Car Manufacturing Factory planned in Springettsbury
The 1917 Catalog of The Bell Motor Car Company contains this illustration of the first factory buildings planned on 15-acres described as the “finest automobile factory site in York, Pennsylvania.” If you are reading this on the Ydr.com site, click on this LINK for a Full View of the illustrations in this post on the original YorkBlog site; since the ydr.com site will occasionally cut off important details in the cropping of illustrations.
Quoting the full caption accompanying this illustration:
THE BELL MOTOR CAR COMPANY, with every confidence in its steadily growing and expanding business, has purchased the finest automobile factory site in York, Pennsylvania, a site comprising fifteen acres of choice ground, having a frontage of a quarter of a mile on the Pennsylvania Railroad, right at the railroad depot, on which it will erect and equip modern one-story factory buildings, with everything arranged for efficiency in operation.
Prior publications speculate this factory site as somewhere west of York. Last month I stumbled upon conclusive documentation indicating the site was in Springettsbury Township.
The first cars built in this modern factory were slated to be the Bell Model 17, a five passenger touring car, priced at $875. This illustration of the car appears in the 1917 Catalog of The Bell Motor Car Company.
One of my long-range projects is a connected draft map during the earliest years of Springettsbury Township. The Bell Motor Car Company appeared as a neighbor in one of those property deeds. A follow-up deed search turned up York County Deed Book 20D, Page 438; indicating on June 9, 1916, The Bell Motor Car Company purchased a factory site in East York from John H. Longstreet’s land development company. The site is located on the southeast corner of the Pennsylvania Railroad and North Hills Road. The “railroad depot” from the factory illustration caption is therefore the neighboring Rockburn Station.
The June 17, 1916, issue of The York Daily provides further details in a front-page article. Quoting from the text of that article:
Fifteen acres of land on the East York tract, having a frontage of a quarter mile on the Pennsylvania at Rockburn Station, has been purchased by the Bell Motor Car Company. Modern factory buildings for the manufacture of automobiles will be erected on the site. The land was bought from John H. Longstreet, the deal being consummated yesterday. It consists of four full blocks of the East York track. The Bell Company, although not two years old, has met with such success that it has already, at its own expense, made additions to its present rented plant in the East End of the city. The new plant on the property purchased will be a one-story structure, with everything arranged for efficiency in operation, and avoiding all carrying up and down in elevators. Increasing business has made it necessary to secure a site with ample room for future expansion. H. W. Posey, vice president and general manager of the Bell Company, when seen last night confirmed the reported purchase. He said, “Our business is now so thoroughly established that we felt the necessity and desirability of purchasing a site of out own with room for proper expansion. We expect to start operations at the new plant with not less than 200 men and in a short time will increase the force to possibly double that number.”
The Bell Motor Car Company began manufacturing automobiles in the City of York during 1915. Bell is not the surname of anyone involved with the company, instead it is an object; a bell, as prominently displayed in the company logo. Look closer at the illustration of the new factory; it contains a bell tower, topped by an American flag.
After purchasing the 15-acre factory site during June of 1916, plans were created for the initial buildings on that site. From those plans, The Bell Motor Car Company had the illustration of their new factory drawn for their 1917 Catalog. Comparison of the property deed descriptions against early East York maps and the catalog illustration, results in a conclusion; the catalog illustration is a southwesterly looking view of the plant site. Utilizing those sources, I’ve drawn the 1916 site plan of the Bell Motor Car Plant in Springettsbury Township on a southward 2016 Bing.com Birds Eye View. The Bell property lines are shown as yellow dashed lines.
A notable event in area automobile history caused cancellation of the construction of this new Bell Motor Car plant in Springettsbury Township. Pullman, the most successful local car manufacturer declared bankruptcy during December of 1916. The receivers allowed Pullman production to continue for a few months, however in April of 1917 production was halted. A sale of Pullman assets was held in July of 1917.
The Bell Motor Car Company no longer needed a new plant; they simply occupied some of the already equipped former Pullman factory buildings in York. Bell Cars were produced for another five years in York; until 1922. As for the 15-acre site in Springettsbury Township, Bell Motor Car Company sold it back to John H. Longstreet on July 31, 1917; per York County Deed Book 20O, Page 441.
Links to related posts include:
- 1914 Pullman Chassis; First York Auto Show at The Coliseum
- Sole Surviving Pullman Automobile with Vulcan Electric Gear Shift
- 1912 Aviation Meet at York Fairgrounds featured Curtiss Aeroplane racing a York-Built Car
- A New Car by an Old Designer, the KLINE KAR; Pullman Pedigree to Racing Success, Part 1
- A New Car by an Old Designer, the KLINE KAR; Pullman Pedigree to Racing Success, Part 2
- A New Car by an Old Designer, the KLINE KAR; Pullman Pedigree to Racing Success, Part 3
- East End Circus brings First Auto to York in 1896