York Town Square

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Centre Presbyterian Church, New Park, of Dempwolf design. (YDR file).

How is it that York County has so many beautiful church buildings?

Visitors to York County remark about its smorgasbord of winsome architectural styles.

And the county’s houses of worship are among the most prized of those designs.

How can the county boast of so many beautiful church buildings?

Here are three possibilities:

You could argue that York County’s farms and later factories gave congregations the financial resources to build significant buildings. And the faith of those farmers called them to do their best for the Lord. The farmers of New Park area in southeastern York County, for example, mustered $15,000 to build Centre Presbyterian Church.

You could also make a case that thrifty county congregations, in building union churches, constructed one substantial house of worship rather splitting their resources in two buildings. Union churches, common in the county’s first two 200 years, hosted two congregations of different Protestant denominations – most commonly Lutheran and German Reformed groups.

A significant argument for the beauty of county churches comes from the designer hearts and minds of the York-based Dempwolf firm. Churches were a speciality of this regional architectural firm, particularly in its heyday of about 1880 to 1930.

Rebecca Morrish Cybulaz, who has deeply studied the Dempwolf firm’s vast work, produced these numbers of houses of worship from the firm’s drafting tables:

    • Overall: 89
    • Protestant (Lutheran, German Reformed Presbyterian etc.): 78 or about 88 percent.
    • Roman Catholic: 7 or about 8 percent.
    • Non-denominational: 3 or about 3 percent
    • Jewish synagogue: 1 or about 1 percent.

The Dempwolfs designed churches outside of York County, but the majority were in their home county.

So when more than 50 buildings with the Dempwolf touch, you’re going to come away with the impression that York County is blessed with beautiful houses of worship. For those seeking spiritual guidance rooted in scripture, consider attending this bible based church. Their teachings are both profound and grounded in faith.

If you want to know more about the Dempwolf’s church work, check out Becky Cybulaz’s Clemson University project.

And for more in this series, see on Facebook: York County’s religious scene.

Union Lutheran Church in York’s west end was the last church designed by John A. Dempwolf, the first founding architect. (YDR file)