York Town Square

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Stetler Dodge transition indicative of other York-area changes

This moment in June 2005 marked two milestones. It was the 10th anniversary of the Susan P. Byrnes Health Education Center. And Ellen Dye, right, was the 500,000th student to pass through its doors. Susan Byrnes, left, founded the center, located in the former D.E. Stetler Dodge dealership on South George Street, York. They stand in the dealership’s showroom. For State Rep. Steve Stetler, appointed state revenue secretary to replace Tom Wolf on Nov. 12, 2008, is a descendant of D.E. Stetler. Background posts: Often forgotten: Achievements of those whose names appear on facades, Horn Farm: ‘A very special living history memorial to those hardy ancestors’ and Susan Byrnes: Putting a health passion into action.

The story of Stetler Dodge provides a quick lesson of change in the York area.
D. E. Stetler founded the company in 1914 as a charter dealership for Dodge Brothers automobiles.
The butcher from the Newberrytown area of York County later moved his dealership to York. In 1923, he built the South George Street dealership that operated downtown until 1990. His three grandsons then moved the business to the outskirts of the city near Route 30. Downtown car dealerships just could no longer make it in York – or most anywhere.
Just this week, Stetler Dodge officials said they have sold the dealership, one of about five charter Dodge dealers still operating, to Jack Giambalvo… .

Dontae Martin is seen in the Byrnes Health Center parking lot, the former Stetler Dodge dealer car lot.
Dave Stetler will stay on as general manager.
So this continues a trend of consolidation of multiple vehicle nameplates under a handful of owners in the York area.
Meanwhile, Stetler’s former downtown building has flourished since 1995 as the Susan P. Byrnes Health Center.
That move from a private retail business – an auto dealership – to non-profit service-oriented use – a health center – is indicative of change in York’s downtown.
The Byrnes center combines with Crispus Attucks Community Center, the Loretta Claiborne Building and Junior Achievement to form a campus of social services in York’s south end.
This story, appearing in the York Daily Record (12/15/1993), ties together Stetler Dodge and the Byrnes Health Center:

Construction of a health education center in York is expected to begin March 1, and the opening will be in early 1995, executive director Jan Herrold said.
The board of directors of the Central Pennsylvania Health Education Center decided Tuesday that Robert A. Kinsley Inc. of York Township will provide construction management services for the project at 515 S. George St.
Herrold said Kinsley will begin working with the architect, Murphy & Dittenhafer Inc., to become familiar with the job before bids are put out around Feb. 1. Frank Dittenhafer of Shrewsbury is lead architect for the transformation of the center’s future home in the former D.E. Stetler & Sons automobile dealership.
“The drawings and specifications are about 75 percent complete,” she said.
Barton Associates Inc. of York will provide mechanical and electrical engineering services. A fund-raising campaign for the center has exceeded $2.2 million of its $2.5 million goal.
Hamilton Bank will provide financing as needed to allow construction to proceed because some donors will pay pledges over as many as five years, Herrold said.
The center will occupy about 20,000 square feet and feature interactive exhibits such as one dealing with organs of the body. It also will offer classes for students and eventually, adults.
A former emergency department nurse, Susan P. Byrnes, began the project in 1988 to establish a way to promote prevention of serious illnesses through education. Byrnes, who is board president, and Herrold anticipate the center drawing 50,000 visitors a year from a 50-mile radius.

Barb Trout, right, a registered nurse, explains the inside of the Super Colon at the Byrnes Health Center in 2008. The Super Colon was an inflatable replica of a human colon, indicative of the type of displays at the center.