Downtown York memories from William F. Hoffmeyer
Some time ago, I received some letters from local attorney and longtime Yorker William F. Hoffmeyer, Esq. about former downtown businesses of interest. I realized I never had a chance to share those, and am excited to do so today, along with some details on how these properties have changed even since Mr. Hoffmeyer wrote to me!
Mr. Hoffmeyer’s first letter noted, “In the first block of North George Street were the following stores… Immediately before what was First National Bank (the only bank in York County that did not close on Black Friday of the Great Depression) and, subsequently, Commonwealth Bank and Citizens Bank, was Flinchbaugh Brothers Men’s Store.” He went on to note that the menswear store later became part of Citizens Bank’s holdings; Citizens closed that location in 2012. It’s now owned by York’s Redevelopment Authority and its future may be soon decided by local developer David Yohn.
Hoffmeyer continued, “Across George Street as a part of the Bear’s Department Store, but operated independently, was McCall’s Men’s Store, Bear’s Shoe Store and the White Rose Restaurant, as well as… Schmutz’s Leather Goods. Of course, next to Flinchbaugh Brothers Men’s Store was the original Ramona Restaurant, which was owned by the parents of the late Judge Emanuel Cassimatis and was known to all of us who graduated York High back in the old days as the RAM.”
He added, “As soon as you crossed Clark Avenue on the west side of George Street, and after you passed Gregory’s Men’s Store, you came to the building which I presently occupy with the Hoffmeyer & Semmelman, LLP Law Office and York Abstracting Company. When I purchased the building, the first floor was occupied by Roberta’s York Office Supply and by the Jewel Box. On the second floor, front, was Dr. Thomas Loeffler’s dental office. Dr. Loeffler retired after 50 years of practice a number of years ago. Prior to the addition of the stairway between my building and the next building, which houses York Stenographic Services, and is known as the Eddie Herr building, there was a newsstand which I frequented as a young boy on Saturday mornings when my father got me out of the house to give my mother some sanity. He was working Saturday mornings as the secretary/treasurer of the J.E. Baker Company.”
That business, he noted, later became Maewyn’s restaurant (and before that, the Harp & Fiddle). Now it is home to Rockfish Public House, which opened earlier this year.
At the time, though, Mr. Hoffmeyer noted, that building “was the Peterman Wholesale Shoe Store building. South of it was Formprest Dry Cleaners. Regal Stationary Store and a newsstand were on the corner of North George and Philadelphia Street.” He noted than an earlier memory I shared identified that business as being owned by William Cross, but clarified, “The actual name of the owner was Willard Cross. The Regal was subsequently taken over by his nephew.”
Continuing north on North George Street, he noted, “Next door to my building was the relocated White Rose Restaurant owned by Christopher Lewis, who renamed the restaurant Christopher’s. Prior to Christopher’s, the building was occupied by the original Town Tavern, owed by Eddie Herr, and then by a sporting goods store. For some time Christopher was also a York City councilman before he and his family relocated out of the area. Next door to them was the Golden Glow Cafeteria owned by AL Knox and his wife, who lived two doors away from my family out in East York and, of course, next to them was the Lehmyer’s Department Store. I forgot to mention that after I bought my building my then-wife opened the Lady Jayne Women’s Apparel Boutique on the first floor, which was operated from 1967 until 1984.”
He added, “Across the street were the Law Offices of Fluhrer, Medill and Shelly, a venerable old law firm in York. The building next to them, going back toward the square on the corner of North George and Clark Alley, housed the relocated Ramona Restaurant and, on the second floor, Attorney Paul Shaffer had his offices… to the rear on the second floor was the Spring Garden Band Club. When I was a kid, the pharmacy, Dale & Co., occupied the building in which the relocated Ramona moved or was in an building on the north side of the relocated Ramona, which for years was a parking lot.”
“Proceeding northward,” he continued, “for a while the York Diner was located on what eventually became a parking lot after the diner was relocated to East Market Street in Springettsbury Township, and next to that was the Penn Hotel which, when it closed, had the Griffith-Smith Men’s Store and the Town Tavern housed therein. As I mentioned above, the original Town Tavern, many years ago, was next door to my office in what is now York Stenographic Services when Eddie Herr owned the Town Tavern. The Penn Hotel, which was owned by the J.E. Baker Company, and of which my father was the president, had the finest coffee shop and dining room of any facility in downtown York for many, many years.”
He continued, “Directly across Philadelphia Street from the Penn Hotel was the Direct Hat Shop, whose owner was one of the most dapper-dressed individuals with an extremely neat, very finely trimmed moustache. He had hats of all types as well as men’s custom clothing. Going back to the west side of North George Street, immediately north of Peterman/J.E. Baker Company… was Haines Pipe Shop.”
Next to that, he added, was the King George Hotel, which later became Coliseo Italian Restaurant, and is now home to Tutoni’s, one of my favorite downtown spots. Finally, he added, the former tenant where the Left Bank is now located was the Shamrock Bar and Grill.
“On the east side of North George Street,” he continued, “was Grace Hope Mission… They were there when I was a little kid, which was many years ago, and they are still there. Although the ladies who ran the Grace Hope Mission when I was a kid and many years thereafter, would either be on a street corner or at the Central Market House playing an organ and a trumpet, that has now ceased and they now, very nicely and politely, hope for monetary handouts.”
He added, “There was also an office supply company directly across from what is now Left Bank whose name escapes me, but across the alley from them was a fire company whose name I really do not remember and next to the fire company was the A.B. Farquhar Plant, a manufacturer of farm equipment, which then sold it to the Oliver Corportation which, shortly after its purchase, closed the facility.”
He concluced that letter by noting, “On East Philadelphia Street behind the Penn Hotel was the Penn Garage. The Penn Garage had gas pumps and multiple levels, which required parking attendants to park your car. You were not permitted to park your own car there.”
In a follow-up letter, Mr. Hoffmeyer added more information about his family’s connection to the Hotel Penn. “Throughout my childhood, the Hotel Penn was owned by the J.E. Baker Co.” Their offices were, at the time, on the second floor of the building that is now the Rockfish Public House, and the first floor of that building was occupied by Peterman’s Wholesale Shoes, mentioned above. “In fact, the building was owned by Peterman’s,” he confirmed.
He continued, “The Hotel Penn had absolutely the finest dining room, cocktail lounge and coffee shop anywhere in the City of York during the 1940s, 1950s and partially into the 1960s. The chefs who were hired for the dining room were New York chefs, the cocktail lounge was beautiful and the coffee shop was truly a magnificent restaurant. My uncle lived at the hotel for some period of time and became very close with the hostess, with whom he had a wonderful relationship for a number of years.” He also recalled his father, Frederick W. Hoffmeyer, had the position of treasurer with J.E. Baker Co., and noted that he was also president of the Hotel Penn Corp.
I am so sorry that it took me so long to share all these good memories, but very glad for a chance to tell more about this great area of George Street and the surrounding neighborhood!Have questions or memories to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Ask Joan, York Daily Record/Sunday News, 1891 Loucks Road, York PA 17408. We cannot accept any phone calls with questions or information.