That’s right, York is both a place steeped in Colonial history as
well as a place to get away from it all. Just like the Second
Continental Congress did.
In November 1777, the British Army was getting a wee bit too close to
Philadelphia for comfort. So, John Adams and friends packed up for an
extended vacation and high-tailed it out of Philly. To Lancaster they
road – and planned to stay – until they realized that there was, er,
"no room at the inn." Alas, the Susquehanna River afforded a
nice buffer from the Redcoats, and soon the likes of Thomas Paine, John
Hancock, Sam Adams, and John Witherspoon found themselves, literally,
"away from it all."
Yes, they found themselves away from "civilized"
Philadelphia, on the edge of the American frontier. In fact, they found
themselves in the Black Forest of Germany. Well, figuratively, at least. See, even though Penn’s Woods was
settled by the English, immigrants from the Palatine region of Germany
found the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania to their liking, and
dropped plough. Fortunately, this particular plough was golden, and
As it happens, the "Golden Plough Tavern" is
still standing in downtown York, 260 years after it was constructed. Its
medieval architecture is exceedingly unique. In fact, if you can
visualize the tavern standing along the banks of the Codorus Creek,
surrounded by woodlands – very much as it looked when first
constructed – images from the writings of the Brothers Grimm come to
Okay, okay … so we’ve managed to mix Germanic fairy tales with
Pennsylvania architecture and the Second Continental Congress.
Which is to say that Mr. Adams and company must have literally felt
like they had entered a different world. Never mind the fact that many
of the locals spoke German!
Well, these founding fathers visited our little town for the better
part of nine months, and had a pretty busy schedule. In between
rollercoaster rides, windsurfing, and mountain biking, they managed to
squeeze in such little things as adopting the Articles of Confederation,
ratifying a treaty with France, and declaring the first national
Thanksgiving (turkey not included). Read more about their visit on our
But we were discussing your pending visit to York, weren’t we? Mind
you, we don’t actually expect you stay nine months – unless you like
it here so much that you decide to relocate. When you are here, however,
we’ve got a little history for you.
As evidenced by content elsewhere on this site, a trip through
downtown York is a stroll through history. In fact, within the borders
of York County you’ll find over 28 centuries of history.
If you enjoy Native American lore, be sure to visit Indian Steps
Museum in Airville, where you’ll find a unique – if somewhat
eclectic – collection of artifacts, housed in a beautiful Bungalow
Style structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
If Colonial America and the Revolution tickles your fancy – or any
other parts of you – you’ll find a multitude of offerings in York.
At the Historical
Society Museum, you’ll find three centuries of York history
crammed into 10,000 sq. ft. The York County Heritage Trust also operates
the Colonial Courthouse, Golden Plough Tavern, General Gates House, and
Barnett Bobb Log House, located at the intersection of Pershing Ave. and
West Market Street in downtown York. (Next door you’ll also find a
York County Visitors Center.)
The Colonial Courthouse is a replica of the building where the Second
Continental Congress met from 1777 – 1778. It was originally located
in Centre Square (now Continental Square) two blocks to the east. Even
though this particular building dates from 1976, it is authentic to the
original 1755 structure.
The Golden Plough Tavern opened for business in
1741, and is connected to the General Gates House, circa 1761. Here
Frenchman Marquis de Lafayette proposed one of the most important toasts
in American history: a drink to General George Washington’s health.
This particular toast derailed a plot to oust General Washington known
as the Conway Cabal. The conspirators were counting on the support of
France, and Lafayette would have none of it. To the back of this complex
is the Barnett Bobb Log House, a log home dating from 1812. And yes, all
of these buildings are open to visitors.
For the Civil War buffs, here’s a bit of forgotten trivia: York was
the largest town north of the Mason-Dixon Line to be occupied by the
Confederate Army. (Read more here.) The longest covered bridge in the
world (spanning the Susquehanna River) was burned down to keep
Confederate troops from advancing. (If you are in town on a Sunday, be
sure to visit the Historic Wrightsville Civil War Diorama for a guided
Of course, true Civil War aficionados know of the Battle of Hanover,
a York County cavalry skirmish that may have changed the outcome at
Gettysburg. Briefly, the Union Cavalry (Generals Armstrong and Custer)
and Confederate Cavalry (General Stuart) unexpectedly ran into one
another on the streets of Hanover. A daylong battle ensued, ending in
the retreat of the Confederate Cavalry, who fled to the northeast. Where
they needed to be, however, was to the west: Gettysburg.
| The day was
June 30, and they didn’t find their way to Gettysburg until the end of
the second day of battle – far too late to be of much help. Today, you’ll
find historic markers and statues in Hanover Square. Be sure to visit
Chamber of Commerce Web site for information.
For unique lodging, stay in one of York County’s quaint Bed &
Breakfasts. In northern York County you’ll find Farm
Fortune Bed & Breakfast, housed in one of the oldest buildings
in York County. In fact, the cottage dates from the 1730s, and the main
building dates from the 1770s, so a trip back in time awaits! And in
Hanover you’ll find The
Beechmont Inn. The Inn witnessed the Battle of Hanover, so you’re
sure to soak in a bit of history.
A Revolutionary Getaway!
• The Crossroads of Pennsylvania • York Manufacturers Great Escapes!
• The History of Industry • Culinary Delights
• Gateway to the Outdoors • Special Events
• Love the Nightlife • Shopping Off the Beaten Path
• A Romantic Interlude
Visitors Information • Back to
© 2002 by Scott D. Butcher