York Town Square

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Thackston Park area connects to York’s past

A project is under way to relocate Helen Thackston Park from the north side of West College Avenue across the street to the side south, where public housing now stands. Helen Thackston, pictured here, headed Crispus Attucks Early Learning Center for years. Background posts: Helen Reeves Thackston’s name lives on and Histories attempt to fill blanks in women’s, black history.
A potentially controversial proposal to relocate Thackston Park touches on several historic sites in that part of town.
First, the park itself points to a revered community matriarch: Helen Reeves Thackston.
As director of the Crispus Attucks Early Learning Center from 1932 to 1964, she touched the lives of hundreds of people who gratefully remember her contributions.
“Helen didn’t just teach children, she taught them to be proud,” Sylvia Newcombe, retired York Recreation Commission head, said in 1979… .

Thackston was the first of what became a core of CA workers who provided continuity for years.
Edward R. Simmons replaced Chester Hayes, CA’s first exec, in 1943 and served until 1962. Mildred J. Chapman supervised women’s and girls’ activities from 1941 to 1965. And Wade Bowers started his long stint as education director in 1952.
Other historic contacts:
— The York Housing Authority’s units currently standing on what would be the relocated park represent York’s first public housing. A housing authority spokesman said national public housing efforts reach York in the 1950s, and some of the units were built in 1954.
— One reason the public housing is deteriorating is that it was built on the site of an early landfill. Why early Yorkers choose such a low place near Codorus Creek is mystifying, but such decisions led to the creation of the York Water Company to provide safe drinking water as early as 1816.
— The relocated Thackston Park would join Martin Luther King Jr. Park to form a long, continuous stretch of parkland bordering the Codorus. In the corner of King park, a privately owned historic structure stands: the Cookes House. That the residence where pamphleteer Thomas Paine reportedly stayed in the winter of 1777-78. He tagged along with Continental Congress during that body’s visit to York.
Seems that everywhere you go in York County, you touch a piece of history.
*Edited, 8/8/13