A square courthouse in middle of York’s Centre Square?
Workers face a detailed job of shingling the Colonial Courthouse replica on West Market Street. The roof has been there for 31 years, since the courthouse was built. Background posts: From York, Pa. to inside the beltway, politicos got no friend, The first capital of the United States and Display marks how York County courthouses evolved.
It’s a debate that captivated local history afficionados in 1975.
Was the orignal York County Court House, that revered place where Continental Congress met in 1777-78, square or rectangular? …
Cedar shingles will cover the Colonial Courthouse’s roof when work is done.
Some evidence placed the building, constructed on York’s Centre Square in 1756, at 45 feet by 45 feet. Other indicators put 10 extra feet on two ends.
The occasion for the debate was design of a replica for the vaunted courthouse, demolished in 1841.
Helen Miller Gotwalt wrote in her “Crucible of a New Nation” that the county commissioners built the original courthouse with “characteristic German thoroughness and English tenacity.”
Well, those same qualities were deployed to resolve the square-vs.-rectangle debate in 1975.
According to Gotwalt, courthouse replica planners oversaw digging a small trench through the blacktop in Continental Square, as York’s center had become known.
Contractors excavated a small trench 22 1/2 feet west of the precise center of the square.
“And there it was … the stone foundation wall of the Provincial Court House, just where William Willis had built it 221 years before,” Gotwalt wrote. “The true and indisputable dimensions were 45 x 45 feet.”
The replica grew, and 31 years later, workers are putting on a new roof.
A York Daily Record/Sunday News story (1/11/08) tells about that project:
Jan 11, 2008 — Weather has slowed the replacement of the roof at the Colonial Courthouse, but if all goes well, the work should be finished in a week or so.
“It’s been the worst year for weather for putting on a roof,” said Dennis Kunkle, director of facilities for the York County Heritage Trust. The courthouse roof is particularly steep, so it can’t be wet or windy when roofers go to work, he said.
SLP Roofing of Dallastown has been working on the project since about November. But there were entire weeks that weren’t conducive for the work.
“We’re quite cautious (about) creating any interior damage to that place,” said Marc Shutz, president of the roofing company. If there’s even the threat of rain, the crew won’t attempt it, he said.
There’s about a week’s worth of work left, Shutz said. The last portion to be done will be roofing the cupola atop the building, which Kunkle said is an intricate job.
“If you look at it close, it’s little teeny shingles that have to catch an arc as it goes down,” he said. That will take a day or two, he said.
Shutz said a 60-foot lift has to be brought in to reach the cupola.
The new roof replaces the original on the 1976 building, built as a replica of the courthouse that sat in Continental Square when the Continental Congress met in York almost 200 years earlier, Kunkle said. The new one will be the same except the new cedar shingles are fire retardant to comply with codes, he said.
The job, which cost about $46,000 according to Shutz, includes the gift shop and the restrooms/mechanical building. Those have already been finished.
All of the Heritage Trust’s historic houses are closed for the winter season.