Doomed Avalong barn indicative of York County’s eroding sense of place. The public must continue to speak loudly

Readers in great numbers are lamenting the planned loss of the old Meadowbrook barn, also known as the Avalong farm barn, at Whiteford and Mount Zion roads. The barn is best known as the site of the Pfaltzgraff pottery outlet for years and was originally part of the Meadowbrook Mansion estate. (See related photograph below.) Also of interest: About Avalong’s and Melvin’s: ‘I am some what familiar with the history of the area’

The demolition of an old-barn-turned pottery outlet seems like a done deal: Old Avalong Dairy barn, set to be torn down, holds memories for family.

The bank that’s going in has found the old structure, part of the Meadowbrook and Avalong farm complexes for years, does not have historic value. The township has signed off on the bank’s development plan.

The point often lost in these deals is that each demolished landmark results in erosion of a bit of community. A little loss here and a little loss there and you just have vanilla sprawl.

Sometimes such losses can be mitigated.

Metro Bank, across the street, sits on the former site of the landmark Avalong restaurant. Although a Rutter’s restaurant originally replaced Avalong’s, as it was called, Metro Bank reached back and brought forth the Avalong eatery as a mural on its main interior wall. The mural not only reminds customers of place but is visible to motorists passing through that area.

So the bank did a good job – or as good of a job as it could do – in maintaining a sense of place.

Perhaps Susquehanna Bank buying the old Meadowbrook barn should consider somehow recognizing the beautiful farm that formerly operated on that site.

Loud public sentiment is good and appropriate in such moments as these. That might stiffen the spines of our politicians when they study proposals to knock down community touchstones.

Not all old places or sites can be saved. But this one clearly was one that should have been.

Also of interest:

From Meadowbrook Mansion to York County farmhouse

Ever hear of the Meadowbrook Guest House?


In a post over at York’sPast, Blogger Stephen H. Smith shows an aerial photo of the Avalong barn in 1937, which means its older than the bank’s research found. Was it part of the original estate, dating back more than 100 years? Smith also tells about an old barn’s old weathervane featuring, yes, a cow. See his comment below, too.

Glen Rock’s Annamae Rohrbaugh shopped at the Pfaltzgraff Factory Store several months before it closed in 2008. An example from Rohrbaugh’s family gives insight about change in York County. Her daughter worked at the Pfaltzgraff plant – heavy industry – that closed. She went to work for a day care – in the service industry – for far less in wages. So Pfaltzgraff pottery manufacturing left the country and its factory store closed. Now its former store, a landmark barn representing the county’s old agricultural roots, will come down to provide a footprint for a bank, again of the service sector. A lot is going on in that corner of Springettsbury Township. Also of interest: Springettsbury corner bears witness to changing face of America.

Photos courtesy York Daily Record/Sunday News

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.
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10 Responses to Doomed Avalong barn indicative of York County’s eroding sense of place. The public must continue to speak loudly

  1. Blake Stough says:

    There are far too many iconic properties in York County that are threatened, could potentially be threatened, and should be properly documented as a proactive measure. At times, the public doesn’t even realize a property is in danger until it’s too late, such as the Spring Valley Peacock Farm that was recently razed. In that case, family members didn’t even have a chance to say farewell.

    Let’s not forget the abandoned and forgotten properties that dot the landscape of the area, some literally crumbling as each new day passes. I would like to build a relationship with members of the community, municipal, business, and civil leaders, historic groups, and all those who own such properties. My overall goal is to be given the the opportunity to photographically document the buildings, whether a well-known estate or an aging farmhouse or barn, so there is a record showing they once existed.

    When physical preservation isn’t possible there are other means we can take to ensure the memories live on.

    • Jim McClure says:

      Blake, Nice vision! You no doubt know, as well, that Historic York has undertaken an inventory, often with photographs, of historic buildings in York County. Hope you and others in the historic preservation community can add to that record.

      • Blake Stough says:

        Jim, I knew Historic York had an inventory of properties but I’m certain how extensive their collection actually is. To be quite honest, some of the most fascinating places that I enjoy visiting are the properties tucked away on back roads that time seems to have overlooked. If only deterioration would learn to do the same…

        • Jim McClure says:

          Blake, well, I’ve always had good success with Historic York. They sent out teams of surveyors to inventory old sites around York County. Tom Schaefer, I believe, was one of those researchers. For example, I asked one time for their file on the Altland House, where Gen. Gordon stayed, and they had one with photos and any available info on the house./Jim

    • Mary Ellen says:

      Blake, I hope you have the opportunity to read the January Minutes (X2) of the Springettsbury Township Historic Preservation Committee on the Township website:
      (Look for Agendas & Minutes on the left-hand side)

      We are encouraged by the many comments of your group in favor of preservation and hope that they make their ideas known to the Bank, headquartered in Lancaster County. There was a time (1991) that the demolition permit for the “Meadowbrook Mansion” was signed to make room for a Toys-R-Us store, which was averted by its purchase by Christmas Tree Hill. So there is still a small amount of hope for the barn. Public opinion sometimes works.

      • Blake Stough says:

        Mary Ellen, thank you for bringing the minutes of the meetings to my attention. I wish I had known about the threat to the property before the situation had gone this far.

        Days ago I had submitted a “letter to the editor” piece to both York and the Hanover newspapers. I am hopeful that all three will publish it so my thoughts can reach all of their readership.

        In the letter I invite all community members, business and civil leaders, historic groups, etc., to contact Preserving York so I can introduce them to our mission. I understand we can’t save all properties, but there are some positive steps we can take to ensure they are able to remembered in the years to come.

        Thank you again Mary Ellen. I am very appreciative for your response.

  2. Jim … In the post I did last night on this barn, I noted that the barn definitely appears in historic aerial photos as far back as 1937 and is possibly older. This runs counter to the Susquehanna Bank assessment that the barn was constructed in the 1950s and therefore is not historical (per the article in todays York Sunday News).

    • Jim McClure says:

      Thanks, Steve. I posted your link in this post as well and put it on YDR’s FB page for comment. As usual, your research adds insight to a question of history.

  3. Betsy Baird says:

    I am 100.10% in agreement with Blake on properties tucked away on unknown roads. We need to keep a lot of these “alive” for posterity. York has been tearing down far too many buildings which it should keep.
    I remember when Jack’s was at the York Mall. Fire Trucks were zooming
    by. We, together with Jack Silverman (Think that was his name) were watching from the back door of the store, seeing that one barn go up in flames. One barn building was destroyed. Don’t let another one be hit by the bulldozer also.

  4. Pingback: Buffy's World | Don’t miss: Peeps contest to old Avalong barn to Pope stuff

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