York Town Square

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Reader doesn’t understand some things about York County

This view, courtesy York County Heritage Trust, shows York looking south toward Webb’s or Shenk’s Hill in 1852. The Harrisburg road, now North George Street crosses the Codorus Creek Bridge on its way into Centre Square. Small Field lays to the left of the bridge bordering the creek. Hikers and bikers will get a better view of Small Field in the next few years when the 5.5-mile rail trail extension is completed between Manchester Township’s Rudy Park and York’s downtown.Background posts: When the bridge over the Codorus moved, WWII rocked towns across York County and There’s oil in those New Salem hills.

Bob Riese of Spring Garden Township doesn’t understand some things about York County.
So he wrote a letter to the editor published recently with the title “Things I don’t understand.”
Maybe others don’t understand either. So I’ll take a stab at his questions:

Bob’s question: Why did they change the name of York New Salem to New Salem? Come on, the old markers are still there – it’s York New Salem.
Jim’s response: York New Salem is assigned to the post office, and New Salem is the borough’s name. That hasn’t changed for years.
Decades ago, some other community had claimed the New Salem post office name so local townspeople had to hunt for a new name — York New Salem.
York New Salem isn’t alone in York County in this regard: Goldsboro’s post office is Etters and Jefferson’s P.O. is Codorus.
Which brings to mind a tussle over name years ago in Dover Township’s village of Admire.
Its post office was originally known as Slabtown and then Newport. According to historian George Prowell, when storekeeper Swiler Kunkle was selected postmaster, Voltaire was selected.
“A long discussion followed in reference to the use of the name Voltaire,” Prowell wrote, “when it was discovered to be the name of a great French atheist and disbeliever in revealed theology.”
The postmaster and others searched for a new name but found in a postal directory that their preferences were already taken.
“Finally,” Prowell wrote in 1907, “the word, Admire, was chosen and has since been the name of the village and post office.”
Bob’s question: Why is it the Small Athletic Field? If it were named after me wouldn’t it be Bob’s Athletic Field? Who makes these things up anyhow?
Jim’s response: Who knows how apostrophes — or lack thereof — get into names? As another example, it’s the Leader Heights area in York Township but Leaders Heights Elementary.
Small Field takes its name from its longtime owners, prominent 19th-century merchants P.A. and S. Small. To play on Bob’s lead, I guess it could be called Philip Albright or Sam Field today.
The Smalls held extensive creekfront property including two mills farther north on the Codorus.
York Revolution baseball fans know Small Field as the primary parking area for Sovereign Bank Stadium.
But it is known in history as the repository of damaged property washed downstream by the raging Codorus Creek flood of 1884.
The flood took out 15 bridges between Spring Grove and the Susquehanna River and prompted these newspaper headlines: “The Great Flood,” “A Scene of Ruin and Destruction,” and “The Largest Flood that Ever Visited York.”
“Articles were piled up on Small’s Meadows, as high as a two-story house. You could find anything there, from a clock to a steam boiler and engine,” an observer wrote and summed up the creek bottom land as “just a conglomerate mess.”
Bob’s question: Why doesn’t the city show off the York Telephone Company/GTE/Verizon building on South Beaver St.? George Rudy commissioned the building and the gate on the front door was shown in a gallery before it was installed. This building is a real York treasure.
Jim’s response: Books and other publications featuring the county’s architecture regularly tout the Frederick Dempwolf-designed building and its ornate gate.
For example, Scott Butcher describes the Art Deco building, its Indiana Limestone facade and those door grills that were exhibited at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art:
“The latter (the grills) was created by Paul Manship, who is best known for his work on Prometheus at Rockefeller Center in New York City,” Butcher wrote in his recently published book, “York’s Historic Architecture.”
Bob’s question: Why does the city bother to resurface the streets? When a utility has to open a hole, they never resurface back to grade. Aren’t there inspectors to follow up on this?
Jim’s response: York’s next mayor can make immediate political hay by fixing this ongoing problem.
Bob’s question: And why does WITF-TV (Ch. 33) insist on totally destroying their programming with outrageous weather alerts? Why can’t they do like other stations and run a banner on the bottom of the screen? … I mean, it’s summer and we get thunderstorms. Am I supposed to get in my car and drive the other way?
Jim’s response: Just make sure your car windows are rolled up in case the storm overtakes you as you slowly navigate those bumpy York streets.
And remember that flood of 1884 that surprised a county and left a scene of devastation on Small Field.