York Town Square

Part of the USAToday Network

Facebook conversation about York, Pa.’s, downtown arises from York Town Square blog post

The York Water Company’s beautiful main office on East Market Street catches the eyes of motorists and pedestrians, and that’s even before one walks in to see the ornate painted ceiling. Also of interest: York’s Reservoir Hill drips with things to see and Where is the world is Webb’s Hill? and Who you gonna call to stop tooth decay? Not York Water Co.

My recent yorktownsquare.com blog post, Check out these facts, photographs about York Water Company’s ornate building, made its way to Facebook.
And from there it sparked an exchange between well-known York architect Richard Bono, former York City Councilman Wm. Lee Smallwood (now living in New Orleans) and JoAnne Everhart, a student of all things York.
Thought you’d enjoy the following edited responses: … .

Richard Bono: A beautiful building, inside and out.
Jim McClure: Interesting how little disregard local officials had for architecturally significant buildings in 1960-1970s York, Pa. Look how many came down – City Market House, Children’s Home of York, York Collegiate Institute… .
Wm. Lee Smallwood: Not necessarily the elected officials. There’s usually powers behind them!
JoAnne Everhart: It is sad to remember the York that was prior to the 60’s and 70’s. Those two decades were bad for York in so many ways. The old Hannah Penn Jr. High School was another beautiful building. It was demolished before I was old enough for junior high, but my dad and grandfather went there, Penn Park was also a beautiful place with a stone lighted fish pond, fountains, statues, swings and sliding boards for children, tennis and basketball courts and a band shell. Progress really was regression during that era of York history.
Jim McClure: Good point, Lee. In a couple cases, it was the quest for parking to stave off ample parking in suburban shopping centers.
Richard Bono: Parking? Yorkers should know better that the attempt to suburbanize the city…to “modernize it”…was doomed to failure. This is one of an increasing number of instances where modernization was (and is) a fool’s gold. You can’t improve on… an urban tradition…of which York is a small part…that has 3,500 years of wisdom built into it.
Another loss was the “Wizard” … a vibrant Romanesque structure that was torn down to make way for the Market Street Parking Garage. This garage would have been better sited in the middle of the block…rather than taking up streetfront. This is a case of the secondary use taking space from the primary urban uses. If the CBD was a house, it would be like locating a storage room in the prime location of a family room.
Wm. Lee Smallwood: I agree with you Dick. You can’t modernize and then ask tourist to visit and spend money in Historic York. Jim, it was more urban (poor and minority) removal than suburbanization.
Richard Bono: True in either case…whether you are looking for external economic input, or internally driven development. Parking garages should not be facing primary streets. They should be behind them.
Jim McClure: I list some of structures that came down during this period here. It would be a much different York skyline today if they were still standing.
Richard Bono: Some buildings must come down to make way for change. Some buildings can be adapted…and there’s need for new buildings. But the point should be, that the new ought to be at least as good, smart, harmonious, sustainable, and beautiful as what came before.
Wm. Lee Smallwood: I REMEMBER THEM ALL!
Jim McClure: Wanted to get back to this for two reasons. First, seems like many of these buildings came down for: City Market, parking lot, gas station; York County Academy, parking lot; old Hannah Penn Junior High, parking lot; Helb’s Mansion, parking lot; old Children’s Home of York, shopping plaza etc.
Second, I’d like to include pieces of this rich and insightful thread in future blog post and perhaps in a York Sunday News column.

The sum of all this, of course, is that we need to be certain a historic building must come down before we take it down.

The former York Collegiate Institute fell to a wrecker’s ball. Can you believe it? Campus Park, next to the Voni B. Grimes Gym on East College Avenue, sits on its footprint today.
All York Town Square posts from the start. (Key word search by using “find” on browser.)
– Of course, you can always search for York Town Square post on Google. For example, google: yorktownsquare and York Water Company and you get this.