York Town Square

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York Sunday News columnist: ‘Time for York to break shackles of Colonialism’

The Women’s Club of York exhibits a style in architecture and interior fixtures common in the Victorian Age. Here, an angel-shaped sconce is on display at the organization’s East Market Street building. (See additional photos of Victorian-era buildings in York, Pa., below). Also of interest: Women’s Club of York: ‘No one knew it really looked like this’ and York County civic, service groups fighting for lives and Author: ‘York’s streetscape features almost every style and era of American architecture’.

For all of its assets, York County – particularly the York area – has a branding problem.
Its historic and cultural resources, though considerable, are not as high-profile as Lancaster County’s Amish and Adams County’s Gettysburg Battlefield and Dauphin County’s Capitol.
The York area’s two most significant historic moments – adoption of the American Revolution’s Articles of Confederation and World War II’s York Plan – are significant, indeed. But they’re not likely to capture the imagination of tourists, much less local residents… .

This is the familiar façade of the Women’s Club of York’s 228 E. Market St. building. Its interior includes hand-painted French wallpaper in its drawing room.

York County is truly in the middle of everything. Two hours from Washington, D.C. and two hours from Philadelphia. It’s about 45 minutes from Amish Country and 45 minutes from Gettysburg.
But that is a tough concept to tout, and many communities can use that brand.
So York has fished around with such thin concepts as First Capital of the United States and Factory Tour Capital of the World and Muscletown U.S.A. Well, Muscletown isn’t thin, but you know what I mean. Similar branding attempts have focused on York County’s plentiful golf courses and softball tournaments.
The most recent branding attempt – Revolutionary York – might have the most potential. That ties into our American Revolution history and the York Revolution Atlantic League baseball team, which appears to be a keeper.
It can also be used to showcase the large number of industrial inventions and innovations in all those big brick factories over the years.
York Sunday News columnist Gordon Freireich has pushed the county’s architecture, particularly that from the Victorian era.
Most recently, he put forth such a Victorian-era brand for a section of York bordered by the first blocks of North Beaver, West Market, North George and West Philadelphia streets.
Central Market would highlight the area, drawn by consultant Roger Brooks.
The columnist has written about the intriguing idea of calling that neighborhood the Victorian District.
We’ll let Gordon speak for himself.
Here are excerpts from Gordon’s (8/23/09) column:

York has long been under the delusion that people outside of York are anxious to come here and have a “Colonial Experience” because of the Articles of Confederation. Do people outside of York even know about the Articles of Confederation? Do people who live in York much care what that document did?
It’s time to cast off the shackles of York’s tenuous ties to its Colonial past and play up what is very evident in York — its Victorian heritage.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, and I’ll keep saying it: York is a living experience of Victorian style of architecture. But you’ll find few who care about that and the economic tourist impact the town’s Victorian heritage could have on the community.
Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901, and her influence was such around the world that she gave a name to an era. Just look at all the history that took place in York during those 63 years — yes, including the Civil War. Look at the wonderful buildings that were erected here during that time period and are properly recognized as Victorian architecture. Central Market is a fine example. But don’t overlook the factories and row homes (now called townhouses in upscale neighborhoods) that line our streets.
Victoriana is alive and well and living in York. Why don’t we cash in on it?
To take one of Brooks’ comments one step further: If you were driving along Route 30 and saw a sign that said “Historic Downtown York” would you be interested? If that sign read, “Victorian District,” would you be intrigued and perhaps decide to make a detour?
During his talk, Brooks said Lancaster has the Amish; Gettysburg the battlefield; Harrisburg the state Capitol. What is York’s brand in the public’s mind?
I’m not belittling York’s Colonial past. The Gates House, Plough Tavern and reconstructed Colonial Courthouse are all very nice, but we’re not going to draw tourists here to see them.
Let’s look outside our Colonial box to see what else we can build upon.
What I see is a firm base rooted in Victorian York.

York old post office building at Philadelphia and Beaver streets is another Victorian-era structure.
Click here and follow link to Scott Butcher blog on the wealth of architectural styles the York area.