Only in York County

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Ask Joan: Spring cleaning edition

I spent most of yesterday doing some major decluttering and spring cleaning in our house. We managed to come up with a ton of things to sell – I joked that it was a small apartment’s worth. It’ll feel good to have it out of the house. (Note to longtime readers: We didn’t get rid of quite as much as we did during our 2009 cleanout.)


What’s inside
1. Downtown stores at Christmas
2. Hechinger Home Center location
3. my husband’s first but probably not last question
4. Tracing the Crosby family history
5. Brick homes on Gas Ave.

Q1. Does anyone have pictures of the stores in town decorated for Christmas, i remember even into the ’50s seeing The Bon-Ton, Weist’s and others with their windows decorated.
– Joan Larkin

Joan, I am sure that if anyone has such a photo, it would be one of the readers of this blog! I did not find a photo of the windows in particular, but this post on Jim McClure’s York Town Square blog shows Santa coming to The Bon-Ton up an awfully large ladder.

I also found the following “downtown Christmas” video courtesy of Scott Butcher, who blogs about all sorts of downtown buildings at Windows into York. Most of the photos in the video are more current, but there are some older ones as well!

Q2. Where was the Hechinger Home Center located in York?
– Linda Miller

The funny thing is, when Linda asked this question, I thought I knew the answer. Then I got to second-guessing myself. Hechinger, the chain, was liquidated in 1999; I believe our York County store closed well before then. My original thought was that it was in the area that would later become Builder’s Square and eventually Tractor Supply Co., in the Northwest Plaza Shopping Center on Route 30 in York. Now I can’t be positive. And that means I do what I do best – turn it over to my readers and commenters for verification. Any ideas, you guys?

Q3. I need you or your reader minions to determine what the history is of the following: “Dietz’s Lawn and Garden Store” located 1 mile north of Stony Brook — R.D. 7, York, Pa.
Chris Otto, aka my husband

Well, my educated guess – based on the location – was to wonder if this was at least related to the Dietzes of Dietz Produce, also located out east on the Lincoln Highway, not too far from the Stony Brook area. Hubby found a piece of notepaper from this company, which is why he’s wondering about it. My guess is only that, a guess, and it’s not really related to what he found, which was that “his” Dietzes sold lawn tractors, etc. Much like the questions above, this is where I turn things over to the readers. Any ideas? I’m willing to do more research, of course, but I’d love to have a direction to take!

Q4. My ancestor, James Crosby, had a tavern in York, PA. I am looking for any articles about him or his wife, Sara. Also trying to find his parents and where he came from? He lived 1740-1802.
– Lilabeth Crosby

Lilabeth, you’ve probably already tried this, but one of my best resource for any such research is The York County History Center archives. They have not steered me wrong yet. If you live in the area, it is definitely somewhere you should visit; they do offer research services for out-of-area inquiries, for a modest fee.

That’s my go-to general resource. However, for this particular question, I was able to find a much more specific answer! I’d suggest you talk to historian June Lloyd, who blogs at Universal York. There was a James Crosby, a tavern owner from Windsor Township, who she lists as an ancestor in this post! Could it be your same James Crosby? This one also died in 1802, so I’d definitely see if June can help further!

Q5. My grandma and uncle and aunties lived on Gas Alley during the ’30’s, ’40’s, ’50’s and ’60’s. The row houses made of red brick. Since I’ve been away, I learned that Gas Alley is now Gas Ave. and those red brick homes are now considered historical. Where could I get more information about those red brick row houses on Gas Ave.?
– Darlene

Darlene, I would probably point you toward Historic York, which does a ton of work with the notable historic buildings in the city. There’s also the National Register of Historic Places, which includes that at the edge of an area called the Northwest York Historic District. The down-side? None of their records for that area are digitized yet, but I did find excerpts from them here, including some details on why the area is of note and how those row homes differ from others in the city – hope that you find that useful!

Got any questions? Ask Joan using the form at right. I’ll attempt to answer them in a future “Ask Joan” column on this blog. I’m already getting a big volume, so it might take me a while, but I hope to be able to answer as many as possible!

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