Red Lion Borough
Borough municipal offices are located at 11 East Broadway, Red Lion PA 17356; phone: 717-244-3475.
The area was settled around 1852 and Red Lion was incorporated as a borough January 16, 1880, from York Township.
Red Lion Borough Historic District was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Text, below, was transcribed from a copy of the original nomination document.
The Red Lion Borough Historic District lies entirely within the boundaries of Red Lion Borough, which is located in central York County, southeast of the city of York. The borough is bounded by York Township on its west and south and Windsor Township to its north and east. Built upon on several hilltops between the headwaters of Mill, Fishing and Barshinger Creeks and Pine Run, Red Lion Borough sits between 890 and 1000 feet above sea level. It is surrounded by rolling, hilly farmland scattered with modem residential developments. The nucleus of the borough is the Center Square, situated at the lowest point in town at the intersection of Main Street (PA Route 24, heading north-south) and Broadway (PA Route 74, heading east-west). Streets and alleys are laid out in a somewhat skewed pattern that radiates outwards from this center, especially to its west. The abandoned MD&PA Railroad crosses the borough east-to-west just north of the Center Square. Other major streets in Red Lion include: First Avenue, which heads southwest from N. Main Street to W. Broadway; High Street, which leads east-west several blocks north of the square; and Franklin Street, which heads north-south several block west of the square.
Red Lion Borough is a typical small town with a central downtown surrounded by residential development. This downtown commercial district is located in the vicinity of the Center Square, along three blocks of North and South Main Street and one block of W. Broadway. Its two or three story buildings are tightly spaced and often attached to each other. All sit with their facade elevations flush against the sidewalk. The remainder of the town is not separated into distinct residential or industrial neighborhoods. Planned blocks of similarly sized and styled dwellings are rare, with large homes found interspersed with smaller attached dwellings throughout the town. Most dwellings are tightly spaced on urban lots that are at least twice as deep as they are wide. The district's dwellings sit back from the street approximately 10 to 30 feet, with row houses built closer to the street than single family homes. Due to the rolling landscape, many dwellings are built into a hillside, often sitting above street level. Red Lion's houses have lawn covered yards often with multiple mature shade trees.
Most of the 19th century buildings are found within several blocks of the Center Square, where the town first developed, while the 20th century buildings are located around this center, especially to its north, west and south. Schools, churches and public buildings are found throughout the residential area, with many located near the center of town. Fairmont Park, dating from the turn of the 20th century, is located on the south edge of the historic district, near the two historic school buildings. Red Lion's industries are also scattered throughout the borough, situated adjacent to and often behind residences and commercial buildings. The majority are concentrated along Pine Street, Hyson Lane, O'San Lane, Boundary Avenue, and the now abandoned railroad bed. These mostly two-story masonry buildings sit primarily on rectangular lots, and often front on one of the borough's alleyways. This overall mixing of building functions and property types gives Red Lion a cohesive character. Red Lion is a well cared for community, and the historic district's resources are generally in good condition.
The borough of Red Lion is built on land that was originally part of both York and Windsor Townships, at the crossing of two mid-18th century wagon roads, the York to McCall's Ferry Road and the Baltimore to Wrightsville Road, which joined at the current Center Square and ran over the present North Main Street until they parted at what is now Prospect Street. The area was first settled by Germans, Swiss, Scots-Irish and English in the mid-18th century. Multiple parcels, warranted between 1751 and 1786, cover what is now Red Lion Borough. By the end of the century, these parcels had been sold to permanent settlers, whose descendants still live in the area, including the Young, Nee, Miller, Shenberger, Lentz, Keener, and Nicholas families. Through most of the 18th and 19th centuries, the area of the current town remained a collection of farms with between one and several roadside taverns and inns.
The immediate area was becoming more populated by 1853, when German immigrants John and Catherine Meyer bought a local tavern and its surrounding farm. Over the next two decades, the couple also bought other parcels of land on which Red Lion would soon develop. By the time of John's death, they had renamed the inn the Red Lion Tavern. A shrewd and well-respected businesswomen, Catherine Meyer was influential in the founding of Red Lion as a town. In 1874, the narrow gauge Peach Bottom Railroad was built through the area, connecting it with York. As it passed through her farm, Catherine Meyer requested and was granted a railroad stop, which was named Red Lion after her tavern. She operated Red Lions's new post office out of the depot, a position she occupied for 14 years (Ehehalt 1930). A year later, she a hotel near the depot. With her influence, a village rapidly developed near the railroad stop, along existing roads that later would be named N. Main Street, Broadway, and First Avenue. The fledgling village attracted local commerce meeting the needs of the surrounding farm community. Houses with shops and cottage industries were built within sight of the depot during the next five years. The first industry in the village was Neiman's Cigars, which was in operation by 1876. Run by Mrs. Neiman, she is credited with teaching cigar rolling to many local women, who soon opened their own small factories in their homes.
By 1879, there were 25 households and over 200 residents in the vicinity of Red Lion Station. Split by its location in two townships, local business owners supported incorporation, hoping it would spur economic development. Two people that actively promoted incorporation were Catherine Meyer and Dr. John Hyson, who came to be known as the Mother and Father of Red Lion. A public meeting was held, and the majority of free holders voted for incorporation. As surveyed that year, the original municipal limits were different than today's, encompassing approximately 750 acres. The state was petitioned for the formation of a borough to be named after the station and post office, which was granted in January 1880. Over the next several years, existing roads were dedicated and named, and alleys were laid out parallel to and behind the streets. These included Main Street, Broadway, First Avenue, W. High Street and Gay Street. E. High and Charles Streets were laid out in 1885. As the core of town developed, dissatisfaction grew among the borough's outlying residents. In 1884, 12 farms totaling approximately 260 acres were removed from the borough. Most of this land is situated in York Township on the west edge of Red Lion. Various annexations between 1904 and 1968 created the municipal boundaries that exist today.