walk through the alluring streets of downtown York is to walk through
an open-air museum of architectural history. From the half-timber
architecture of the Golden Plough Tavern to the post-modern
construction of newer office buildings, the architecture in and around
Continental Square is a microcosm of American architecture.|
When one thinks "architectural museum," York is perhaps not the first
thing to come to mind. Or even second or third.... Yet when you delve
into York's history, the town's architectural heritage becomes more
apparent. In the early 18th Century, the York area became home to
settlers from Germany, Scotland, and Ireland. The oldest remaining
homes in York County – the Shultz houses in East York and Hallam -
date from the mid-1730s. York Town was laid out in 1741 in a grid
formation, similar to Philadelphia. The
Golden Plough Tavern was built that same year. In the 1770s, York Town
was home to the Second Continental Congress.
Throughout the 19th Century, York's agrarian heritage combined with
industrial know-how, producing the first coal burning locomotive and
first iron steamboat. As York grew, so did the architecture. The
wealthy built lavish homes. Many beautiful Victorian-era structures
(homes, institutions, businesses) still remain. York was the largest
city north of the Mason-Dixon Line to be occupied by the Confederate
Army, but some quick thinking by the local residents spared York the
destruction that many other towns witnessed.
As the Industrial Revolution geared up, York's architecture followed
suit and larger structures were built, incorporating new technologies
like cast iron facades. York became a boomtown, and at one point had
so many automobile manufacturers that the area become known as
"Detroit East." Movie houses, ballrooms, and large department stores
were built to provide activities for the burgeoning populace. The city
of York's population peaked around 1950, before residents and
businesses moved to suburbia. Still, the greater York area grew and
grew, and today is home to almost 400,000 residents who still value
the nucleus of their community: York City. As a result, York's
architectural heritage continues. The towering new York County
Judicial Center and Susquehanna Commerce Center are changing the
skyline of the downtown, juxtaposed nicely within the historic fabric
of the community.
Ready to learn more?
Continue to our
Geographic Channel for a Virtual Walking Tour, or the
Architectural Channel, for a lesson in York's architecture.
© 2000 - 2003 by Scott D.