Reading, PA, architect Abner A. Ritcher was born in North Annville Twp., Lebanon Co., PA, to James and Lydia Ritcher. After graduating from Lebanon High School in 1888, he embarked on 10 years of office training and six months of European travel. His employers during this time were H. T. Hauer of Lebanon (1888-1890) and H. A. Roby, also of Lebanon (1890-1900, with at least one citation from the Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders Guide cited as Roby & Ritcher). He practiced chiefly under his own name from 1900 to 1920, but had already established an association with H. I. Eiler. In 1920 the Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders Guide (21 January 1920) announced that Ritcher and Eiler would establish the Ritcher-Lee Co., with offices in Philadelphia and Reading. This firm included the services of William H. Lee. However, by 1921 citations for the partnership of Ritcher & Eiler begin to appear in the PRERBG.
Ritcher's practice was chiefly concentrated on churches and school. In 1908 he wrote to Glenn Brown of the AIA regarding the contemplated Lebanon County building. His lamentation might characterize the plight of many small town architects of the time: "Some of us 'small' country practitioners have imbibed enough spirit of the ethics promulgated by the Institute to endeavor to uplift the Architectural practice in the isolated country districts. This is hard work, for the reason that we must oftentimes counteract the influence of third rate offices of the large cities, who come into the country districts and because of their supposed metropolitan standing, make an impression with prospective clients. We find these men encroaching on our territory and slashing prices right and left, so that it is uphill work for those of us in the country towns, who are trying to elevate the profession and create a demand for better things."
Notwithstanding the "encroaching" large-city offices, Ritcher managed a thriving practice in Reading, PA, including the Reading Hospital (1926), Lebanon High School, the Penn National Bank (Reading, 1915), St. Marks Reformed Church (Greenwich and Ritter streets, Reading, 1903), and St. James Lutheran Church and Sunday School (Allentown, 1915).
Sandra L. Tatman.
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