York, Pa., preservationist about Trinity church: Demolition ‘will have a profoundly detrimental effect on the city’
Alycia Reiten, Historic York’s executive director, is outside Trinity United Methodist Church with the sign “This Place Matters,” a National Trust for Historic Preservation theme. The church, standing since the 1890s in a historic district, faces demolition because of structural defects. (See photo of a mural on the church’s backside below.) (Update, 8/14): The building has a new congregation – Potter’s House – that is renovating the structure, and the mural remains intact.) Also of interest: Will another York, Pa., landmark come down? and Old Children’s Home of York another example of unleashed wrecker’s ball in 1960s era and Adding up all its clubs, organizations and churches, York County, Pa., is a quietly social place.
Many in the York community are alarmed at the proposed demolition of Trinity United Methodist Church.
For some time, the East King Street congregation has been dealing with structural damage in the roof that would cost $400,000 to repair. The congregation cannot afford to correct the damage and is meeting elsewhere.
But the public found out about it relatively recently when an “X” appeared on the facade of this late-1800s structure, located in a neighborhood that is struggling to recover.
Seems like efforts could have been made to get out word about the building’s plight.
Perhaps some funder could have – can – come forward.
Perhaps an appeal throughout the thousands of United Methodist churches internationally would have brought in some renovation dollars. The greater United Methodist Church talks about urban ministry, and this is an opportunity to put dollars behind that concern.
Trinity Church – just like any congregation – cannot have it both ways. Its leaders cannot contend that what they say and do matters to a neighborhood, city and the world, and then when a crisis hits, handle it in a tight-lipped, members-only manner.
Historic York Inc.’s Barb Raid summarized many themes of what the church means to the community in an e-mail, excerpted here:
“… I want to bring a serious and unfortunate situation to your attention because it will have a profoundly detrimental effect on the city. The situation is the imminent but entirely unnecessary demolition of Trinity U. M. Church at 241 East King Street. The church is a highly significant building in York City’s National Register and HARB districts, and it certainly deserves a better fate than demolition. The 1896 Gothic Revival church was designed by one of York’s most notable architects, Harry E. Yessler.
The current church leaders, headed by Rev. Mark Webb,* are moving ahead with demolition despite the proven fact that the roof can be repaired, and without considering alternative options. Surely there are other congregations, organizations, developers who would love to have this building. Why not market it? Even if not used for religious purposes, the building could be adapted for other uses.
When historic buildings and neighborhoods are torn down, an important part of our past disappears forever. When that happens, we lose the very history that helps us know who we are. York City is largely made up of historic buildings, and they are a highly visible and meaningful part of the city’s identity. People from out of town as well as the regular “man on the street” frequently point to York’s historic architecture as one of its main assets.
As former National Trust for Historic Preservation CEO Richard Moe said, “When you strip away the rhetoric, preservation is simply having the good sense to hold on to things that are well designed, that link us with our past in a meaningful way, and that have plenty of good use left in them.” Trinity Church has plenty of good use left in it — please help us prevent its senseless destruction.
*Rev. Mark J. Webb
York District Office
Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church
2550 Kingston Center, Suite 115
York, PA 17402
Also of interest:
– Statement from United Methodist spokesman.
– Yorkblogger June Lloyd tells about the church: Trinity Church a Landmark on East King Street in York and More on York’s Endangered Trinity UM Church
– YouTube videos on the church’s architecture.
This mural is hidden from public view behind Trinity United Methodist Church. It can be viewed from the alley behind the East King Street church. Also of interest: Check out more photographs of the mural.)
– 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 posts on Google. For example, when you search for yorktownsquare and Historic York, you get this.