For over a month I have been putting together a slide show on York’s square in commemoration of the 275th anniversary of the laying out of York in 1741. The information on the square at the York County History Center Library/Archives, an abundance of maps, drawings, photographs and clippings, is almost overwhelming.
The great pleasure in such a project is the opportunity to look closely at individual buildings. Some are long gone, such as the 1756 courthouse in which Continental Congress met and the 1793 statehouse (county office building) that stood in the center of the square. Some of the sites ringing the square have hosted one building after another. Others have endured, such as the 1807 Hersch tavern building, which has housed numerous enterprises, such as Weiser’s store, Newswanger’s shoe store, bank offices and now, Downtown Inc.
Another survivor, the Colonial Hotel, designed by the noted Dempwolf architectural firm in 1892, still stands in the southwest quadrant of the square. Thanks to a 1940 fire, it is now minus the original seventh story, with its turrets, peaks and mansard roof, but the bulk of the building endures with businesses on the first floor and condos above.
An April 1908 clipping describes a substantial addition to the hotel. It says:
The building will probably be the most handsome and well-appointed hostelry in this section of the state, outside of Philadelphia.
Work on the annex, which extends south on George street from the original building to Mason avenue, is being carried forward as fast as possible, and about 55 new rooms will be ready for occupancy by the latter part of May. The exterior of the annex is of buff brick and brown stone, matching the original building in general proportions, material and architecture.
The completed hotel will have 200 rooms, 50 of them with baths, and the furnishing of the annex itself will cost $30,000. The dining room will remain as at present on the sixth floor of the original building, but on the sixth floor of the annex will be a banquet hall in which 150 guests can be comfortable seated. Private dining rooms will connect with this banquet hall.
The cost of the entire completed building will be $400,000.
The next time you are in downtown York, look around you and appreciate standing in the center of a place packed with 275 years of history.
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