
In the dark early morning hours of April 24, 1896, the guests of the American House were suddenly awakened by cries for "Help." There had been a train wreck in the southeastern end of the borough. "The Night Buck" had hit a boxcar on the main track and overturned, pinning the engineer beneath the engine. This was the Great Train Wreck of 1896.
In 1912, the time of Manheim's Old Home Week celebration, the proprietor of the hotel was William C. Lefevre. Since the hotel was located a half square from the Trolley Station and opposite the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, Mr. Lefevre made special efforts to accommodate the transient trade. The hotel was thoroughly equipped for banquets and had electricity, gas and steam heat, telephones and good stabling.
A popular owner of the American House was Bob Frey, the famous baseball player who helped Leo Houck win the grand Red Lion - Manheim ball game of 1921. The score was 10 to 1 in favor of Red Lion. In the 9th inning with two outs and two strikes against him, Houck hit a home run that led to a hitting spree and Manheim won 11 to 10. Bob Frey hit a three bagger driving in several runs.
In its heyday, the hotel enjoyed a fine reputation foe excellent food, drinks and gracious hospitality, which the present proprietors of this wonderfully revitalized American House Railroad Hotel are dedicated to carry on. May you happily enjoy it with them.