York Town Square

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Avalong barn demolition: So, what’s the big deal?

This photograph captures the moment at the old Avalong Farm barn at Mount Zion and Whiteford roads in Springettsbury Township. The old barn, which is variously dated between 50 and 100 years old, is framed by a piece of equipment that will spell its doom. The barn will be removed to make way for a new bank. (See additional photographs and video of part of the barn coming down below.) Also of interest: Doomed Avalong barn indicative of York County’s eroding sense of place.

Protesters do not picket every building that comes down around York County.

So why the vitriol over the loss of the barn that served Avalong Farm in Springettsbury Township to make way for a Susquehanna Bank branch?

For one thing, demolition of landmark buildings have been contagious recently. The old Gettysburg Cyclorama building came down, as did the Spring Valley Peacock Farm house. Then there was the news that the Springettsbury Fire Hall was slated to come down for a commercial center, a plan that protesters have not focused on – at least not yet.

Before that, there was a public discussion about York College’s unspecified plans concerning the 200-year-old Philip King House.

But there’s more behind all this.

The barn represents  our agrarian past. As I’ve written before, the first symbolic challenge to this agricultural past came in 1887 when outdoor market sheds, in the heart of York City’s Centre Square, were pulled down in an overnight raid.

There was a need to get people and goods through that pivotal piece of real estate – the Industrial Revolution was gaining steam.

Presidential elections have been fought over loose monetary policies that farmers prefer or tighter views supported by banks. That was framed more than 100 years ago as eastern bankers versus individual farmers, trying to make a living from the land.

Some of that old thinking may be in play in that corner of Springettsbury Township where you have a barn giving way to a Susquehanna Bank branch. A further irony here is that this particular bank has “Farmers” bank roots.

This Avalong moment brings one back to a similar time about a decade ago in which the Red Lion Grange Hall, another agricultural icon, came down. The Cape Horn Road hall, surrounded by fast food restaurants offering a far different diet from that eaten by farmers, made way for development.

A bank later covered part of its property, too. And at one time, that bank, a different brand from that involved in the Springettsbury project, had “Farmers” in its name, too.

But here’s an overarching theme today. There’s a growing restlessness in York County about loss of place. We saw it last year in successful efforts to save Trinity United Methodist Church in York.

It’s evident by the growth of farmers markets across York County’s rolling landscape that people are looking for enjoyment in fruit and vegetables grown from our soil. Some of those markets are deftly designed to take customers away from commercialism, back to simpler times.

When it comes to our older buildings, those in real estate follow – often to a fault – what the market dictates. So, if we value ourselves, value our traditions, our past, our heritage, we form a type of market.

So it’s up to us as York countians. We can voice our support for things that make York County a special place. We can buy old farmhouses and remodel them. We can shop at stores located in historic structures.

Or we can be indifferent and watch the marketplace take it away, one board at a time.

Also of interest:

This post shows another moment when our agrarian past met up with our commercial present: Demolished Red Lion Grange Hall still tells tale of changing York County


This view gives an idea of the size of the Avalong barn, one of two that served the Long farm in its day. For the latest developments, check out: Protesters gather at Avalong Farm demolition site.

Also of interest:

From Meadowbrook Mansion to York County farmhouse

Ever hear of the Meadowbrook Guest House?

Avalong’s Restaurant once sat across the road from the barn and Meadowbrook estate.

About Avalong’s and Melvin’s: ‘I am some what familiar with the history of the area’

Mother Goose teaches York County history lessons

Lancaster County-based Susquehanna Bank will use one of the cupolas in its new bank branch’s design. ‘As a bank that has been serving central Pennsylvania for more than a century, we are invested in the community’s past and its future,’ a bank spokesman. ‘ … It is never easy to part with a piece of the past, especially one that is the source of so many memories. Although the barn was once part of a dairy farm and was later converted to a retail store, it has been vacant in recent years and no workable reuse of the barn has emerged.’

Springettsbury Township corner (Avalong’s corner) bears witness to changing face of America

Avalong barn family member: ‘This is an opportunity to create not demolish a part of the past’

Some of the newer structures associated with the new barn came down this week. For a look at how social media dealt with the razing, check out this ydr.com post.

*Edited, 3/23/13