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1920s York bank designed to recognize World War One veterans

1920s First National Bank, courtesy of Google street view

Most people know the imposing stone building on the northeast corner of York’s Center/Continental Square was erected as a bank building in the 1920s and that it served in that capacity until just a few years ago. It is now awaiting another use. But, did you know that the bank’s impressive arched entrance was planned to serve as a World War One war memorial?

Here is an April 5, 1921 news clipping that tells the story:




An artistic arch, dedicated to the men and women of York and York county, who served during the World war, will form the front of the new First National bank building which is to be erected on the site of the Spahr building, Center square. Plans for the building, prepared by Gemmill and Billmeyer, local architects, were accepted by the board of directors of the bank at a meeting held this morning. The arch idea is carried throughout the design of the building.

Upon the memorial arch, at the main entrance to the building, will be placed a large tablet bearing a suitable tribute to those who served the nation during the great conflict. Other entrances to the building will have smaller arches. The building will be constructed of white marble.

On Center square, the building will have a frontage of 36 feet. The North George street front will be 102 feet in length. The building will be 60 feet high. The main entrance is to face Center square. The Spahr building is now occupied by H.B. Beard & Co., dealers in harness and leather goods.

DAR/SAR 1906 plaque commemorating courthouse and Articles of Confederation


There are presently two brass plaques on the building. The larger one is framed in a shallow niche on the right of the entrance. It was erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution to commemorate the courthouse in the square, in which Continental Congress met 1777-1778. It is dated 1906, so it must have originally been mounted on another building, perhaps the Spahr building that proceeded the First National Bank.

1924 DAR plaque concerning Continental Treasury

The smaller plaque is on the left side of the entrance, mounted low on the granite base. It commemorates that site as the location of the U.S. Treasury while Congress met here. The Yorktown Chapter, DAR had it cast in 1924, the year the bank was finished.

Was anything in this niche?

There is an empty shallow niche to the left of the entrance, facing the larger plaque. Could the tablet mentioned in the news article have been installed there? If so, where is it now. Or, perhaps the DAR treasury plaque was in that spot and has been moved?

Since those lost in the conflict were memorialized on the front of the East Market Street courthouse, maybe a plaque was no longer deemed necessary on the bank.

Two side entrances, facing on George Street also feature arches, as mentioned in the article:

George Street side entrance at steps, courtesy of Google street view

Side entrance on George Street near square, courtesy of Google street view