Friday, May 20, 2011

Rittenhouse Row Festival is not just about food...

Tomorrow is the annual Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival in Philadelphia. You know the drill; walk, walk, walk, eat, eat, eat, drink, drink, drink, maybe dance a little and try not to get annoyed with the crowds. We will be there, of course, selling our delicious gelato, including strawberry!!! Ahhhhh, festivals. So much fun, they are.

Anywho, there are certain things you hear daily in Philadelphia. Of course you hear Phillies, Eagles, Flyers....., but there are some names and places that are just part of our lexicon. We walk through Rittenhouse Square, run down Kelly Drive all the way to Manayunk and of course we have the Ben Franklin Parkway and Washington Square. A plethora of names that for most have no meaning. Philadelphia is so rich with personalities. Guggenheim, Cassatt, Chomsky, Furness, Kelly, Strawbridge, Roberts, Eakins, Wanamaker, Biddle and Kelly. All Philadelphians. Which brings me to my point - Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse Square, Rittenhouse Town, Rittenhouse Street....

Rittenhouse family

David Rittenhouse
David Rittenhouse (1732-1796)
Source: Wikipedia Commons

Originating in the Lower Rhine, the Mennonite family name Rittenhouse (Rittinghuysen, Rittinghausen, Ruddinghuysen, Rittershausen) dates back at least to 1591. There is no trace of the Rittenhouse family among the European Mennonites after William Rittenhouse came to Pennsylvania in 1688. Willem (William) Rittinghausen (1644-1708) was born in the Rhineland near Mühlheim, Germany, and was living in Amsterdam before he immigrated to America in 1688. He became the first Mennonite minister in America and builder of the first paper mill at Philadelphia in 1690. It is believed that all American Mennonite Rittenhouses have descended from him.

Many American Mennonite Rittenhouses have remained in the place where their ancestors first settled (near Philadelphia in Montgomery, Bucks, and Berks counties), while some went to Canada with the Bucks County migration of 1799-1800. A few families moved to Wayne County, Ohio and a smaller number still, moved to Indiana, Michigan, and Alberta. Many descendents of the original family joined other faiths as well.

Some notable members of the family, besides the pioneer William Rittenhouse, have been Matthias Rittenhouse (1770-1832), a minister in the Skippack (Pennsylvania) Mennonite Church (MC) congregation of the Franconia Conference, and Nicholas (Claes) Rittenhouse (1666-1734), son of William, one of the subscribers to the Dordrecht Confession of Faith at the 1725 conference. The most famous person bearing the family name was David Rittenhouse (1732-96), thePhiladelphia astronomer and scientist and the first director of the United States mint, who was a son of Matthias of the third generation in America. He was not a member of the Mennonite Church.

As you wander through the Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival, look around and notice the street names that seem to echo throughout the city. Go home and use the Google machine. History. I love Philadelphia's age. A few weeks ago I wandered through Elfreth's Alley with my in-laws. I forget how charming the city is at times. It is not just about pulled pork sandwiches and a Capogiro cart. Although, that ain't bad.

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