Part of the USA Today Network

Early Spring view of Center Square in York, PA, from roof of One West Market. (Source: One West realty photo on Trulia)

Naming the Square in York

This is a recent early spring view looking down on Center Square in York, Pennsylvania. Is it spelled Center or Centre Square, and when was the name Continental Square adopted?

In colonial times, a Court House and market sheds occupied the square in York Town. As a result, in the early 1800s, the occasional use of Court House Square, Market Square and Centre Square is used in newspapers. One, or more, of these names possibly was utilized when the Continental Congress met in that Court House from September 30, 1777 until June 27, 1778.

Lewis Miller’s drawing of the Court House in York Town, PA; as it appeared when Continental Congress met there from September 30, 1777 until June 27, 1778. (Image from the Internet, although original is at York County History Center)

By the time of the Civil War, Centre Square is the dominant name utilized in newspapers. Following that war, the Center Square spelling starts to appear on a very limited basis. In 1892 the initial suggestion to name the Square in York, as Continental Square, appeared on the front page of The York Daily.

The initial suggestion to name the Square in York, PA, as Continental Square, appeared in this front page article in The York Daily of April 16, 1892. It would be April 28, 1925 before that name was officially adopted by the City Council.

Quoting the entire front page “CONTINENTAL SQUARE – A Suggestion” article in The York Daily of April 16, 1892:

“In a recent speech full of the glow of patriotic fervor and historical reminiscence Col. J. A. Stahle lamented the non-commemoration of the scenes and events that transpired in our city in the ‘days that tried men’s souls’. He suggested that Center Square should have been called Continental Square, thus perpetuating in its title the sitting of the Continental Congress. He also lamented the removal of the old court house in which the sittings were held. Now what is to hinder the adoption of this most appropriate suggestion? Why not erect a monument therein which shall be a facsimile of the old court house? Why should not the carved stone faces of some of those ancient heroes look out of its niches upon the free and happy people for whom they wrought? Why should not our children and youth have the inspiration of such association? Nay, why should not our city present to the world the attractions of such historic reminiscences and of such an appropriate and enduring Memorial?”

That article started a short discussion in newspapers, with most against changing the name of the square. However that discussion raised the question, why do we spell Center with an ‘re’ on the end?

In April of 1925, Mayor Hugentugler introduced an ordinance to change the name of Center Square to Continental Square. The York City Council unanimously adopted the ordinance on April 28, 1925. Following this, Center Square appeared to be used just as often as Continental Square.

In using Newspapers.com to search York County newspapers by year, the number of matches can be used to determine the percent utilization of ‘Centre Square’, ‘Center Square’ and ‘Continental Square’ by year. The results are shown in the following graph:

The Square Name in York, PA was primarily Centre Square until 1913, followed by Center Square until 1924, next was Continental Square until 1941, then present Center Square. (S.H. Smith, 2022; via research using Newspapers.com)

The Square Name in York, PA was primarily Centre Square until 1913, followed by Center Square until 1924, next was Continental Square until 1941, and then returning to the present Center Square.

This graph also reveals, the shift from the Centre spelling to the Center spelling begins about 1895; with that change accelerating until each spelling was being used one-half the time in 1913. The 1925 introduction of the Continental Square naming rapidly eliminated the Centre Square spelling.

The Continental Square name was never completely adopted. It was only used about 60% of the time between 1925 and 1941; with Center Square primarily utilized the rest of the time.

Since 1941, the Center Square naming has been dominant; gradually increasing to over 80% utilization, at the expense of the Continental Square naming.

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

Links to related posts include:

How Powder Mill Road got its name

The naming of Lake Clarke at Long Level

Naming of Three Mile Run waterway in Springettsbury

Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts