York Town Square

Part of the USAToday Network

Of bars, beds, bugs and backpacks in Ye Olde York, Pa.

Willie Hilker shaves a log from the Golden Plough Tavern in September 2007. He was replacing logs in the 1740s structure after an errant trucker smashed into its side. Most the logs were salvaged and reused. Background posts: A square courthouse in middle of York’s Centre Square? and Essayists on war and peace – old and new – write on.

One of the most interesting parts of the Golden Plough Tavern/Gates House complex is a piece that’s not original.

It’s the bar area… .

The bar resembles its counterpart in today’s taverns in many ways with a counter in front and the bottles behind. But it differs in that connected stakes are arranged above the bar to be pulled down to counter level when the tavern/inn/restaurant-owner is not there, perhaps having retired to the room behind the bar area. That’s the room equipped with a soul window.
Those taking the tour of the complex are told that these stakes, which resemble bars in a jail, lend their name to that drink-dispensing area. The bars keep tavern patrons from helping themselves to drinks in the same way that bars in a prison prohibit those in cells from helping themselves to freedom.
The complex tour offers other such gems including:
– The saying “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” comes from the need to pull ropes connected to bed frames holding straw mattresses tight. That allows for a firm, more even mattress. And the bed bugs, well, they liked straw.
– Traveling trunks – the luggage of the day – were literally tree trunks. They were hollowed out logs, covered at the open end. They could be carried around like suitcases or backpacks.