York Town Square

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Part II: York, Pa., without the Yorktowne Hotel? Unimaginable.

This clip from the York (Pa.) Gazette and Daily in 1925 indicates the change of name of York’s new hotel from “The Phineas Davis,” to “The Yorktowne.” The change came in anticipation of the 150th anniversary of the Articles of Confederation set for 1927. The financially beleaguered Yorktowne Hotel has been in the news recently because it faces a sheriff’s sale. Also of interest: Part I: York, Pa., without the Yorktowne Hotel? Unimaginable. and World War II-era air raid siren discovered atop Yorktowne Hotel and What did Tiny Tim and Richard Nixon have in common? and Yorktowne Hotel offers a variety of memories

There was a day that The Yorktowne Hotel was not to be The Yorktowne.
Try: The Phineas Davis.
That doesn’t quite work, doesn’t quite sound as fitting as The Yorktowne.
But Phineas Davis, the 19th-century craftsman and inventor, almost got the hoist… .

This is the cover of “Overnight Success,” the 70th anniversary book that tells the Yorktowne Hotel’s interesting history. It’s available via York County libraries.

It was 1924, and Davis and his accomplishments were in the minds of York’s leaders. It was coming up on the 100th anniversary of the launch of the iron-hulled “Codorus” in the Susquehanna River, according to “Overnight Success,” a Yorktowne history. The steamboat would somehow successfully make a trip northward on the shallow and rocky river.
And Davis won a prize thereafter for his work on a coal-driven locomotive in Baltimore. He would later die a kind of martyr’s death in an accident while testing one of his locomotives. That gave him high status among York County’s 19th-century dignitaries.
So Judge Nevin M. Wanner suggested the “The Phineas Davis” name at a celebration observing the inventor’s achievements.
Indeed, the soon-to-be-opened hotel needed a name. Up to that point, it was called “York’s Community Hotel,” or “York’s New Hotel.”
Well, “York’s Community Hotel” board took the judge’s suggestion – and a number of other names now lost to history – under advisement.
Then it came down with its decision: “The Yorktowne,” after the earliest name of York.
Not everyone liked the board’s decision though. The 150th anniversary of the Continental Congress’ visit to York was coming up in two years. A name with more historical significance than Yorktowne was needed.
“Overnight Success” reports that those alternative names also are lost to history and the issue soon went away.
Maybe someone figured out that Yorktowne in itself captures the spirit of those days when Continental Congress, meeting in York Town in the Revolutionary War, adopted America’s first framework or constitution – the Articles of Confederation.
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