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York’s Gates House and Plough Tavern: “The smallest urban renewal project in the country… .”

Before:  Golden Plough Tavern and General Gates House.
Golden Plough Tavern and General Gates House.

After: Golden Plough Tavern and General Gates house.
Golden Plough Tavern and General Gates house.

The public is invited to join York County Heritage Trust in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the Golden Plough Tavern and General Gates House.

Many free activities for the whole family will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday May 17 at the Trust’s Colonial Complex at West Market Street and Pershing Avenue in York. There will be artisans, musicians and much more. General Lafayette will be making a personal appearance.

In addition to the free activities, tickets can be purchased in advance for a chicken barbecue meal as well as for an exclusive talk by Joe Kindig, III about his personal involvement in saving these important mid-18th century buildings. Click this link for information on the free celebration and for tickets to the Kindig program.

The story of the rescue and restoration of the buildings shows what a community can do by working together. In July 1958 the buildings were part of an estate and were on a list of properties coming up at a tax sale. The properties were removed from the sale upon request of county, city and school board officials to allow time to see if, when and how restoration was desirable and possible. The city eventually ended up with the property, which led to eligibility for grant funding combined with private donations for the project.

I’ll be writing more about the long road to restoration, but the excerpt below from a booklet titled Urban Renewal, published by the Urban Renewal Administration, Housing and Home Finance Agency, Washington 25, DC in January 1963, sums up what was happening. It reads:

“York, Pennsylvania
The smallest urban renewal project in the country is the 4/10 of an acre Gates House Project in York, Pennsylvania. Purpose of the project was to remove all of the 12 buildings on the parcel except the two pre-Revolutionary buildings—the Gates House, used as headquarters for General Horatio Gates and Golden Plough Tavern, where Washington and Lafayette were entertained.
Title to the land and remaining buildings has been conveyed to the city.

A committee of the Junior League of York initiated the organization of a nonprofit corporation, Historic York County, financed through voluntary donations, which has leased the project site from the city and has undertaken restoration. Restoration work on Gates House and Golden Plough Tavern began in September 1961 and is scheduled to be completed in 1963. The remaining land is being developed as a park-like parking area for visitors. For additional information, write the local renewal agency: York Redevelopment Authority, 32 West King St., York, Pennsylvania.”

What is most surprising to me is this was an era when it was the fashion to tear down the old and build the new. For example, York’s grand City Market building was torn down in 1963. We can be grateful that wisdom did prevail in this case to save two of York’s oldest and historically significant buildings.

Click this link for Jim McClure’s post today showing artist Cliff Satterthwaite’s impressive eyewitness drawings of the Gates and Plough restorations.