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Windsor: Home of ‘stately old houses that may appear to be miniature castles’

York County’s borough of Windsor shortened its name from the Windsor Township village of Windsorville when it was incorporated in 1905. The sleepy town today bustled 75 years ago with trolley traffic and cigar factories. Background posts: York County cigars: ‘They contained a vast amount of nicotine’, That’s Windsor Park, not Windsor … and Research offers insight into York County’s trolley.

A statement in Windsor borough’s history book “Windsor Borough, The First One Hundred Years” caused me pause: “The town is dotted with stately old houses that may appear to be miniature castles.”
Castles? In Windsor, that younger valley-dwelling brother of hillside neighbor Red Lion?

But as you work through the 300-plus-page centennial book, published in 2005 and available via the York County Library System, you see picture after picture of turreted Victorian-era houses. And many are still standing.
Perhaps “miniature castles” is a bit of an overstatement. But though these houses stand tall, they point to a lot that is below the historical surface in what appears to be a long-sleepy town.
Here are some other nuggets of interest gleaned from Windsor’s thick book:
– The town initially didn’t gain court approval to incorporate. An initial survey showed a layout that did not leave enough space between two hills for two rows of dwellings with the requisite stables and wide street. Those were interesting pre-requisites for incorporation in those days.
– The borough has the usual small-town war memorial with the names of six men who died in World War II. Imagine the impact on a town the size of Windsor, a thousand people or so, that loses six of its residents in four years. That’s a story that we should never forget, and Windsor’s proud monument is an apt reminder.
– Windsor constructed a community band hall in 1922, which served the community group for 20 years. The band went out of business in 1942, but the hall stands today as an apartment complex.
– For many years, Chautauqua came to town and set up tents on the Windsor ball field. (Chautauqua was a traveling educational program.) One year, an armadillo on display escaped and strolled to the Horst area before its capture.
– Harry Kelley operated a horse-drawn stage coach in 1906, which resembled the vehicle seen on westerns. That idea probably came a bit late because trolley service was running then, not to mention that automobiles were spotted around York County. But Windsor was not at the end of the line – trolleys went on to the far smaller Bittersville before seats were turned around and they headed back through Windsor to York.
– A Windsorian, councilman Elmer Shindler, was killed in 1905 when two trolley cars collided head on.
– In the early years of the 1900s, three ice houses operated in the borough. The ice man would make daily calls to fill ice boxes, which often sat on back porches.
– The book devotes 32 pages to the cigarmaking industries that operated there for decades in the 20th century. The best-known brand was suitably named House of Windsor. The company moved from Windsor to Yoe in 1968.
Today, the trolleys and cigarmakers are gone, though many cigar factories have been converted to other uses. But those “miniatures castles” remain to delight.