Universal York

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Some York buildings that didn’t bite the dust

Dotted line area slated for demolition in 1961
Dotted line area slated for demolition in 1961

We lament, and rightly so, the loss of impressive York buildings, such as City Market and York Collegiate Institute. Still, it could have been worse. Here is an example of one urban renewal project that thankfully didn’t happen.

While looking through the York Square file at the York County History Center Library/Archives, working on my upcoming slide show on the square, I gave a little gasp when I came across this clipping from the January 31, 1961 York Gazette and Daily.

The lengthy caption for the aerial photo reads:

“SLATED FOR RENEWAL—The broken line describes the area in the southeast quadrant of Continental Square scheduled for clearance by York Redevelopment Authority. The authority this week is getting up letters and advertisements inviting interested developers to present ideas on what they would do with the cleared land. The authority has been thinking in terms of an office building with ample parking space and first floor retail outlets. Authority and city officials are on record that the present structures will not come down until a satisfactory developer is ready to follow up immediately with reconstruction. Even if a developer were found within a few weeks, the project could not get underway, for about a year at the earliest, according to authority officials.”

I hope you can see the heavy dotted line on the newspaper photo. It encompassed all the property on the east side of South George Street from Market Street to Mason Avenue. That would include the impressive 1850 Hartman building, nicely restored a few years ago. The rest of the buildings on that half block are quite old and lovely–in case you haven’t looked up for a while, see the Goggle street shot below.

The dotted line continues up East Market Street from George to the drive between the present Wells Fargo bank (now with a “modernized” façade) and the former courthouse. The bank building itself would have been spared, but the restored Golden Swan tavern building, built in 1807, would have been demolished.

By the early sixties stores were moving from downtown to shopping centers, such as the York County Shopping Center, which opened in 1956. The crowds of shoppers went with them, and downtown became depressed. In some ways lack of interest in projects such as this one might have worked for the eventual good of York. Now that a real renewal seems to be underway, there are some great buildings left to shine again.

Everyone is invited to the York County History Center, 250 East Market Street on November 12 at 10:30 a.m. As part of the regular Second Saturday program series, I will be presenting Changing Crossroads: York’s Square over the Centuries, using historic maps, drawings and photos to look at 275 years of history in the heart of the county.

East side of first half block of South George.  Google street view
East side of first half block of South George. Google street view