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Ask Joan: York Township questions edition

All three Ask Joan questions today are from York Township. I don’t normally get that many geographically specific questions, so that was neat!

What’s inside

1. Following up on Innersville/Spry
2. Why is road School Street?
3. Steel beams unpainted – how come?

1. In early September, I shared a question from Ray Wallace, who wanted to know why and for whom Innersville, York County, was named, and why it was renamed Spry later.

I mentioned at the time that the Innersville name came from the family in the area named Inners, and that it was renamed Spry when it came time for a post office to be established in the late 1800s.

But I didn’t know where the Spry name came from. Reader Mervin Kashner directed me to the York Township 250th anniversary book, which we have in our library here at the YDR, and I got some more details.

First of all, the Inners in question was Jacob Inners, who owned more than 300 acres in the area after the Revolutionary War, and the town took his name in his honor. His wife, Susanna Inners, was the keeper of the Union Hotel there from 1830 to 1850.

And then there’s the post office thing. According to the township history, the story goes that Innersville was too long of a name for a post office, and in fact there was another Innersville already; the request, as it’s told, was to make the name as short as possible. A story recounted in the book says that a man named Herman Weitkamp came into the general store owned by the town’s postmaster, William Conway, and said “You better be spry about it,” and Conway replied, “That’s the name, Spry.” This supposedly happened in the 1890s.

I can’t say for sure if that’s in any way true or not, as there’s no sourcing for it, but it’s at least a fun story and as good as any I’ve found!

2. Why is there a road in York Township called School Street when there isn’t any old school on that road that I can see?
– Michael

Another York Township question – why not! Got that from the township’s history book too; it says, “School Street explains its name from the old Spry Grammar School that stood from 1912 until 1967.”

So, while it’s not there any more, there was a school there, Michael!

3. Here’s an unusual question for you. When I was in college back in 1973-1977 and I took physics I remember the professor stating that in some cases it is better to let some metals rust. With that in mind I wonder why the steel beams over the curved section of what used to be “Dead Man’s Curve” were never painted. Is this one of those cases where it will help the steel in some way? All the other steel beams in this area have been painted.
– Ed Van Wicklen Sr.

I was just past that area of I-83, between South George Street and Leader Heights, where the former Dead Man’s Curve was realigned around 2006. And guess what? It’s in York Township, too.

I’m pretty sure that what Ed’s describing is the large “flyover” ramp that was built in the area, seen below in a 2007 photo by Paul Kuehnel.

In this 2007 photo, the flyover ramp seen behind Jody Myers connects drivers exiting Interstate 83 northbound to South George Street. The 44-month construction project was undertaken to soften the elbow bend at Dead Man's Curve in York Township.
In this 2007 photo, the flyover ramp seen behind Jody Myers connects drivers exiting Interstate 83 northbound to South George Street. The 44-month construction project was undertaken to soften the elbow bend at Dead Man’s Curve in York Township.

Well, the scientist in me is fascinated by this, and what I found, while not specific to our bridge, seems right in line.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, material like this is called “weathering steel” and it actually makes the beam stronger. As it turns out, this material only rusts, or corrodes, on the surface, and in turn that corrosion forms a protective layer that keeps the main body of steel beam from corroding underneath that top layer!

As it turns out, it’s not cheap to paint beams like this every few years, either, so not only is this good for the beam, it’s apparently cost-effective, too.

So Ed, it seems likely that you’re right to make the connection to your physics course, and wow, how cool – I never thought much about that, despite driving by often. Thanks for the neat tip! I’m going to check in with PennDOT if I can about this flyover bridge, just to be sure; I do know PennDOT uses weathering steel elsewhere, but if I can definitively confirm that’s what this is, I’ll certainly give an update.

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 get a large volume, but I will feature three each week and answer as many as possible!

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