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1912 Renovations to York’s Penn Park/Penn Common

Pennsylvania's traveling Civil War 150 Road Show set up on Penn Common, August 2011

Is it Penn Park or Penn Common?

The public space in the middle of York has had some ups and downs over the years. I understand there have been some plans afoot for some major upgrades to this pleasant space in the middle of York, bounded by Pershing, College and Lindberg Avenues and Lafayette Street.

The proper name? According to a front page article from the April 12, 1912 York Gazette, the official name for the space was to be Penn Common. At least that is what the board of park commissioners was going to ask York’s Select Council to approve. The article recaps their reasoning and some of the park’s history as follows:

“This name was accepted as appropriate at a conference of the park commissioners held on the park yesterday afternoon. They met there for the purpose of considering improvements to be made this summer… .

Commissioner A. Wanner suggested that the name Penn Common would be the most suitable for the beautiful open space, especially in view of its historic past. For generations before it became known as Penn Park, it was known as the Common. Here in days of ancient York the citizens were to put their cows for pasture. Where Lafayette street now stretches its handsome length there was the ‘Horse Ditch’ and on the common proper tent shows often were pitched. Here soldiers’ barracks were established during the Civil War. The common remained nothing but an open, nearly barren spot, until civic pride induce the park idea and the present ornamental breathing spot is the outgrowth of it.

But it is not, in the true sense, a park. It is more a square, according to modern city ideas, but beyond all that is the more sentimental one of common. It was given to the people of York by the Penns, and their name ought, of course, always be associated with it. Common is old fashioned, and it sounds well, and all things considered, it is held by the commissioners that Penn Common is just the name for it.”

Click here for more on the 1912 renovations to the park.