A historic York walking tour of the Sovereign Bank stadium area
These ornate iron pieces atop the York Elks porch are the type of fine metal work adorning the organization’s 233 N. George St. building. (See related image below.) Background posts: York County … ‘A smorgasbord of architectural styles’ and York County’s connection to the French Quarter and When the bridge over the Codorus moved
My recent post – Plaques offer historic insight into ‘The Swamp,’ before Sovereign Bank Stadium drained it – provides a historic look at York’s Arch Street area.
But for those parking at Small’s Field, north of Codorus Creek, or in the downtown area, south of the creek, their stroll to the park affords many landmarks scrutinize.
My York Sunday News column for July 1, 2007, covers interesting sites as one moves into or out of The Swamp… .
This view shows York looking south toward Webb’s or Shenk’s Hill in 1852. The Harrisburg road, now North George Street, crosses the Codorus Creek Bridge on its way into Centre Square. Small Field lies to the left of the bridge bordering the creek. Sovereign Bank Stadium stands today in the area occupied by houses, just past the bridge. This painting shows how the stadium area gained the name ‘The Swamp’ in these days before flood control work built up the banks of the Codorus Creek. Courtesy, York County Heritage Trust.
Sit in the stands behind the visiting team’s dugout at the York Revolution’s new park, and you see a citadel-like building well beyond the right-field wall.
That’s York’s old jail, awaiting the developer’s nod or the wrecker’s ball.
The county’s Concord Road prison opened in 1979, and York’s fortress has been sitting vacant since. Several years ago, some folks eyed it as a restaurant, but the public has not yet been offered a chance to sample gourmet food from a jail kitchen.
Then, walk along the stadium’s left-field concourse and look south. A high-rise a block or more behind the grandstand would offer a bird’s eye view of a game.
That apartment building grew on land A.B. Farquhar Co., an international farm equipment maker, covered for decades. Farquhar’s deteriorating buildings came down in 1970, and the high rise and other office buildings sprang up from the soil.
Everywhere you looks in and around the stadium, such pieces of York’s past emerge. So, check out some of the following sites before or after a Revs’ game, starting at Small Athletic Field parking lot:
• Forry’s world: Across the Codorus Creek and partially shielded by trees and other buildings, a rehabbed industrial complex runs along Loucks Mill Road.
This originally housed York Safe & Lock, S. Forry Laucks’ business that later expanded during World War II’s buildup and is now the old part of Harley-Davidson’s plant.
Cole Steel started occupying the York Safe buildings in 1949. But when Laucks’ company was in its prime, a footbridge crossed the Codorus to offer North Yorkers a shortcut to York Safe.
A similar pedestrian bridge to get fans from the parking area to the new stadium has occasionally been discussed.
• The Red, White and Blue: Two attractions close to nearby Prospect Hill Cemetery entrance are worth a look:
The cemetery’s front lawn is filled with 4,000 American flags, one for every American military death in Iraq and Afghanistan. Until July 4, nine special flags will observe the deaths of firefighters in Charleston, S.C.
Up the hill, you’ll see Soldiers Circle, where many Union soldiers who died at the Civil War military hospital in Penn Park are buried.
• Follow the Leader: Several years ago, the Gov. George M. Leader Bridge crossing the Codorus replaced a rusting iron span.
The Chicken Bridge was an early span crossing the creek, and it’s appropriate that its latest successor is named after the respected breeder of Leader Leghorns.
The Leader bridge is nice enough, but after the decision came down to replace the iron bridge some folks quite correctly pointed out that the old span, properly renovated and lighted, would have added character to the crossing.
• Home away from home: The Northern Central Railway train station, East North Street, is sometimes confused with the Civil War-era depot where thousands of Yankees departed for Southern battlefields. Scores returned through there for treatment of wounds at the military hospital.
But the current station, often associated with Blattner’s photos, was built in the 1890s.
It has a history of its own, serving as the point of departure and arrivals of tens of thousands of military men and women in World War II.
A USO canteen operated in the station, a home away from home for those in uniform.
• Right side of the tracks: The area around the York station marked the spot where the three railroads serving York came together: the Northern Central, Western Maryland and the Maryland and Pennsylvania.
In the 1800s, extensive railroad-car manufacturing shops operated here, the topic of scrutiny by occupying Confederate Gen. Jubal Early, who threatened to burn them.
• One for the money: North George Street’s “Power of the Printing Press” mural is one of two Murals of York that directly address the American Revolution, which inspired the baseball team’s name.
This mural incorrectly suggests that Continental Congress’ Thanksgiving Proclamation, celebrating the Continental Army’s victory at Saratoga, N.Y., and the Articles of Confederation were printed on the wooden Hall & Sellers Press in York.
That press didn’t arrive until December, too late for the documents to be printed and disseminated to all 13 Colonies. The press did print millions in currency.
Variety of iron worked: Enjoy the ornate metal work on the BPO Elks Lodge on North George Street.
Those iron pieces probably were cast at Variety Iron Works, a North Beaver Street factory.
The iron works made the familiar iron grillwork in New Orleans’ French quarter, among other projects.
• Meet at the pole: The Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff mural on the side of the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center has a 3-D effect that makes it different from the 17 other panels in that series.
The artist used a drain pipe, running from roof to ground, as a flag pole. A painted company pennant extends from the pipe, a practical use of what could have been an impediment.
This tour ends at Small Athletic Field lot, named after its 19th-century owners P.A. and Samuel Small.
Small field’s largest claim to history fame came when the devastating flood of 1884 deposited debris as high as a two-story house.
“You could find anything there, from a clock to a steam boiler and engine,” an observer said.
He described the scene as “just a conglomerate mess.”
A rehabbed Small field, the new baseball stadium and all kinds of other new and renovated sites offer a far more promising scene today.