Lit Brothers began as a millinery shop founded by Rachel Lit Wedell on Eighth Street above Filbert in 1890.
Her shop thrived thanks to her offer to trim hats purchased at the store free of charge. In 1893, Rachel’s brothers Samuel and Jacob Lit, joined Rachel and built a new store at the northeast corner of Eighth and Market Streets. The store’s tag line was “A Great Store in a Great City, and it positioned itself well as a more affordable alternate to competitors, Strawbridge and Clothier and Wanamaker’s.
Like its competitors, Lit Brothers offered up-to-date amenities like a fleet of motorized delivery trucks and a subway entrance (still there today!) that led directly to its bargain basement.
The unique façade of the building’s front on Market Street caused it to become known as the “cast iron” building. The architects of the Lits Building were Charles M. Autenrieth and his partner Edward Collins. The integrity of the cast iron building has been carefully and conscientiously maintained by its current owners, who were bestowed the National Preservation Honor Award in 1989. Rachel’s orginal sign that reads “Hats Trimmed Free of Charge” can still be seen today on the building’s marquees.
The desire to reclaim the past and rebrand the building as The Lits Building comes from the natural inclination to extol the still-existing charm of the bygone era. Because its infrastructure has been continually updated and maintained, while keeping the integrity of the building’s original intent, it is one of the few spaces in the city that effectively combines Commercial and Retail in one building.