York Town Square

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York’s Elmwood Mansion book more than history of a house

Former York County journalist Gary Dutery wrote that he was “blown away” after reading Ann Niess’ book on York’s Elmwood Mansion.
The author lived there for years, and her intimate knowledge of the iconic York house, now Memorial Hospital’s conference center, clearly impressed Dutery.
In his assessment of the book, Dutery gives insight into the author and her work (and notice the neat story about how the house determined the route of Interstate 83):

Ann’s recollections of her life at Elmwood tell a personal history of life in York County in the early part of the 20th Century. When we look at York County today, it’s difficult to imagine there was such a time. An era of simplicity. It was, indeed, a time of innocent wonder.
With my and my parents’ long-time association with Ann and her family – including Ann’s mother who I knew as Nana Small – I thought I knew the story of Elmwood House. I didn’t. I knew there were struggles and hardships, but Ann’s book lays out these struggles and hardships for us all to see. And this is important if we are to understand the history of our county. Ann could have easily glossed over these events. She chose not to. As a result, we share in a greater understanding of the development of the area we now know as Elmwood.
The book is a sincere personal history. As such, it might prove hard for some to follow. But it is truly essential reading. It is not a history of a house. It is a snapshot of York County history.
Ann is a gracious lady. A truly gracious lady. And as such, she has understandably glossed over the politics that came to surround the Elmwood House when Interstate 83 sat on the drawing boards. She has chosen not to discuss that the original plans for Interstate 83 called for the highway to be built on top of the house.
When the house was placed for auction, there were few bidders for a property that was, everyone assumed, destined to be razed by the state. As a result, the house was purchased at a bargain price by the Strickler family. Stricker’s wife was the sister of then-governor George Leader. After the property was purchased, Interstate 83 was magically re-routed to leave the house standing. This explains the absurd exit ramp at Belmont Street. Yet in her account, Ann remains gracious to the Stricker family.
Nana Small sensed my interest in history even though I was very young when she moved into the second-floor apartment above the Young Insurance Agency across from the YWCA on West Market Street. I always looked forward to the times when my mother and I would drop in to visit. She would tell me stories of York in its infancy. She would talk about her time at Elmwood. Somehow she knew she was passing something along. She was a remarkable woman.
Ann and my parents sought to remain in touch despite their moves from Staunton to Pittsburgh to wherever. A few years ago Ann and her husband rented a house here in Boca Grande, FL for the winter and were, obviously, stunned to discover that I was the editor of the local newspaper. We reconnected and have since stayed in touch. This reconnect, it would turn out, was a contributing element to the publication of Elmwood House.
Ann emailed me one day to confess that she really didn’t have any contacts in York who could help her with some of the history. Did I, she asked, know anyone at the newspapers who could help her out?
When I read the email, I couldn’t help but laugh. Jim McClure and I have known each other for longer than either one of us likely want to admit – well before he was associated with the York Daily Record. Long story. I forwarded her email to Jim and the rest is, pardon the expression, history. This was a book that was destined to be written.
If your interest is York County history, “Elmwood House … it it could speak what stories it would tell” is mandatory reading. To obtain a copy write 8177-1001 Saratoga Drive, Naples FL, 34113.