I've been covering the arts in York for about five years. I've attended many events, gallery openings and concerts. During my time here, I also learned about its history and found some hidden gems. So, when I decided to cover this Downtown Inc-led The Hidden Art of York walking tour, I doubted I would learn much. But I was wrong.
York enthusiast JJ Sheffer and city director of economic and community development Kevin Schreiber guided a group of about half a dozen around town May 17. They instructed everyone to look up often in order to see different styles of architecture.
Kathy and Jeff Grasso traveled from Jacobus for the tour. They had attended previous walking tours that featured the city murals and haunted spots.
Points of interest on Continental Square: After checking out the bear gargoyle on the corner of 2 W. Market St. and the 12-foot World War II statue by Dallastown-based sculptor Lorann Jacobs on Continental Square, the group moved East on Market Street.
Schreiber directed the group's attention to the former Citizens Bank at the corner of George and Market streets. It closed in February, but revitalization plans are in the works for the building, he said.
In the 1770s, another bank operated at that location. It acted as the Continental Congress treasury - an early version of the federal reserve, Schreiber added.
Points of interest on East Market Street: The York County Courthouse is actually York's third courthouse. A replica of the first - the Colonial Courthouse - is on West Market Street. The second courthouse was constructed in 1838. The columns from that structure were used when the current courthouse was built in 1898 by famed York architect John Augustus (J.A.) Dempwolf.
It features three domes, which were inspired by the Florence cathedral, but the rest of the building is designed in the neoclassical style.
"York literally is an open-air gallery," Schreiber said.
Group members tried not to walk into each other as they craned their necks to check out more architecture on East Market Street.
Sheffer and Schreiber stopped to mention The Lafayette Club, 59 E. Market St. It was formed as a social club for local businessman and officials in 1898. It's named after Revolutionary War figure Marquis de Lafayette - America's first honorary citizen. (Jacobs created a sculpture of him in front of the Colonial Complex.) Sheffer said that the interior of the club features large murals of York scenes.
First stop: Jeff Hines, president and CEO of York Water Company, greeted the group as it entered the water company building, 130 E. Market St. The company, founded in 1816, is the oldest investor owned utility in the nation. The building was started in 1929 and completed in 1930.
Architect William B. Billmeyer designed it to celebrate water. Zodiac signs above the windows are a nod to York's agrarian roots, since farmers used to rely on the stars. In 1970, a drop ceiling was installed to provide more light for workers. It covered the ceiling frescoes until 1995, when the original ceiling was restored.
Hines led the group through the back of the main room and up a staircase, which featured a stained-glass window. In the second-floor boardroom, Hines pointed out original flowered window treatments, green leather upholstery and metal doors made to look like wood. Hines said
"I love to jump up and give tours," he said.
More points of interest on East Market Street: The tour stopped in front of Susquehanna Real Estate at 140 E. Market St. Sheffer and Schreiber talked about the garden and water features on the side of the building.
A few steps away sits the Bonham House. Horace Bonham and his family moved in 1875. He was trained as a lawyer, but also painted portraits and landscapes, which can be seen in the house. Sheffer said that Horace's daughter is said to haunt the building, but that's a story for another tour.
Before the group crossed back over Market Street, Schreiber mentioned York's once-booming wrought iron business and new art collective, The Parliament, which is a block away on King Street.
Second stop: The tour took a peek inside the brownstone building, which is the annex for Martin Library next door. Historian Georg Sheets, who has led many downtown tours, talked about the history of the building and its painted details.
"Behind every doorway you have wonderful treasures," he said of York.
The home was a residence and then house several businesses, including a photography studio and restaurant. Now, Sheets keeps a desk in the parlor area. On May 17, he covered the desk with a screen painted by Bill Koons, a local painter and distant cousin of York County native and internationally renowned artist Jeff Koons.
"In our next phase, we hope to restore the facade of the building," Sheets said of the brownstone.
Third stop: The tour turned the corner at Martin Library and proceeded down Queen Street to a familiar spot for anyone who attends First Friday after parties.
Pete Richards and Lindsey Keeney opened their home, art gallery and live music venue dubbed Sign of the Wagon, 154 E. Philadelphia St. Dempwolf designed this roughly 3,500-square-foot structure.
In 2006, York's economic development team started the artist homestead program to encourage artists to live and work within city limits. The program offered $5,000 forgivable loans to artists in the program. Keeney and Richards are two of the most visible artist homesteaders.
Keeney displays her paintings on the first floor, which also features a rotating exhibit. Tour members got to see Greg Koller's art.
Richards invited everyone up to the third-floor recording studio/crash pad for touring bands. He and Keeney also are part of Free Breakfast. They put on Monday shows, featuring up-and-coming artists, at the First Capital Dispensing Co. in York.
Schreiber talked about how he hopes to "repackage and retool" the artist homestead program in the coming months. Interior design students from the Art Institute of York are working to revamp a few properties in the 300 block of South George Street. Those properties might be able to transition into homestead buildings, he said.
Points on interest on East Philadelphia Street: The tour spent about an hour and half on two full blocks, but the path was crammed with points of historical and artistic interest. As the group passed The Goodridge Freedom House, 123 E. Philadelphia St., Sheffer pointed out that is used to operate on the Underground Railroad.
The building pays homage to ex-slave William C. Goodridge, who became a prominent businessman and owned several properties in the downtown area. York's Crispus Attucks Association is working to restore the structure.
Points of interest around West Philadelphia Street: The tour stopped at the former Fraternal Order of Eagles building, now called Marketview Arts, 37 W. Philadelphia St. The building includes a commercial kitchen, gallery and event space, about seven studios for individual artists and art students and two apartments.
Then, Schreiber headed toward Cherry Lane, where he pointed out Central Market, Mudhook Brewing Co. and replicas of paintings by Pennsylvania German folk artist Lewis Miller along Clarke Avenue.
Last stop: Brenda Wintermyer greeted us at her art space, Just Brenda Art Studio Gallery, tucked into North Beaver Street next to YorkArts. Wintermyer, 62, of Dover Township, worked in graphic design and illustration for many local companies. About a decade ago, she fulfilled a promise to herself to open her own studio. She teaches serious art students, adults and "people who don't think they can paint," she said.
She wanted to open a studio and gallery in York because she loved the city's architecture.
"I could do this from my home," she said.
She showed off a painting she's working on titled "Girlfriends." A few of her friends put on hats and posted at a table filled with wine, cheese and grapes.
"I really don't calculate," Wintermyer said of her art. "It just kind of happens. It grows out of my emotions ... and my gut."
PopEye is a bi-weekly column focusing on the ever-changing landscape of popular culture. To reach writer Erin McCracken, call 771-2051 or send an email to email@example.com.
Stops in York:
Continental Square, Market and George streets
The York Water Company building, 130 E. Market St.
The brownstone building, adjacent to Martin Library, 159 E. Market St.
Sign of the Wagon, 154 E. Philadelphia St.
Cherry Lane, behind Central Market, 34 W. Philadelphia St.
Just Brenda Studio, 22 N. Beaver St.
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Read more about downtown York walking tours: downtownyorkpa.com/walkingtours
Read more about York history: www.yorkblog.com/yorktownsquare
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