York Town Square

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Proposed York, Pa., ‘Creation of a Nation’ museum name glib, but lacks grounding

The York Museum of Art is a key part of the Brenner Administration’s renaissance plan for downtown York. Here, an architectural rendering places the spotlight on a sculpture by internationally known Dover native Jeff Koons. Background posts: York Art Museum touted as triple gateway, Jeff Koons’ work raises question: But is it art? and Declaration of Independence signer James Smith tops York County’s patriot list.

In 2002, a group proposed a production honoring the 225th anniversary of the adoption of the Articles of Confederation in York.
The working title?
“The Birth of a Nation.”
Some on the “Nine Months in York Town” committee pointed out that the title was problematic in two ways. First, a patently racist film had taken that name in the first quarter of the 20th century.
Secondly, it is doubtful whether York County is the birthplace of the nation… .

The group went with a different name.
That second point about York as the nation’s birthplace relates to the name of a proposed museum for downtown York, tentatively tagged the “Creation of a Nation” complex.
In my book “Nine Months in York Town” and on this blog, I explained the pros and cons of the “First Capital” discourse.
I end up holding that the notion that American began here is not a foundation on which to build a community’s legacy.
Simply put, one would be hard pressed to find researchers outside the county’s borders who would agree that York is the first capital.
Secondly, the first capital campaign is relatively new, starting as a community marketing campaign in the early 1960s.
The community would be better served with taking whatever state money is available for the museum – one of several projects linked to downtown York’s renaissance – and investing it in the American Revolution-era Golden Plough-Gates House complex and the Colonial Courthouse replica.
A York Daily Record/Sunday News story (7/1/08) telling about some of those renaissance projects follows:

Some work, such as demolition in the Northwest Triangle redevelopment area, is visible. Other work, such as planning for a York Museum of Art, is not.
The Redevelopment Authority recently compiled all the past, present and future activity in a Downtown Action Plan.
“When you look around, we have a lot going on in our little city,” said Kevin Schreiber, the York’s marketing and economic development coordinator.

The city’s oldest public garage is getting ready for a $3 million makeover.
Plans for the Market Street Garage include new elevators, surveillance cameras, lights, painting, stairs, guardrails and gates, according to the action plan. The outside will get a face-lift, too.
“That’s a huge investment,” said Kevin Schreiber, York’s marketing and economic development coordinator.
A brick building on the corner of South Howard Street and Mason Avenue will be transformed into 13 loft condominiums. The building, formerly the Pfaltzgraff design center, is being developed by Gettysburg’s Kansagra Real Estate Group.
A fourth floor will be added to create master suites with balconies for two-story units on the third floor, said Bob Mock, project manager with SAA Architects.
Construction of the lofts, which will cost around $200,000 each, should start in September and be finished in early 2009, Mock said.


The bronze statue of Pal, a German shepherd with the 3rd Marine War Dog Platoon in World War II, could have some real canine company in the future.
The area around the statue on West King Street is tentatively slated to become a dog park. It would cost about $50,000 to add fencing, benches, water fountains, trash cans and lights, Schreiber said.
The Statue of Pal, a World War II marine war dog rests near the possible location of a dog park on West King Street. (Daily Record/Sunday News – Paul Kuehnel)”Whether it ends up being a dog park or not, people walk their dogs there now,” he said.
The Colonial Complex area, which includes the Golden Plough Tavern, could attract more visitors through plans for a Creation of the Nation Center, according to the action plan.
The center, which would showcase York’s role in the adoption of the Articles of Confederation, is one of the next projects on the horizon for the city, said Schreiber. No site has been selected yet, but a feasibility study for the project is under way, he said. Te center would have interactive exhibits, films and living history elements, the plan said. The city is seeking a $5 million state grant, which the city would have to match, Schreiber said.
Want to know more about what’s going on in downtown York? Pick up a copy of the Downtown Action Plan at the Redevelopment Authority office, 49 E. Market St., or at City Hall, 50 W. King St. A copy is also available online at www.revyork.com.