Universal York

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Losing landmarks made news in 1860s York County

Lewis Miller's drawing of Thomas Hartley's house
Lewis Miller’s drawing of Thomas Hartley’s house

I think of the 1960s as a sad period for York County landmarks. In the city alone the City Market House, an architectural gem by the Dempwolf firm, was torn down, and the imposing Variety Iron Works fountain was removed from Penn Park. Churches, stores and businesses throughout the county were replaced by “modern” buildings or remodeled beyond recognition.

It turns out the 1860s were not so good either for local buildings. An article in the April 17, 1866 York Gazette is titled “OLD LAND MARKS GONE.” It starts out:

“The old white house on East Market street, in the rear of which the new German Reformed Church has recently been built, was taken down last week. The house was built upwards of one hundred years ago, occupied during the revolutionary war by the Hon. Thos. Hartley, who subsequently, for many years, represented York County in Congress. During the revolution and whilst the American Congress sat in this place, this house was the head quarters of Gen. Washington, in his official visits to York. In later years is was for a long time occupied as the Post Office, and afterwards was used for various occupations.”

The site of Hartley’s house is now the lawn with the cross-shaped fountain in front Trinity United Church of Christ. This is the same building that the writer refers to above as the new German Reformed Church.

The account isn’t entirely accurate concerning Washington. According to fellow blogger Jim McClure, Washington probably visited York at least four times during his lifetime, but he was occupied elsewhere during the Revolutionary War.

Washington is said to have stayed with Hartley when he did visit York in 1791, during his presidency. During that visit Washington attended worship at First Reformed Church, a predecessor of Trinity. It was just a few lots west, on the site of the building many remember as Woolworth’s. He is quoted as saying he was not in any danger of being converted (from his Episcopal faith) as the sermon was in German, and he did not understand it. Hartley was the first congressman from the area under the Constitution, serving from 1789 to 1800.

The newspaper writer goes on to decry more building demolished during the 1860s. I will share more of these later, as well as some of the buildings that replaced the old ones and still stand.