York Town Square

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Old Children’s Home of York another example of unleashed wrecker’s ball in 1960s era

The Children’s Home of York stands along East Philadelphia Street shortly before its demolition in the 1970s. The stone wall stands today, fronting a strip shopping center. A plaque on the wall states that the home opened in 1867 and closed in 1972. It states: “Dedicated to all the children that called this home.” (See photo of the old York County Almshouse below). Also of interest: Civil War affected women in York County – and vice versa and Isabel Small led procession of women who made wreath for Abe Lincoln’s coffin and Samuel Small tops York, Pa. community contributor list.

A sign on the old Pine Street School has long noted its use as the Sylvia Newcombe Center.
Today, another sign appears there: the Children’s Home of York, no doubt an adjunct to the home’s Pleasant Acres, Springettsbury Township, headquarters.
That’s noteworthy because the old school is across from the site of the original Children’s Home of York, built in the post-Civil War era to house the orphaned children of Civil War soldiers.
The majestic home joined the York Collegiate Institute, York County Academy, York City Market and Helb Mansion as examples of wonderful architectural gems that fell to the wrecker’s ball in and around the 1960s… .

As disappointing as those decisions were to rid the city of architecturally significant buildings, it’s just as encouraging that Northwest Triangle planners are preserving historical structures within that project’s boundaries.
The city has learned that beautiful buildings are assets that can create a winsome environment, when remodeled.
The following is an excerpt from my “Never to be Forgotten” telling more about the original Children’s Home.

1865: Orphanage established: The York community’s most prominent citizens create the Children’s Home of York to house and train orphans of Civil War soldiers. Two years later, they build a four-story red brick building on the corner of East Philadelphia and Pine streets. This building would serve as home for more than 3,000 orphans and children from broken homes until its demolition in 1973. Other youngsters under the Children’s Home care are farmed out to county families. Young residents at the home spend decades living within its walls, except for walking in groups to Sunday school. They live highly structured lives in frugal surroundings, leaving little room for individuality. In the minds of those running the home, such institutional life works. By the turn of the century, the home has cared for 550 children and “only 30 of them have not done us credit,” the board reported. Facing the loss of state aid, the home ended a restriction in its charter that prohibited admission of blacks in 1959. For decades in the 20th century, Mr. and Mrs. Percy B. Cooper served as superintendents. “They all come back home to see what’s going on,” Mrs. Cooper commented in 1948. “They’re just like our own children.”

The York County Almshouse or poorhouse came down before many other magnificent York, Pa., structures were demolished in the 1970s. The Asylum Project website says the buildings were demolished before 1950. Alexander D. Goode Elementary School today stands on its footprint. The York County Hospital and Home (Pleasant Acres), which today serves as a conventional nursing home, is a successor to the almshouse. York County Heritage Trust photo.