York Town Square

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York County’s landscape, buildings, landmarks can serve as a classroom

A Christmas tree sits prominently in old log house that sits prominently at the Dover Area Community Park in Dover Township. Not all houses of original log construction are as obvious today. Log houses were a topic of discussion at a recent Osher Lifelong Learning Institute class at Penn State York. Background posts: Opportunities in York County to feed your sense of discovery, OLLI’s theme song: ‘Don’t stop thinking about learning’ and ‘The riddle of two front doors’.

My York Sunday News column titled “For lifelong learners, county is a classroom” led with a OLLI classroom discussion about how many log houses stand today in York County.
I checked with Historic York on that question, and no one has ever gone through inventories of vintage houses to count those made of log.
But if anyone had the time and inclination, they could possibly come up with a rough number… .

Some log houses aren’t documented, of course. They’re covered over with some other material. One way of guesstimating what’s underneath, according to Historic York, is to look at the thickness of the doorway and windows.
Anyway, the column (4/20/08) tried to give pointers about how to get connected with the local historical community, and OLLI certainly is one avenue:

One of the many astute adult students in my class on “York’s Human Contributions to the World,” part of the new OLLI program at Penn State York, asked a challenging question.
How many houses of log construction remain in York County?
I answered that most early homes were made of logs or wood, but they did not have the staying power of stone structures such as Springettsbury Township’s Schultz House or York’s Gates House.
And it would be hard to do an accurate count because new log structures are being discovered as old houses are remodeled.
Then, I directed her to Historic York, Inc., and explained that organization wonderfully deals with the hardware of York County — houses and buildings and architecture.
The other major York-area organization focusing on history themes, the York County Heritage Trust, specializes in software — people, families and related artifacts. (This division is admittedly overly simplistic.)
But that question about log houses came from someone who wants to know more, who has never stopped learning.
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is a custom fit for those people.
* * *
I told the class that I hope our five sessions help them to develop a sense of discovery about York County — to make them want to know more and more.
So far, I’ve used at least two examples of places to pique their historical curiosity.
Did you ever notice a small cemetery, shrouded by some trees, along Loucks Road in West Manchester Township?
It sits beside a physician’s office operating out of the remodeled former Loucks school.
This is not just any cemetery. Important members of the Pfaltzgraff family are buried there.
In the mid-1800s, the Pfaltzgraff pottery operated in Foustown, not far from the cemetery.
That’s possibly why some passersby found pottery pieces in excavations in Cousler Park near Foustown.
Doesn’t that make you want to know more?
Then there’s Messiah College’s campus, site of the Clinton-Obama meet-up last week. In appearance, the campus is as close to a restored Garden of Eden as you’ll find in these parts. And after prepping for those visiting dignitaries, it will be a freshly fertilized Eden.
The campus has several historical hooks.
Part rests in York County. The school’s perennially winning soccer team plays in York County. Its graduates receive their diplomas in York County.
The Yellow Breeches, a scenic waterway, winds through campus. As the weather warms, people by the scores will float by on inner tubes.
Two on-campus bridges link Cumberland and York counties.
The one is the last covered bridge in or touching York County, a relocated bridge from nearby Bowmansdale. The other bridge is a narrow pedestrian bridge, successor to a swinging bridge. Such bridges in the county devoted to pedestrian-only use are rare.
Don’t you want to know more? There’s a lovely Sunday afternoon walk around that campus awaiting.
When I asked the OLLI students why they had taken the course, more than one simply answered, “I just love to learn.”
OLLI is doing a nice job of putting forth classes to do just that.


Members of the OLLI class “York’s Human Contributions to the World” received tips designed to give readers looking for ways into York County history and its historical community:
1. Speakers at the South Central Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, meeting the first Sunday of every month, regularly give intriguing presentations. Contact: Lila Fourhman-Shaull, York County Heritage Trust, 717-848-1587, lshaull@yorkheritage.org, www.scpgs.org.
2. The York County Civil War Roundtable, meeting the third Wednesdays, brings in speakers on regional topics. Contact: Fourhman-Shaull, www.yorkheritage.org.
3. York County Heritage Trust. Membership gives free passes to museums, newsletters and other benefits. Contact: www.yorkheritage.org, 717-848-1587.
4. York Daily Record/York Sunday News Web history section, www.ydr.com/history, contains regular updates about local events and items with history hooks.
5. The Exchange, www.inyork.com/exchange, is a local bulletin board where community members discuss topics of history and nostalgia, among other community issues.
6. The Web site
yorkblog.com. contains a suite of four history blogs seeking to create a virtual historical community.
7. Many communities have local historical societies, and some operate Web sites filled with history information. For example, visit the West Manchester Township Historical Society’s Web site, www.wmths.com.


OLLI — Osher Lifelong Learning Institute — is a new organization, based at Penn State York, seeking to enrich the lives of mature adults in York County by providing a variety of educational and social activities. Titles of current courses: “Environmentally Speaking: What Are We Up to In York?”; “It’s Never Too Late To Eat Healthy”; “Religion As Seen Through A Believer’s Eyes”; “Interconnections Between Math and Music”; “Discovering York County’s Past”; “York’s Human Contributions to the World.” For information on future OLLI classes, call 717-771-4015.