Part II: Brewery’s tower helped shape York’s skyline

No, that’s not Helb’s Keystone Brewery in the above image, featured in the recent blog post Brewery’s tower helped shape York’s skyline. It’s York Brewery, which also no longer is part of the York, Pa., skyline. Both breweries were leading businesses in the early part of the 20th century, although both were out of business by 1940, according to Walter Ehrenfeld’s “York Factory Whistles.” By the way, York Brewery had a whistle; Keystone did not, Ehrenfeld noted. Also of interest: The ornate, but now-demolished York City Market House in living color and Railroad Borough: ‘Probably no other town in America has a horse heaven’ and Brewery profits produced landmark West York mansion.

A astute observer of the York County scene and I met at a table lined with books at WellSpan’s Auxiliary’s Book Nook on Sunday.
He was talking about all the events available in York County on any given summer weekend, including the massive book sale that was taking place around us.
He had just participated in the Made in America Factory Tours.
He had toured Painted Spring Alpacas Farm in Spring Grove. Last year, it was Family Heir-Loom Weavers in Adamsville.
Then he commented that the tour now features many, many breweries and wineries… .

I counted the offerings in those categories. Nine of them.
Three points on that.
What better reflects the change in York County than the evolution from red-brick manufacturing factories to the service sector’s tiny microbreweries?
We’ve gone from international companies to mom-and-pop brewers.
Second, microbreweries represent a throwback to the day when such things were common on farms around York County, as were distilleries – stills.
And lastly, many of the breweries of old were far from micro. They took up large chunks of city blocks – at least that was the case with Helb’s Keystone and York breweries in the city.
So brewing is a new/old trend in York County.
The York County Heritage Trust’s Microbrew Fest attracted about 1,000 people and 25 brewers to the Agricultural and Industrial Museum.
So the Factory Tour’s inclusion of the microbreweries is part of a back to the future wave:
Landmark razed
A recent post about the demolition of Helb’s Keystone Brewery drew the following informative exchange on my Facebook page:

Richard Bono: There clearly would be more opportunities for adaptive reuse…but it begs the question. The point is that these buildings represented vital businesses, and jobs, which formed the backbone of an active and vibrant local culture which shaped the region and nation. It’s the lack of business and workplaces downtown, that the current art and apartment focus will not be able to replace.
June Burk Lloyd: I just posted my Sunday News column on the Old York Post Office on my blog and Facebook. Other Federal Buildings by the same architect, Willoughby J. Edbrooke, have been adapted into Arts Centers, apartment complexes and city halls. Once they are torn down, they are gone and the town is poorer for that loss.
Diane Strobeck: I I agree June. I love the historical buildings and am sad when they destroy them and all teir history. Just spent time in Gettysburg with our grandsons and how great to see all the preservation of historical buildings and sites. The boys 8 and 11 live in Florida and they were just amazed I am sure civil war took on new meaning for them.

Helb’s Keystone Brewery also has been razed.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
This entry was posted in Archives, all posts, Books & reading, Explanations/controversy, For photo fans, Local landmarks, Made in York, Nostalgia & memories, Unsung/obscure sites and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Part II: Brewery’s tower helped shape York’s skyline

  1. Joe says:

    Where was the York Brewery located?

  2. Jo says:

    Good question, Joe. I wish when Joan, Jim, June & others who write about former businesses and buildings in York would give the address. It helps to visualize where they were located.

  3. Joe says:

    I know most times there is some sort of description to give you an idea of where these places were but not the case this time. I read the post about 3 times making sure I didn’t miss anything!

  4. Jim McClure says:

    Joe, you raise a good question: Where were York’s two big breweries – Helb’s and Keystone breweries – located?
    Well, both are gone. Helb’s Keystone Brewery stood at the northwest corner of South Queen and East King streets. A parking lot has replaced that building, a common practice in the second half of the 20th century when so many of York’s fine buildings came down.
    York City towered over a West End neighborhood on, get this now, the northwest corner of N. West Street, right next to the railroad tracks.
    A small parking lot and some tall silos sit on its former footprint.

  5. Chuck Schilling says:

    The post-prohibition attempts to resurrect York Brewing Company began when Charles Hetzel (who apparently was the brewmaster at YBC when Prohibition closed its doors) acquired the building at 380 Norway Street.

    This is speculation, but I would imagine he had probably acquired some of the brewing equipment of the old site and attempted to get it going at the new location (which is much smaller). This was unsuccessful, and Hetzel went bankrupt. The Cooper Brewing Company then acquired the property in a bankruptcy sale in 1936, (and produced some breweriana, including beer trays, one of which I have in my collection), but this attempt also failed. I do not know if any beer was actually produced at the Norway Street location.

  6. Chuck Schilling says:

    btw…the Norway Street location is now doing business as A&A Bolt & Screw Co, and they are a fastener distribution business owned by a gentleman named Carter Herrmann.

    • Jim McClure says:

      I’ve always wondered about the origin of Norway Street; there’s got to be a story there./Jim

    • Chuck … The old brewery building at 380 Norway Street is where my Dad and his business partners started their Mechanical Contracting Business: Yorkaire Cooling and Heating Sales Company. They started in 1955, by leasing a good part of that building (known as the L. A. and M. B. Glacken Building). I remember Dad talking about it being a brewery, however when they moved in, it had been previously been used a few years as a fertilizer plant. I remember the foul smell when Dad rented a steamer to get rid of the fish oil gook and smell when they expanded into another part of the building. Yorkaire moved into their building on Whiteford Road in 1957.

      • Jim McClure says:

        Stephen, thanks for sharing. Very interesting. Any idea where “Norway” came from?

        • Jim … I heard at a lecture several years ago, that “way” is occasionally added to peoples names to create street or road names. I wonder if the street was named for the mother, wife or daughter of the developer; such as Nora or Norma; resulting in Nor way.

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