Frederick Maulich (left) with his bartender and patrons - 1925.
The Square and Compass Tavern was built in 1814. It catered primarily to the workers who helped transform the village of Marietta into a thriving seat of industry in the early 19th century. Much of Marietta's growth stemmed from the burgeoning traffic on the canal which once ran parallel to the old tavern and hotel.
The nearby Susquehanna River was never suited for shipping, being too shallow and filled in many places with jutting rocks. So barge traffic along the canal emerged as the ideal means of transporting goods until steam power and the railroads provided a better alternative.
Documented as the oldest continuously operating tavern in Lancaster County, Shank's Tavern's earlier owners included Frederick Maulich and a pair of brothers, Joseph and Irving Fritz. The Fritz brothers reportedly came from a wealthy family and waged a bitter battle over their respective shares of a sizable inheritance. It is believed that one brother buried his share at the old tavern - though no one knows exactly when or where.
Until 1895 , The Square and Compass provided both food and lodging. In that year, Frederick Maulich demolished the boardinghouse wing and built an attached townhouse to serve as his private residence.
In 1933 the tavern was acquired by the Shank family who has operated it ever since. During their ownership, in the middle years of this century, little Marietta once again enjoyed "boom" status when a branch of Olmsted Air Force Base was situated in the town. As home base for hundreds of GIs, Marietta at that time boasted 28 bars, every one of them a flourishing concern.
Today Shank's Tavern is mindful of its history. Coffin doors are still visible beyond the bar and the interior is pleasantly rustic. In keeping with the tavern tradition, the focus is on providing good drink and ample fare.
(Historic Inns and Taverns, Margaret Irish & Tracy Sheridan, ©1990 Science Press)