New Name is York County History Center
Part 8 of York County History Center Buildings
This is Part 8 of an industrial chronicle of the buildings on the property recently purchased by the York County Heritage Trust, with their goal of renovating the buildings into a York County History Center. These buildings originated as York’s Edison Electric Plant in 1885. 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.
A year ago, the York County Heritage Trust brochure “Pondering Change” contained this conceptual illustration of the History Center on page 14. The landmark chimney intuitively proclaimed History Center!
A name change was one of the items on the agenda during yesterdays special meeting of the membership of the York County Heritage Trust (YCHT). The members overwhelmingly voted in favor of an organizational name change to York County History Center.
Thomas Shorb, Chair of YCHT Board of Directors, presented some background and reasons for the name change, prior to the vote. Fifteen years ago, when The Historical Society of York County merged with the Agricultural and Industrial Museum; the combined organization selected the name York County Heritage Trust. The name has caused some confusion over the years with potential visitors, such as, is this a banking trust? Is this a charitable trust?
The Advisory Council of the YCHT discussed the idea of a new name for years. In a long process and after much due diligence, York County History Center surfaced as the preferred name. After the new name was approved by the YCHT Board of Directors, the vote by the membership provided the formal seal of approval.
Around the nation, other organizations, similar to the YCHT, have gone through the same name change process; also after much deliberation. I’ll continue on that topic after the Summary of Links to Prior Parts Chronicling the York County History Center Buildings.
Part 1—New History Center Generated Edison Electricity This introductory post provides a brief overview of all the buildings within what was the former Met-Ed Steam Heat Generating Plant on the northeast corner of West Philadelphia Street and North Pershing Avenue in York.
Part 2—York County History Center Buildings 1885 This post takes a closer look at the initial industrial building constructed on the site in 1885; a generating station for the Edison Electric Light Company of York.
Part 3—Edison Lights Streets as York becomes a City On January 11, 1887, York was incorporated as a City. The same year marked the replacement of gas lighting with Edison electric lights on the streets of York; necessitating an addition to the 2-year-old electric generating station along Gas Avenue.
Part 4—War of the Currents hits York Nationally, the War of the Currents plays out with the company started by Thomas Edison, who favored direct current and was adamantly opposed to alternating current, being transformed, through the financing of J. P. Morgan, into the champion of alternating current. Locally in York something similar happened in 1894. The Westinghouse Electric Light, Heat and Power Co. of York, PA, located in the high bay part of the present Agricultural and Industrial Museum, was absorbed by the much better financed Edison Electric Light Company of York, PA; located in one of the buildings that will become the York County History Center.
Part 5—Edison Electric Plant becomes subsidiary of York Railways In 1892, the York Street Railway Company begin operation of their streetcars via electricity; i.e. replacing horse power. The Edison Electric Plant was their electric supplier from the inception. When the York Haven hydro-electric plant was placed into service during 1904, York Haven was contracted to carry most of the load of the Edison Electric Plant in York. The primary electric generating function of the Edison Plant was reduced to supplying power for many of the streetcar lines. As a result in 1907, the Edison Light & Power Company became a subsidiary of the newly named York Railway Company as a result of a merger.
Part 6—100th Birthday for the History Center Chimney At one time the buildings of the Edison Light & Power Company, recently purchased by the York County Heritage Trust, contained two giant chimneys. When it came time to build these chimneys, for the coal-fired power plant in these buildings, the premier chimney builder in the United States was selected; the Alphons Custodis Chimney Construction Company of New York. The surviving 1916 chimney still stands and celebrates its 100th birthday during July of 2016.
Part 7—Birth of District Steam Heating in York In 1898, Adam F. Geesey was instrumental in the birth of the York Steam Heating Company to make use of exhaust steam; that would have otherwise been wasted at the Edison Electric Light plant. After electric generation ceased in 1959, the York Steam Heating Plant operated until 1977. These buildings housed the first electric generating station in York County. The buildings generated electricity for 75-years and supplied steam, keeping Yorkers warm for 80-years.
Part 8—New Name is York County History Center:
Thomas Shorb noted, other organizations, similar to the YCHT, have gone through the same name change process; also after much deliberation. The examples that he gave, which stuck in my mind, include: Berks County History Center, Jefferson County History Center and Heinz History Center. The huge HISTORY sign on top of the Heinz History Center, in Pittsburgh, is a definite draw and leaves no doubt what that is in that building.
Between two talks I gave in Pittsburgh last October, I visited the Heinz History Center. I would recommend that museum as a required visit for anyone planning a new history center. I had briefly visited their exhibits several years ago, however this time I also spent some time in the Detre Library & Archives on the sixth floor. On my walk through the museum, I was impressed with the amount of school children taking tours. It seems that creating photo opportunities is a priority; one example is piling students into and on a vintage army jeep, for that purpose, while explaining the WWII exhibit that surrounds them.
I found the history of the building fascinating, from an exhibit entitled “Frozen in Time—The Story of our Building.” The Heinz History Center was built in a repurposed 7-story Ice House, near downtown. The 1898 warehouse to store ice, is the third Ice House on the site, with the first two buildings destroyed by fire. During winter months, Chautauqua Lake Ice Company filled the building with ice harvested from lakes in western New York and distributed the ice throughout Pittsburgh during spring, summer and fall. This view shows the Heinz History Center, shortly after opening.
Related posts include:
- New History Center Generated Edison Electricity
- York County History Center Buildings 1885
- Edison Lights Streets as York becomes a City
- War of the Currents hits York
- Edison Electric Plant becomes subsidiary of York Railways
- 100th Birthday for the History Center Chimney
- Birth of District Steam Heating in York
- Twin Smokestacks at Edison Plant
- Your History Starts Here
- History Center’s Smokestack Twin
- Edison Electric Plant Expansions in York
- 1931 Aerial Photo of Edison Electric Plant in York