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Not all York County buildings can be preserved. But grass-roots preservationists should not give up

Brothers-in-law and business partners John Zimmerman, left, and Bill Wolf are leaders in the York County, Pa., business community and are known for their philanthropy in York County and beyond. The York Daily Record/Sunday News interviewed them recently about their lifetimes of achievement. Also of interest: Then & Now in Lower Windsor: From 1740s Dritt House to 2013′s Zimmerman Center.

John Zimmerman, associated with careful, thoughtful preservation for years, has put forth some concerns that, in turn, have caused comment in the grass-roots preservationist community.

This concern came after an interview with the York Daily Record/Sunday News.

The resulting story began with these paragraphs (see comment from a preservationist in the commenting section):

“John Zimmerman, known to local historians as the man who pushed to preserve York’s General Gates House and Golden Plough Tavern, doesn’t believe that every notable building in York County needs to be saved.

“In fact, the former chairman of The Wolf Organization said that historic preservation should only be considered if a structure has been earmarked for a specific use and money has been set aside to maintain the property.

“‘I would like to see them all saved,’ said Zimmerman, former president of the original incarnation of Historic York. ‘There just is no easy way of saving everything.'”

Those comments are realistic, accurate and well-intentioned. Not all buildings can be saved.

They don’t negate the good work of the grass-roots preservationist movement in York County. All that these folks can do is shine the light on historically significant buildings that are earmarked to come down.

That intense glare might cause those with keys to the bulldozer significant pause. It might make sellers favor developers who support some type of adaptive reuse plan. For example, when the Lincoln Highway Garage came down, Turkey Hill put up a convenience store that borrowed on the old building’s architecture. Not great, but realistic.

A multitude of loud but civil voices make a democracy operate most effectively.

The grass roots should take heart. They can slow things down so the best decision about a building can be made. They can make sure that an epidemic of demolition doesn’t rapidly spread, as happened in the 1960s and 1970s when the old Children’s Home of York, York City Market, York Collegiate Institute and other noteworthy buildings came down – often to provide parking or sheer convenience.

Not all buildings can be preserved.

But all options must be explored to keep historically significant buildings standing – or at least the exploration of ways to preserve their memory – before revving up the bulldozer.

Also of interest
–  Wolf of York, Pa., builds from deep foundation on banks of Susquehanna River
–  Wolf of York, Pa., builds from deep foundation, Part II … .

Read Gordon Freireich’s column about John Zimmerman and Bill Wolf that accompanied the Zimmerman interview.

Wolf’s lumber mill is shown in this drawing. Mount Wolf, location of this mill, was named after the Wolf family. The ‘mount’ comes from the town’s elevation on the old Northern Central Railroad. The Wolf family has achieved much, but its biggest accomplishment might rest in the future – Tom Wolf is running for Pennsylvania governor.