East York Historic District
The East York Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
East York is an unincorporated development lying just outside the York City limits in Springettsbury Township. Bisected by East Market Street (the Lincoln Highway), the main thoroughfare in and out of the City of York, the development is bounded by I-83 on the west, industrial development on the north, commercial development on the west and post-World War II suburban development on the south. Containing 308 resources, the district is ten blocks in length, and laid out in a grid pattern, extending two blocks north and one block south of East Market Street. The largest lots and most prominent homes flank this main thoroughfare. The side streets contain lots of various sizes which contain homes in a variety of styles. This development was entirely residential at its inception although some residences have now been converted to commercial use. A school, a church, and an apartment building were the only three buildings which were not single family dwellings. The most common styles are Colonial Revival, Tudor, Prairie, Craftsman, and French Eclectic. Most of these styles are represented in every block and are presented in a variety of materials including brick, stone, frame and stucco. Detached garages (not included in the resource count) are found on almost every lot and are built in the same style and with the same materials as the house. Sidewalks, tree-lined streets and landscaped lots were hallmarks of this development which was laid out in 1903, experienced its greatest period of growth in the 1930s and 1940s, but continued to grow into the 1960s as evidenced by the 46 non-contributing resources which are outside the period of significance. The district retains integrity. Changes to the homes in the district have been few and the landscape features, now mature, enhance the setting. Trees now form canopies over many of the streets providing an intimate sense of cohesiveness to the community.
Throughout the development, houses are centered on their lots, with uniform setbacks from the street. Most lots are 120 ft. deep. Lot widths vary from 25 to 250 ft.. The widest lots are those fronting on East Market Street. Lots of various widths are intermixed on every street, a factor which adds to the visual diversity established by the variety of house styles. Thirty-three percent of the resources in the district are Colonial Revival, 23% are Tudor, 18% are Prairie, and 15% are non-contributing because they are outside the period of significance. The Craftsman style represents 4%, followed by French Eclectic at 3%, Modern/Minimal traditional at 2% and Modern/Ranch at 1%. The remaining 1% of the houses are Spanish Eclectic, Italian Renaissance, Neo-Classical, Neo-Colonial, Second Empire, and Art Deco. A neighborhood school, built in 1912, served the community's children until 1978.
The largest lots were laid out along Market Street and contain the largest buildings. On the north side of Market Street three buildings were constructed before 1920, seven were constructed during the 1920s, nine during the 1930s, three during the 1940s, and the balance are outside the period of significance. On the south side of the street two buildings date from the 1920s, three from the 1930s, two from the 1940s, and the remainder are outside the period of significance. Although most of the buildings on Market Street are built in the Colonial Revival style, Tudor, Prairie and French Eclectic are also present. Because of their large size and location on a main thoroughfare, many of these homes have been converted into offices for doctors, dentists, and others. A few remain as private residences and all are well-maintained. The overall lack of exterior alterations to these buildings makes signage the only visual clue that a commercial conversion has occurred. Parking for employees and clients is provided at the side or rear of the property and is generally unobtrusive, buffered by shrubs and trees, and accessed from a rear alley. The single contributing building constructed for income producing purposes is a three-story, "L" shaped Art Deco apartment building built in 1936. Although the mass of this building is greater than that of surrounding buildings, the height, materials, placement on the lot, and landscaping help it blend with its surroundings.
The houses on the secondary streets are smaller, domestic scale, private residences built on lots of various sizes, all of which are smaller than the lots flanking East Market Street. Colonial Revival, Tudor and Prairie are the predominate styles on each block; however, like styles are not identical in all their architectural features. Houses are rendered in brick, stone, frame, and combinations thereof; there are differences in exterior trim as well as window and door placement; some have side porches, others front porches; some have attached garages, others carports, detached, or no garage; and so on. In addition, home owners have individualized their properties with landscaping, shutters, a variety of paint colors, and the like.
These properties do not have big setbacks. Small front yards separate homes from sidewalks which, in turn, are separated from the road by a narrow strip of grass punctuated by driveways and mature street trees. The side streets are approximately 24 ft. wide and parking is allowed on both sides. Traffic within the development is local and slow-moving. Most properties have shrubbery and flowers beds along the front and sides of the house. Many have small, flowering trees, while others have mature oak, maple, or sycamore trees in their front yards, probably planted when the houses were built.
Most houses in the historic district have garages. The garages for the earliest houses are detached, single garages located along the lot's rear boundary line and accessed by driveways which connect to the street in front of the property. The garages generally match the house in both style and materials. Homes built later have carports, detached double garages, attached single, double or integral garages. Many of the garages retain their original doors, some of which are hinged, double doors, and others are one piece doors which slide on an overhead track. A few garages have had the original doors replaced with modern, overhead doors.
Fifteen percent of the 308 resources in the district are non-contributing. These non-contributing buildings were built after unsold lots were auctioned in the 1950s, placing them outside the period of significance, and are interspersed throughout the development. Those built on East Market Street are one-story, Neo-Colonial professional buildings built of brick. Those built elsewhere in the district are modern, ranch style single family dwellings built of brick or stone. Overall, the district retains integrity. Non-contributing resources and changes to contributing resources do not affect the district's ability to convey its period of significance.
The period of significance begins in 1903, when the development was first laid out, and runs to 1948, including all buildings fifty years old or older. East York was comprehensively planned, provided buyers with specifications on the size and cost of homes which were to be built, and contained many architect designed homes. This district provides a good example of an early 20th century, middle class neighborhood that developed during the period that marked the decline of the Streetcar Suburb and the rise of the Automobile Suburb.
The origin of East York officially dates to September 2, 1903 when the plan for this suburban community was formally issued by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Company which had offices in York and Philadelphia. John H. Longstreet, a principal in that company, purchased a large farm in Springettsbury Township from Vincent K. Keesy, and laid out the development in a grid pattern on both sides of East Market Street, the main road from Lancaster to York and beyond. All the streets and sidewalks on the north side of Market Street were constructed and the land office (no longer standing) was established at the corner of Findley and East Market Street, also known as the Lincoln Highway (formerly Pennsylvania Route 30 now redesignated as Route 462). Mr. Longstreet employed a tenant farmer to farm the land that lay between the newly laid out streets. The farmer also kept the streets cleared of snow and well maintained. The first house to be built was a Prairie style, double-house built near the middle of the development. Mr. Longstreet and his family occupied one side of this dwelling. The remaining lots were developed randomly. Buyers purchased the lot of their choice, then hired a contractor to custom build their home. The district's boundaries do not conform with the boundaries of the original development plan because the development was not completely built-out until the 1970s. The district contains those portions of the development that were built during the period of significance.
East York is separated from the York City limits first by Elmwood, which was developed during the same period, and by Mill Creek (now under the path of I-83). East Market Street was the only through street between the city and this suburban residential community. The 1903 development plan shows the York/Wrightsville Street Railway running along East Market Street which, at this time, was two lanes. This trolley line, which occupied one of the two lanes, began operating in 1903 and ran every hour. The availability of trolley service was a factor in both the planning and promotion of East York as evidenced in the promotional materials. A third traffic lane was built on the south side of East Market St. in 1932, sandwiching the trolley tracks in the center of the street. Trolley service to Wrightsville was abandoned at this time and the trolley line ended at Kershaw Street in East York; however, at Mr. Longstreet's insistence, the trolleys now ran every twenty minutes to better serve the increasing number of residents in East York. When trolley service stopped in the 1940s, bus service was begun. The first bus to operate in East York was owned by Mr. Longstreet and ran between the land office at the corner of Findley and East Markets Streets in East York and center square in York City. According to lifelong resident Arlene Imes, the man of each household used the family automobile to travel to and from his place of employment and the women and children relied on trolley and, subsequently, bus service for transportation. There were no stores of any kind in East York but York City held four farm markets, shops which offered goods and services of all types, restaurants, and theaters, and the like. Mrs. Imes noted that the women of East York would travel to one of the four farm markets in downtown York for fresh meat, vegetables, bread, and milk several times a week.
The fourth traffic lane was built on the south side of East Market Street at the same time the trolley tracks were removed in the early 1950s, giving East Market Street its present, four-lane configuration. The Northern and Central Railway, which ran along the north side of East York, had a station at the north end of Rockburn Street. East York residents could use this mode of transportation to travel to Baltimore or to Lancaster.
Although East York was laid out in 1903, only eight houses were built before 1920. Fifty houses were built between 1920 and 1930, one hundred sixty-seven houses were built during the 1930s, and seventy-eight houses were built during the 1940s. The greatest concentration of houses was on the north side of East Market Street although the development did extend one block south of East Market Street to Eastern Boulevard. The few remaining undeveloped lots north of Eastern Blvd. and the entire area south of Eastern Blvd. were developed in the 1950s, after the period of significance.
All lots in East York were deed restricted. Mr. Longstreet set standards regarding the size and cost of houses to be built on the lots in the development. Cost standards for houses were moderate, the exceptions being the houses along East Market Street. Prominent York architects are reported to have designed several of the houses on East Market Street, among them Harry Lenker and John B. Hamme, both of whom have roots at the Dempwolf architectural firm in York. From the very beginning a variety of building styles were represented throughout the development including Colonial Revival, Prairie, Craftsman, and Tudor.
Although a lot was designated on the East York development plan for a church, no church existed until the 1930s. Sunday schools were begun in 1924 in both the Hiestand and Elmwood schools. A subsequent survey of the residents of both East York and Elmwood, conducted by Mr. Longstreet, indicated a desire for a church. A committee was formed, money was raised, and a church was ordered from a catalog company. Delivered to the designated lot on the corner of Oxford and East Market Streets in sections, the small, one-story frame building was assembled on the site. It had no basement. It was named Advent Church because it opened in the season of Advent. When a new, Colonial Revival style, brick sanctuary was designed by architect John Hamme and constructed on the adjacent lot in the 1940s, the small, pre-fab building was dismantled and sold to another congregation. A large addition was built onto the brick sanctuary in 1950 to house the education department. Mr. Longstreet did not belong to the church but his children did attend there.
York was a center for industrial development at the turn of the century and this, in turn, attracted residential development. Longstreet's concept was to develop a diverse neighborhood with large and mid-size homes to accommodate middle and upper income families. Residents in the large homes along East Market Street included a Congressman, as well as owners of numerous local businesses. Residents of the more modest homes north of East Market Street included shop owners and professional people who worked in the offices of local industrial and commercial establishments.
East York was made possible by the trolley and automobile. It was a residential development which contained only two commercial buildings. One was a large Colonial Revival house built in 1904 on one of the large lots on East Market Street. The owner's wife died before it was completed and it was subsequently sold to an organization which operated an automobile club from the building for approximately five years when it was sold and used as a private residence until recent years when it was again convened to a commercial use. The other commercial building was an Art Deco style apartment house built at 2101 East Market Street, built in 1936.
A lot at the East end of the development, at 2309 East Philadelphia Street, was designated for a school. Erected in 1912, the Hiestand School was a two-room school that served East York and the area to the immediate north and east. In 1921 a two-room addition was built and, until 1937, it housed eight grades (two grades to a room). In 1937 two additional classrooms and a gymnasium were added. Although school consolidation later moved the higher grades to buildings located outside the neighborhood, the Hiestand School continued to serve East York as an elementary building until it was closed in 1978. It is currently used as a church.
Subdivisions in York County
Elmwood was laid out in 1903, the same year as East York, and lifelong resident Arlene Imes recalls that the two subdivisions developed over the same period. A 1907 map of the York area shows the two subdivisions with three interconnecting streets: East Market Street, a boulevard, and Second Avenue. The boulevard is designated Elmwood Boulevard in the Elmwood subdivision and Eastern Boulevard in the East York subdivision. The two subdivisions ceased to interconnect when I-83 was built between the two and a new wide, curving entrance to Eastern Boulevard off East Market Street was built to mirror the entrance from East Market Street into Elmwood at Elmwood Blvd.
Elmwood, which lay between York City and East York on the south side of East Market Street, was designed by landowner Fred Small and local architect Harry Yessler with large lots fronting on East Market Street and Elmwood Boulevard. Yessler, a Dempwolf trained architect, also designed many of the large homes subsequently built on these large lots including a Spanish Eclectic style house where he lived with his wife. Lots on the streets south of Elmwood Blvd. varied in size and contained houses built in the same variety of styles found in East York. Like East York, Elmwood had standards for the size and cost of houses to be built on the various sized lots and this, combined with street width and landscaping, makes the two developments appear very similar. Unlike East York, Elmwood was designed with alleys between blocks, allowing access from the rear and eliminating the need for driveway cuts at the front edge of the lots. Although laid out at the same time, Elmwood developed at a faster rate than did East York.
Springdale is a subdivision located in southeastern York just inside the city limits. It was laid out with twelve tree-lined, macadamized streets in a grid pattern. Like Elmwood, Springdale had alleys to provide access to the rear of properties. Like both Elmwood and East York, most homes had detached garages at the rear of their lots, built in the same style as the house. Attached garages and integral garages are also present. Sidewalks and curbing were standard. Like both Elmwood and East York, Springdale houses were built in a variety of styles including Colonial Revival, Tudor, French Eclectic, Prairie, Neoclassical, and Spanish Eclectic. Although Springdale has one house built in 1907 and several built between 1910 and 1920, most were built during the 1920s and 1930s, the same period during which Elmwood and East York developed.
Other developments in the vicinity include Valley Forge, Fayfield, and Yorkshire. These three subdivisions were developed during the 1930s and 1940s. Valley Forge is to the north of Elmwood and East York, Fayfield abuts East York on its south side and Yorkshire is east of East York. In these developments lots were smaller and uniform in size, houses were smaller, and most were built by the developer who then marketed and sold them to buyers. Mrs. Imes indicated that these homes were occupied primarily by blue collar workers.
Books Gibson, John. History of York County Pennsylvania. Chicago: F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1886.
Powell, George R. History of York County Pennsylvania. Chicago: J. H. Beers'Co., 1907.
Springettsbury Township Centennial Committee, Springettsbury Township Centennial 1891-1991. York: Anstadt Printing Craftsmen, Inc., 1991.
Local History File at office of Historic York, Inc.
Levin, David. Exemplary Elders. Photocopy of Chapter 1 from file.
Smyser, Dick. Miscellaneous columns which appeared in The Oak Ridger, Oak Ridge, TN.
Shermeyer, Mark. Miscellaneous research notes and file information on architecture and the Dempwolf architectural firm compiled by Mark Shermeyer and now on file at Historic York, Inc.
York County Historical Society. Vertical file containing information on the career of architect Harry Yessler.
Imes, Arlene. Personal interview. 21 July, 1998.