York Barbell’s tall, heavyweight lifter has long helped put York County on the map
A worker with Continental Signs cuts the weights off the familiar statue along Interstate 83 in 2002. The 13-foot-tall, 1,000-pound statue has signaled the York Barbell building since the 1960s. Wind disabled the motor that rotates the statue north of York, Pa., and once workers dug into that problem, they noticed other damage to the statue. (See additional photo below.) Background posts: Former Mr. America Jules S. Bacon passes away and John Grimek lifted up musclemen of York, Pa. and All York Barbell posts from the start.
Ask people outside York County if they’ve ever been there, and some will say:
“Yes, I’ve passed through. That’s the place with the weightlifter.”
That identifiable symbol of York and its iconic company York Barbell looks indestructible.
But even a 13-foot man with a steel frame skeleton covered with tough fiberglas has to withstand much.
Such as the wind… .
Without the weights, the fiberglass York Barbell weightlifter occupies only one lane on the interstate. York Daily Record/Sunday News photographer Chris Glass.
There was a time in 2002 when the weightlifter had to be rehabbed after a match with a windstorm, as these associated photos attest. He was later returned to his prominent post, available once more to serve as a topic of conversation for those passing through York County.
And for those who want to know more about the company under the weightlifter and its famed founder Bob Hoffman, read York Daily Record/Sunday News’ writer Jeff Frantz’s short piece (12/24/06):
Bob Hoffman had bigger ideas than selling weights when he founded York Barbell.
He began sponsoring weight lifting contests in York as early as 1933. In fact, Hoffman won the first competition himself, lifting a total of 687 pounds.
Hoffman offered promising strongmen jobs, first at York Oil Burner and later at York Barbell, if they would lift for his amateur teams.
Before long, the strongest men in the country – John Grimek, John Terpak and Tony Terlazzo – lived and trained in York.
York Barbell soon became the dominant lifting club in the country, and Hoffman, who was also a major donor to the national team, enjoyed a prominent place in the sport.
After World War II, the scene in York changed. Fewer world-class lifters lived in the city full-time, but more used the newly constructed gym on Ridge Avenue as a training camp before major competitions.
Tommy Kono, regarded by many as the greatest American lifter, and Norbert Schemansky both won Olympic gold medals with York as their base. (The York Barbell man is modeled after Schemansky.
The Soviet Union and other Eastern-bloc countries began dominating international competition in the mid-1960s, but York lifters were still regarded as some of the best nationally.
In the 1980s, as York Barbell declined as a company, elite lifters stopped training in York. By the time Hoffman died in 1985, York was home to the world’s strongest men only in its memories.
– Source: “Muscletown USA” by John D. Fair