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Section of early postcard of the Wrightsville approach to the 1930 Lincoln Highway Bridge between Columbia and Wrightsville; annotated with the prior location footprint of Harry E. Bailey’s 1915 through 1929 Lincoln Highway Garage Properties. (S.H. Smith postcard)

Wrightsville’s Lincoln Highway Garage with a Movie Theatre

Nick Lentz noted that when his grandparents dated they often went to the Imperial Theatre in Wrightsville. Those dates always included shared dreams of buying a car as they walked by an enticing car lot at the theatre entrance. That car lot turned out to be shrewdly located by the common owner of the Theatre and the Lincoln Highway Garage; which was an agency for Ford, Dodge and Buick automobiles.

Nick continued, “I discovered the 1923 diagram in your article about the Lincoln Highway Garage in Wrightsville. It perfectly shows what grandpa described, with the car lot next to the Lincoln Highway Garage and in front of the Moving Pictures Theatre. I sort of remember that theatre had a connection to the garage next door, is that something you normally look into?”

Ad for Lincoln Highway Garage, H. E. Bailey, Proprietor; Hellam St., Along Lincoln Highway, Wrightsville, PA (The York Daily published in York, PA; issue of May 21, 1915)

Nick’s query spurred further research into Harry E. Bailey’s Lincoln Highway Garage in Wrightsville. Interesting discoveries included the date this Lincoln Highway Garage opened: May 1, 1915; which appears to make it the earliest named Lincoln Highway Garage in Pennsylvania. The farm implement part of this Lincoln Highway Garage business also commenced on that date. As a side note, it is believed the earliest Lincoln Highway Garage in the nation dates to December of 1913 and is located in South Bend, Indiana.

It was discovered the initial location of the Lincoln Highway Garage in Wrightsville is not the location shown on the 1923 Sanborn map, within my initial post. The initial location was immediately west of that later location; as pointed out in the following expanded 1923 Sanborn map view of Harry Bailey’s properties in Wrightsville. The original garage part of the Lincoln Highway Garage was repurposed as the Imperial Theatre during 1921, after Harry Bailey had the bigger Lincoln Highway Garage building constructed.

1923 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Wrightsville, PA; focusing on the Lincoln Highway Garage on the southwest corner of Hellam Street and Howard Place (Source: Penn State Libraries online Sanborn Maps; Annotated by S.H. Smith, 2020)

Old newspaper articles, via Newspapers.com, provided the connection between Wrightsville’s Lincoln Highway Garage and the Imperial Theatre next door. The York Dispatch of April 16, 1921 reported, “Harry E. Bailey, proprietor of the Lincoln Highway Garage, is transferring his fixtures to the new building which he recently constructed. Mr. Bailey will remodel the old building to be used for a hall and a picture show.”

The Gazette and Daily of June 25, 1921 reported, “The mineral floor, which is being laid in the new Imperial Theatre is nearing completion. Harry Bailey is experiencing considerable difficulty in the digging of a cesspool, at the new Imperial Theatre, Hellam Street. He was compelled to make four heavy blasts today.”

The delivery of the custom seats, that Harry Bailey wanted for his theatre, were constantly delayed, such that he allowed small civic and church groups to utilize the building’s stage prior to the Imperial Theatre official opening. The first such use occurred on July 30, 1921, by young people of Trinity Lutheran Church to present the play “For the Old Flag.”

The Gazette and Daily of September 2, 1921 reported, “Harry Bailey, proprietor of the new Imperial Theatre, received the new chairs and has a force of men engaged installing them, so as to be in readiness for the opening on Saturday evening [September 3, 1921]. The state inspector was here to inspect the new building this week and reported it to be one of the best designed and the most fire proof building in the state for a picture show house.”

The Gazette and Daily of September 7, 1921 reported, under a Wrightsville Header, “The Imperial Theatre, which has the largest seating capacity of any similar building at this place, was unable to accommodate the large crowd which endeavored to see the moving pictures which were shown last night.” Besides moving picture shows, throughout the 1920s, the Imperial Theatre also continued to be used for public gatherings, of civic, church and school groups.

Just as the neighboring Lincoln Highway Garage was razed because it stood in he path of the approach for the new Susquehanna River Bridge. So was the fate of the Imperial Theatre. The theatre closed after the showing of a moving picture on Saturday March 30, 1929; it was torn down a short time thereafter.

The following illustration shows a semi-transparent 1923 Sanborn Map superimposed over a present Google aerial photo to show the locations of the Lincoln Highway Garage and the Imperial Theatre in relation to the approach for the new Susquehanna River Bridge; which opened in 1930 and today is the Route 462 bridge between Wrightsville and Columbia.

Top Image is a semi-transparent 1923 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of section of Wrightsville, PA, superimposed over 2020 Google aerial view of same area (Penn State Libraries online Sanborn Maps & Google aerials; Annotated by S.H. Smith)

There were fourth Lincoln Highway Garage in York County, PA. The one in WRIGHTSVILLE was opened in 1915, while the other three Lincoln Highway Garages were established in the 1920s: along EAST and WEST Market Streets in York, and in HALLAM. Of the four Lincoln Highway Garages in York County, only the building of the one in Hallam still stands.

Click on this LINK for a yorkblog.com Full View of the photos in this post.

Links to selected Lincoln Highway posts include:

Lincoln Highway Centennial Auto Tour at Haines Shoe House
York was in danger of losing the Lincoln Highway during 1914
ROAD OF REMEMBRANCE Memorial in Paradise Township
Melvin’s Drive-In, Lincoln Highway Ice Cream Bar
St. Joseph reports on John F. Kennedy in York, PA
Lincoln Woods Inn; Mystery of the Medallions
LoPiccolo’s in Violet Hill connection to The Woods in Springettsbury
1906 York Automobile Owners form York Motor Club
Motels & Restaurants named via the Lincoln Highway; Lincoln View
23¢ per gallon at York’s Only Gasoline Shopping Center

Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts