Memories leading up to I-83 opening exactly 54-years ago on October 28th 1959
These before and after aerial photos, show the area around South Queen Street in York Township before and after I-83 was constructed. I’ve identified the location of the Harold Smith Residence and the Emanuel Barshinger Farm at the lower left side of the 1957 photo.
Both of my brothers and myself were born in the residence constructed by my father Harold L. Smith. Dad built this house following WWII with the help of his father Luther S. Smith. The farmhouse of my other grandfather, Emanuel Barshinger, was built much earlier; when tolls were collected on the York and Chanceford Turnpike, which is now South Queen Street. It is the only home Emanuel Barshinger ever owned when he was forced to move, at the age of 75, due to the construction of I-83.
Continue reading for memories leading up to the opening of this highway. I was in the 3rd grade when our family was forced to move; therefore my memories are anecdotal. My recollections leading up to I-83 opening exactly 54-years ago are substantially improved because my father kept most of the correspondence with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania concerning the taking of his residence.
The earliest correspondence from the Department of Highways of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is dated September 10, 1956. The letter began:
This is to inform you that under date of August 20, 1956 the Pennsylvania Department of Highways condemned Legislative Route 216, situated in York Township, York County. By this legal condemnation, which is made for future highway construction purposes, it has been considered necessary to appropriate some of your property.
At that time, South Queen Street in York Township was Route 216; a rural two lane road. The first impression was that some of out front yard would be taken in the future for the purpose of widening South Queen Street. A Route 789-C1 was referenced in the letterhead. Talk was that this new road would intersect with South Queen Street somewhere in the area and that was the reason South Queen Street would be widened.
Starting in early 1957, more and more was heard about this new road actually being a limited access four-lane Bypass around York. As a result, the size of the intersections would be larger, ultimately taking much more property than anybody originally envisioned. The official notification confirming this did not come until the end of the summer when the Department of Highways sent a letter to my parents; dated August 20, 1957:
Approximately one year ago I advised you that the Department of Highways of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was making studies for the construction of Route 789 in York County. I am now pleased to advise that these studies have been completed and that construction of a new and modern road will soon begin.
To construct this road for safety, utility and convenience it was necessary that a portion of your property be condemned. You may rest assured, however, that we shall endeavor to compensate you for any property taken at the earliest possible time. I request that you cooperate with the Department of Highways by permitting our experienced Right-of-Way Agents and independent appraisers to enter upon your lands and buildings in order that an appraisal can be made.
During September of 1957, Right-of-Way Agents and appraisers made visits and established a valuation of the house and property. This is when my parents learned that the Pennsylvania Department of Highways did not just want part of the front yard; they also wanted the house, since this interchange was slated to use looping on and off ramps. However my parents were told that decision would only be finalized with an official notification.
This was the same time that Grandpa Barshinger learned he would not only be loosing most of his cornfield, but also his home. I was not happy about this new highway either. I liked being able to walk through the cornfield to visit Grandpa and his farm. The view of this photo looks across the cornfield during early fall of 1957 towards the Emanuel Barshinger farm along South Queen Street.
On October 21, 1957, a Right-of-Way Agent personally presented the following letter to my parents:
To: Harold L. Smith & Esther L. Smith, 2150 South Queen Street, York, Penna.
In the improvement of Route 789-1 York County, the Commonwealth, by virtue of its powers of eminent domain, has condemned an easement for highway purposes over certain property, including the building owned by you and occupied by you in York Township, York County, to the right of approximate Stations 68 to 69. It will be necessary to remove the said building in the construction of the highway. You are hereby notified to vacate the building within fifteen days from the date of service of this notice, as the Commonwealth will take possession at the expiration of the fifteen day period.
Signed by George J. Richards, Deputy Secretary of Highways
Did our family vacate in fifteen days, by November 5, 1957; as so notified? No, Dad negotiated a two-month extension and we stayed right up to the very last day we were allowed to stay in our home. The extension was granted due to a combination of factors; the house was located over an exit ramp, where it was not directly in the immediate construction area, also the dwelling was one selected by the State for physically being moved to a new location.
After the Commonwealth took possession, they moved the house at 2150 South Queen Street onto a new foundation into the nearby development at 2117 Louise Avenue in York Township. The house of our neighbors, my aunt & uncle, Evelyn & Raymond Barshinger was also moved to another location. Our family took the occasion to move to Springettsbury Township, nearer to where my Dad’s business had recently relocated.
This is a photo of the Harold L. Smith residence at 2150 South Queen Street in York Township. The photo was taken by Dad from the middle of South Queen Street on final day that our family lived there. In the master bedroom, to the left of the front door, is where I was born.
When our South Queen Street house was finally vacated on January 4, 1958, excavation work was already underway in the former cornfield of Grandpa Barshinger; with massive earthmoving equipment starting to dig a deep ditch that would eventually carry I-83 under the South Queen Street overpass. That had to upset Grandpa, seeing the cornfield he had worked virtually all his life, being dug up and carted away.
How ironic, that it was at this very location, in this depression along the completed bypass, where Grandpa’s cornfield was once located, was the site of the ribbon cutting. This ceremony officially opened the York Bypass, the final link in what is now known as I-83.
Pennsylvania Governor David Lawrence and Maryland Governor Millard Tawes attended the ceremony on October 28, 1959, for a ribbon cutting at Noon. They touted the long awaited completion of the continuous, non-stop, limited access highway the whole way between Harrisburg and Baltimore. Then their party drove north, the first to travel the last section of the interstate to open; the six miles from the South Queen Street interchange to the North George Street interchange north of York.
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