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A Road Named N.O.P., Arsenal and Whiteford; Part 3 – Naval Ordnance Plant, NOP Road Ads

Eastward Looking View of the Naval Ordnance Plant, York, PA (The Story of a Dynamic Community, York, Pennsylvania, Published in 1946 by York Chamber of Commerce)

On June 19th 1944, the Special Ordnance Plant within the York Safe & Lock Company facility in Springettsbury Township was designated as the Naval Ordnance Plant, York.  This fact has a bearing on two of the names for a stretch of road in Springettsbury Township.  This is the third part of a series examining the reasons for the names associated with this stretch of road.  Other posts in this series and related posts include:


After the United States purchased manufacturing rights to the Bofors gun on June 21st 1941, a contract called for the York Safe & Lock Company to do the drawing conversions and to produce one gun to the resulting Navy Spec. Drawings by October 1941.  They were then to gradually increase production thereafter to 50 guns per month by May 1942.

The performance by York Safe & Lock Company with the Bofors contract started good, however suffered following the death of its driving force.  The President of the York Safe & Lock Company, S. Forry Laucks, died April 12th 1942.  Following his death, plant production and performance of subcontractors could not keep up with an ever-increasing demand for this gun.

The solution by the Navy Department to increase supply of the Bofors guns resulted in the establishment of an additional facility.  The Blaw-Knox Company of Pittsburgh was contracted to produce gun mounts in a rehabilitated plant at Martins Ferry, Ohio.  Chrysler Corporation, already producing Bofors guns for the Army, would supply the gun parts to Blaw-Knox for them to complete additional Naval Bofors gun assemblies in the Martins Ferry Plant.

Throughout 1943, the York Safe & Lock Company remained the only manufacturer producing the complete Bofors Naval gun start to finish.  To further increase supply of the gun the Navy Department returned their focus to the York plant; with the thought that the Navy could better manage production themselves.

President Roosevelt’s Executive Order No. 9416 of January 21st 1944 resulted in the January 23rd 1944 takeover of certain portions of the York Safe & Lock Company by the Navy Department, consisting principally of the facilities known as the Special Ordnance Plant. The Special Ordnance Plant was that part of the plant built at government expense of approximately $8,000,000 for significantly ramping up 40-MM Bofors gun production. The Navy Department directly managed the civilian workforce in the Special Ordnance Plant for several months following the takeover.

On June 19th 1944, these facilities were formerly commissioned as the U. S. Naval Ordnance Plant, York, with Captain Lee P. Johnson, USN, as the first commanding officer.  On the same date the Blaw-Knox Company was engaged as the contractor-operator.  Also on the same date the civilian workforce had to re-apply for their jobs based upon Civil Service and Navy regulations.  With the end of WWII on September 2nd 1945, activity at the U. S. Naval Ordnance Plant in York gradually turned to overhaul of war-service weapons.  The Navy Department let Blaw-Knox’s contract expire April 29th 1946 and the Navy re-assumed direct managerial control of the plant.

Issues of the “syNOPsis” newsletter of the US Naval Ordnance Plant, York, PA during the 1950s proudly notes “From the Home of the 40-MM.”  The plant had a peak employment of 3650 during WWII, 2000 during the Korean conflict and 1100 on February 22nd 1963 when the Navy announced that the underutilized plant would be closed in 1965.

York business groups immediately sprung into action in an attempt to find a private industry buyer; they touted the plant, the location and a skilled, efficient work force.  Things moved swiftly, 34 firms showed an interest in the plant.  American Machine & Foundry entered the bidding for the plant and emerged victorious on November 14th 1963.  The U.S. Government was happy to do a plant closing earlier than planned and get paid for doing it.

AMF officially took over operation of the plant February 1st 1964 and started producing its lines of snowmobiles, golf carts and bowling equipment while continuing a limited amount of naval ordnance work.  In their first year at the York plant, AMF doubled the work force, with 962 Navy employees kept on; back into the private sector with credit for their Civil Service.  The remaining Navy employees went to other Federal agencies or retired voluntarily.

After AMF purchased the Harley-Davidson Motor Company in 1969, they moved final motorcycle production to this massive York facility in 1973.  A group of thirteen investors and executives within AMF joined forces to buy back the Harley-Davidson product line and the plant from AMF in 1981.  The Harley-Davidson facility in Springettsbury Township has been producing Harleys ever since.

The road in the front of the plant could have been named N.O.P. Road or NOP Road anytime after June 19th 1944.  As of yet, I have not found a map with N.O.P. Road or NOP Road, however I distinctly remember seeing a N.O.P. Road sign at the North Sherman Street intersection when I traveled the two-lane Whiteford Road & Arsenal Road in the school bus ride to and from Central High School.  Was that road sign never taken down after the N.O.P. Road name was changed to Arsenal Road by 1954?

I’ve asked around; what was the reason for the change to the Arsenal Road name?  Nobody could remember exactly, however the most popular suggestion goes as follows.  They thought NOP Road was changed to Arsenal Road because of the negativity associated with the NOPe Road pronunciation that kids were using; i.e. nope, slang for no.  A few people suggested that maybe the road name was changed to Arsenal Road when the U.S. Army Reserve Center was built along that section of road, however in looking at an October 1st 1956 Aerial Photo, that training center was not there in 1956, however Arsenal Road is already documented in directories by 1954.

The Central High School Yearbook, the Panther, in the collection of local yearbooks at the York County Heritage Trust turned out to be a good source for the N.O.P. Road usage and noted yet another name; Naval Ordnance Road.  In glancing through just a few years I found several N.O.P. Road references in the addresses within the yearbook ads.

  • 1952 Panther:  Diehl’s Atlantic Service, Naval Ordnance & Pleasureville Rd. (page 74)
  • 1952 Panther:  Bud’s Amoco Service, Corner Sherman St. Extd. And Naval Ordnance Road (page 80)
  • 1958 Panther:  North Pole Drive-In, N.O.P. Road and North Sherman Street Extended (page 132)
  • 1964 Panther:  Mac’s Hardware, NOP Road at Sherman Street (page 196)
Ads from Central High School Yearbook, the Panther; Containing References to N.O.P. Road (Yearbook Collection at York County Heritage Trust)

In these ads one can also see the progression of the name of North Sherman Street.  Pleasureville Road progresses to Sherman Street Extended and then to just Sherman Street.  One also notices that in 1952, the road name was spelled out: Naval Ordnance Road.  Did people start to object when people started to shorten the road name to NOP Road?  Maybe that was the reason another name, Arsenal Road, was selected by 1954.  If anyone knows the reason Arsenal Road was thus named, please post a reply to this blog.

In the later 1958 and 1964 ads, were these businesses at that intersection using NOP Road in their addresses because the cross street sign at North Sherman Street had never been changed from NOP Road to Arsenal Road?  Maybe the sign was never changed because at this intersection the road transitions from Arsenal Road to Whiteford Road.  Was that single road sign not changed because it was in a no-mans-land between these two road names?

I believe that a street map published in the late 1940s or early 1950s will show the road as Naval Ordnance Road or NOP Road.  Does anyone have such a street map of York?  Post a reply if you do.

Check back in one week for the next installment in the series: A Road Named N.O.P., Arsenal and Whiteford; Part 4

Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts