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Fairmount Historic District

Fairmount Historic District, National Register of Historic Places, York City, York County, PA

Photo: Fairmount Historic District, National Register of Historic Places, York City, York County, PA

The Fairmount 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. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.

The Fairmount Historic District is an intact neighborhood of primarily Victorian-era homes located on the northwestern bank of the Codorus Creek, which bisects York City in York County, Pennsylvania. The residential suburb is laid out around one main street (North Beaver Street), which rises slightly in elevation from south to north, and three short cross streets (Jefferson, Hamilton and Stevens Avenues). The houses on North Beaver Street tend to be large frame architecturally elaborate single residences and semi-detached homes while those on the side streets are slightly smaller less ornate frame and brick dwellings, a number of them rowhouses. Architectural styles common in the Fairmount neighborhood include Queen Anne, Second Empire, Gothic Revival, Colonial Revival and Italianate, reflecting the primary period of development from 1884 to c. 1915. Most houses display a combination of styles rather than one particular type. There are 101 contributing buildings (all residences) and one contributing site (a small park) in the Fairmount Historic District. Contributing resources are described as those with a date of construction that falls within one of the historic district's period of significance (c. 1850-1933), that have architectural integrity and that add to the historic character of the district through style, age and function. The historic district is surrounded by modern project housing, commercial and industrial buildings, historic rowhouses and the Codorus Creek. The cohesive neighborhood retains its integrity despite the neglect that has become prevalent during the latter half of the 20th century.

Construction Timeline of the Fairmount Development

When the Fairmount development was laid out in 1884 by Edward W. Spangler, there were five buildings already standing. Three brick duplexes and two frame single dwellings, all built in a vernacular form of the Federal style between about 1850 and about 1870, sat in a row facing the Codorus Creek. The builders' names are unknown. The 1888 map, which is a hand-drawn bird's-eye view of York City, erroneously fails to show these homes along the creek (current addresses are 113-115, 119-121, 123-125, 127 and 129 Stevens Avenue). It does show about a dozen other homes in the vicinity by that time, most located along the northeast side of North Beaver Street Extended, as the road was called then. The two c. 1885 iron truss bridges (no longer extant) over the Codorus Creek on Beaver and George Streets are also shown. Three streets that intersect with Beaver (Jefferson, Hamilton and Stevens Avenues) were laid out between c. 1885 and c. 1889. Construction of new homes continued along North Beaver Street throughout the 1890s and by the turn of the century most lots on this street were filled. Three duplexes on Hamilton Avenue toward the southern end of the development and two single dwellings on Jefferson at the northern end were also built during that decade. Between 1900 and about 1912 a few more homes were built on the remaining open lots on Beaver Street including two duplexes, a single dwelling and a residence that was added to an existing c. 1887 house to create a duplex. Hamilton Avenue was almost completely infilled with single homes, duplexes and rowhouses during this time period as was Stevens Avenue, which runs along the creek at the southernmost end of the development. The five pre-Fairmount buildings sit at the northeastern end of Stevens while sixteen c. 1907 rowhouses solidly fill in the remaining space between them and the termination of the street to the southwest. Around 1915, one of the 1880s single dwellings on North Beaver Street was replaced by a duplex (437-439 North Beaver Street). About seventeen years later in 1932-3 another duplex was added to this same large lot (431-433 North Beaver Street ). This duplex was the last residential building in the development to be constructed.

Description of the Fairmount Historic District

The 300, 400 and most of the 500 blocks of North Beaver Street are located within the Fairmount Historic District and make up its main thoroughfare. The short 300 block is bounded at either end by the Codorus Creek and Hamilton Avenue. It has three single residences and a duplex (all but one are attached) on the southwest side of the street and two duplexes on the northeast side. The long 400 block runs between Hamilton and Jefferson Avenues. On the southwest side of this block are three single dwellings interspersed with six duplexes while on the opposite side are two single dwellings and six duplexes. The 500 block is bounded by Jefferson Avenue to the southeast. Two duplexes on the southwest side of the road are included within the historic district while several other houses are excluded by the original boundary line of the 1884 development. Seven single residences are located on the opposite side of the street. There are no other historic buildings beyond those seven within the original boundaries. North Beaver Street is lined on both sides with mature trees. Houses are set back between six and twelve feet from the public sidewalks, and those toward the northern end of the suburb sit on slight rises. Some of the lots are wider than others (50-75 feet as opposed to about 25 feet) but nearly all are 120 feet deep.

The attached homes on the southwest side of the 300 block (332-338 North Beaver Street) have more in common with the homes on the southeast side of Hamilton Avenue and on Stevens Avenue to the southwest of North Beaver Street where neither the dwellings nor the lots are quite as sizable. Most parcels are 15-20 feet wide and 70-110 feet deep. The buildings on Hamilton Avenue stretch from the alley that runs behind the properties on the southwest side of North Beaver Street (Doe Lane) over to Cottage Hill Road, which forms one of the historic district's boundary lines. The homes on Stevens are also bounded by Doe Lane to the northeast and by a sharp angle in the road to the southwest. The angled street then adjoins Cottage Hill Road. There are buildings only along the northwest side of Stevens Avenue. On the other side of the street is a tall stone retaining wall along the bank of the Codorus Creek. This wall has not been included in the resource count since it extends beyond Fairmount and is unrelated to the district's significance. The houses on the southeast side of Hamilton and on Stevens sit flush against the public sidewalks and most are rowhouses. There are two rows of four on Hamilton and two rows of eight on Stevens. There are also four duplexes and one single dwelling on Hamilton and the five previously mentioned mid-19th-century buildings on Stevens. Only those five have trees along the fronts of the properties.

The northwest side of Hamilton Avenue is more like an extension of North Beaver Street since its three single dwellings and two duplexes have similar stylistic features, lot sizes and setbacks to those on North Beaver. Behind these properties and behind those on the southwest side of North Beaver Street is a small triangular park that appears to have existed since the development was laid out in 1884. The park, which features grass, trees and a swing set but no buildings, is bounded by two alleys (Doe and Lowell Lanes) and Cottage Hill Road. There are only four buildings on Jefferson Avenue that are contained within the historic district boundaries. These are located to the northeast of North Beaver Street and include two single dwellings, a duplex and a large concrete block garage on the northwest side of the street. The single dwellings are similar to those on North Beaver Street. The two lots on which the duplex was constructed were subdivided c. 1905 from the large corner lot at the North Beaver/Jefferson intersection (501 North Beaver Street). Those lots are therefore much smaller than any others (19 and 26 feet wide, 52 feet deep). The altered c. 1935 garage at 47 Jefferson Avenue is not a contributing resource in the district.

The majority of buildings on North Beaver Street and on the northwest side of Hamilton Avenue are frame. There are some frame buildings along the side streets as well but others are brick, in particular all the rowhouses. Quite a few buildings in the district retain their original slate roofs. On North Beaver Street, on the northwest side of Hamilton Avenue and on Jefferson Avenue, the single and double residences tend to be substantially sized and to display some fairly ornate architectural features such as polychrome and patterned slate roofs, variously shaped dormers, corbeled brick chimneys and cornices, wooden cornices decorated with brackets and dentils, different types of windows (oriel, Palladian, cameo, etc.) and window sash, wooden fishscale shingles, and porches featuring spindled friezes, turned posts, Ionic and Tuscan columns and jigsawn brackets. The Queen Anne, Second Empire, Gothic Revival and Colonial Revival styles are all well-represented while the Italianate style occurs less often. There is also one excellent example of the Shingle style (412 North Beaver Street) and one vernacular version of the Eastlake style (400 North Beaver Street). Most of the buildings are vernacular and few reflect any one particular style, rather displaying a combination of stylistic elements. The houses on the southeast side of Hamilton and on Stevens tend to be smaller and to have fewer architectural embellishments. On Hamilton, the mansard rowhouses and duplexes were designed in the Second Empire style. The two vernacular duplexes on this street have gable roofs and are six bays wide (three per residence) with the two front doors positioned side-by-side in the center of the facade. The Stevens Avenue rowhouses have shed roofs, corbeled brick cornices and second-story oriel windows while the mid-19th-century homes were built in a vernacular version of the Federal style. Most buildings in Fairmount are 2 1/2 or three stories tall, the only exceptions being the two-story rowhouses on Stevens Avenue.

There are only eighteen outbuildings in the Fairmount Historic District including seven concrete, five frame and three brick detached garages that date from the 1930s. The majority sit in the rear of the properties and most are one story tall. One outbuilding is a modern tool shed and two are very small frame barns that may date to the turn of the century.

To the north and northwest of the Fairmount Historic District is an area with modern project housing, and to the northeast are various commercial and industrial buildings, both historic and modern. The district is separated from downtown York City by the Codorus Creek to the southeast. Another area of commercial buildings of various types as well as a park/playground and an altered historic church are located to the southwest, and to the west is the 1896/1906 Jefferson School and rows of historic dwellings which were not part of the Fairmount development.

Significant Buildings in Fairmount

One especially notable frame residence is prominently located on a small rise at the intersection of North Beaver Street and Jefferson Avenue (northeast corner — 501 North Beaver Street). Its highly visible site, steeply pitched polychrome slate roof, Queen Anne sash and square tower make it a neighborhood landmark. It is likely that the house is an example of the Stick style, although its exterior walls are currently covered with asbestos shingles. This house, which is one of the earliest to be built (c. 1885) after the development was formally laid out in 1884, is being restored by a private owner. Another significant building is the substantial duplex on the southeast corner of the same intersection (453-455 North Beaver Street). Built by the County Sheriff in 1894-5 and designed by York's premier firm of architects, the Dempwolf Brothers, this frame Colonial Revival/Queen Anne double residence is the largest building in Fairmount. Stylistic features include Palladian, oriel and cameo windows and a decoratively paneled cornice. The frame Queen Anne duplex at 422-426 North Beaver Street is another of the largest buildings in the development as well as one of the earliest to be constructed (c. 1885) after Fairmount was formally laid out. It features a complex roofline, a decorative wraparound porch and fishscale shingles. The single-family residence on the northwest corner of the North Beaver Street/Hamilton Avenue intersection (400 North Beaver Street sits on one of the largest lots in the neighborhood and is Fairmount's sole example, although a simple one, of the Eastlake style. Next door to it at 412 North Beaver Street is Fairmount's only Shingle-style house. Built c. 1892, this 2 1/2-story single-family house has a steeply pitched gable roof with a facade cross-gable and a polygonal dormer. Its exterior walls are entirely clad with wooden shingles interrupted only by a continuous lintel molding over the first-floor openings. This house is widely considered to be one of York's best examples of the Shingle style, which is fairly uncommon in the area. A substantially sized brick duplex is prominently located on the southeast corner of the same intersection (343-345 North Beaver Street). This c. 1895 Second Empire/Queen Anne double residence features a wraparound porch with spindled frieze, a patterned slate mansard roof with two tall peaks, and polygonal bay windows and dormers. The similarly aged brick house that sits at the intersection of North Beaver Street and Stevens Avenue (330 North Beaver Street) was designed in the Second Empire style. Notable features include a slightly flared patterned slate mansard roof, an ornately bracketed cornice, an oriel window and four gable dormers. A frame house with Queen Anne features at 440 North Beaver Street and a frame Gothic Revival house at 517 North Beaver Street are examples of the smaller scale dwellings in Fairmount. Built c. 1890 and c. 1887 respectively, both are illustrations of the more simply designed vernacular dwellings that are interspersed among the larger more stylish homes on the main street.

The Fairmount Historic District is significant as a suburb of York City laid out by Edward W. Spangler in 1884. It is one of the two earliest platted neighborhoods on the outskirts of York Borough, later York City. It is significant architecturally as an excellent example of a turn-of-the-century neighborhood with largely intact architectural resources. Fairmount's residences illustrate the kinds of dwellings typically built for York's upper-, middle- and working-classes primarily during the Victorian era, reflecting the prevailing preferences in construction materials, size, scale and setting as well as the most popular architectural styles and forms of ornamentation of the day. The majority retain architectural integrity and 101 of the original 107 homes remain standing. The period of significance reflects the phases of construction that took place in Fairmount. The first phase (c. 1850 to c . 1870) includes the eight residences that predate the suburb and that were incorporated into it. The second and most important phase includes the 91 homes that were built between the initial layout of the development in 1884 and c. 1915. The final phase includes the last two residences to be constructed in Fairmount, a duplex built in 1932-3.

Biography of the Developer

Edward Webster Spangler was born in 1846 on a farm in Paradise Township, York County. At the age of 13 he entered the York County Academy and three years later volunteered for military service. After serving ably during the Civil War Spangler studied law. He was admitted to the York County Bar in 1867 and soon established a lucrative practice, which he continued to operate successfully for many years until his death in 1911. Spangler was an energetic and ambitious man with numerous interests. He served as a director of the Farmers National Bank and as an attorney for the First National Bank. In 1882 Spangler purchased the York Daily and York Weekly newspaper company and became renowned for his journalistic abilities. Among other projects, he wrote two newspaper serials, one on local history and one on his own war experiences. These serials were so popular that they were later reprinted in book form. He also owned the Spangler Manufacturing Company, Inc., which produced a line of agricultural implements sold nationwide. One of Edward Spangler's ventures was the creation of Fairmount, a suburban development on the outskirts of the Borough of York (incorporated as a city in 1887).

History of Fairmount

Edward Spangler purchased approximately seventeen acres in West Manchester Township at a sheriffs sale in 1883. This land was located on the northwest bank of the Codorus Creek, adjacent to York but separated from it by the creek. Situated on a low rise, the wedge of land fell between North George Street (one of York's major thoroughfares) and Cottage Hill Road. This area is shown as largely undeveloped on the 1876 map of York Borough. There was a lime kiln and a bone mill owned by a fertilizer company as well as the eight mid-19th-century residences (three duplexes and two single dwellings) mentioned above. In 1884 Spangler laid out the streets and lots in his new development, which he named Fairmount. North Beaver Street was extended across the creek to run through its center and he successfully persuaded the county commissioners to erect an iron bridge there around 1885. A similar bridge was constructed by the county on North George Street at about the same time. The three cross streets were part of Spangler's 1884 layout but they were not all built at once. Jefferson Avenue between Beaver and George was constructed c. 1885 and Hamilton between Beaver and George perhaps two years later. Stevens Avenue was already partially in place as a private lane for the five pre-Fairmount buildings. All three roads were extended to the southwest of Beaver Street by about 1889.

At least three of the lots (501 and 422-426 North Beaver Street) were sold and built upon almost immediately but the bulk of sales took place between 1887 and 1911 according to York County land records. Spangler built houses on some of the lots and offered them for sale as well (Prowell, Volume II, page 805). Most of the homes on North Beaver Street had been built by 1903 since they appear on the map published in that year, but others continued to be built on Hamilton and Stevens Avenues for several more years. The larger lots on Beaver Street were sold to people of Spangler's own class who built substantially sized single-family dwellings as well as large duplexes while the smaller lots in the development were often sold to investors who built single and semi-detached dwellings as rental properties. The country setting of the new suburb adjacent to the Codorus Creek was attractive to potential buyers. Unlike center-city York, Fairmount offered homeowners the possibility of larger houses on more spacious lots in an area that was entirely residential yet not too far removed from the necessary commodities. Fairmount's close proximity to downtown York City was a major factor in the new development's popularity. Shops, businesses and industries were readily accessible to its residents, who could walk or ride across either bridge into the downtown area in a matter of minutes. York had an extensive street railway system that was established in 1892 and continued to operate until the late 1960s. Electric trolley car lines radiated from Center Square out to numerous stops around the city, its outskirts and surrounding towns and parks. One of these trolley car lines ran right past Fairmount along North George Street.

Not all of Spangler's original seventeen-acre tract of land was used for the residential neighborhood. In the 1890s much of the land in the east and northeast of the tract along North George Street was vacant except for several commercial enterprises. One was the York Sanitary Milk Company at the Jefferson/George intersection and another was the Adam Jacoby and Brother Furniture Company on both sides of Hamilton at George Street. The 1903 map shows the Pfaltzgraff Cigar Factory on Jefferson Avenue and the Wilbur A. Eberly Wheel Works between Hamilton and the creek. By 1909 the Hershey Baking Company had been established on the southeast side of Jefferson at Cherry Lane. The 1932 Sanborn Insurance Map shows the York Sanitary Milk Company in place of the Wheel Works as well as along George Street between Jefferson and Hamilton Avenues. In the mid-1930s to '40s two small one-story commercial buildings were constructed within the residential area. One (116-120 Hamilton Avenue) is located at the Doe Lane intersection and the other (147 Hamilton Avenue) is located at the Cottage Hill Road intersection. None of these commercial or industrial buildings are included in the historic district due to loss of integrity or because they no longer exist.

All of the Codorus Creek bridges in York City including those on North Beaver and North George Streets were swept away in the devastating flood of 1933 and were later rebuilt. This was not the first time that the creek had flooded with disastrous results. In 1935-6 York City embarked on a campaign to prevent future occurrences. The creek's channel was deepened, widened and straightened and the sides were paved with block of stone.

Fairmount has continued to remain a largely intact residential neighborhood throughout the years. Of all the homes built during the period of significance, only six are no longer extant. Around 1912 a substantially sized single dwelling at 439 North Beaver Street burned down or was demolished for some reason. This house stood on the northwest side of the largest lot in the neighborhood (90' wide by 120' deep). A vernacular duplex (437-439 North Beaver Street) was built on the house's site around 1915 while the extensive side yard remained unoccupied. This land was subdivided in 1932 and another duplex was built there (431-433 North Beaver Street); its construction was completed in 1933. While the latter duplex is plainly not a Victorian-era building, its Colonial Revival style, brick and frame construction, size, scale and setting allow it to blend well with its neighbors. The duplex provides a sense of continuity to the densely infilled streetscape rather than interrupting its historic character and appearance. The other five residences that are no longer standing consisted of two duplexes and one single dwelling that stood side-by-side. These early 20th-century brick buildings fronted onto the short angled section of Stevens Avenue at its intersection with Cottage Hill Road. The date and cause of their demolition is unknown and nothing was rebuilt on the site, which is currently an open grassy lot. Because of the site's location at the extreme southwestern end of the district and because the adjacent rowhouses on Hamilton Avenue and on the longer stretch of Stevens Avenue are completely intact, this loss is not an obvious one.

A large tract of project housing for low-income residents was built immediately to the north of the development in the 1960s. The energy shortage in the 1970s caused many owners to convert Fairmount's large hard-to-heat houses into multiple apartment units. Like the project housing, these smaller units have been rented for the most part to low-income tenants. About sixty percent of the homes in Fairmount are currently rental properties. Landlords, some out of town or out of state, tend to neglect these rental properties and the neighborhood's upkeep and appearance have suffered in consequence. This lack of attention has perhaps been one reason why so much of the buildings' architectural ornamentation has been left intact. Some of Fairmount's homes are quite well-tended; those buildings that were originally owner-occupied appear to be better maintained than those that have always been rented.

Residents of Fairmount

One of the earliest buyers of Fairmount property was Edward Spangler's business associate Samuel C. Frey. The two men were partners in the Spangler, Moore and Frey law firm and co-owners of the newspaper publishing company. Frey chose a corner lot at the highest point in the area and built a home for himself around 1885 (501 North Beaver Street) where he lived for over forty years. Another member of the law firm, N. Sargent Ross, also bought a choice corner lot in Fairmount and built a house c. 1893 (400 North Beaver Street). Spangler himself did not live in Fairmount. Other people of his social class who built large and stylish homes in the development during the late 19th century were Perry Heindel, also an attorney (412 North Beaver Street); David Welsh, a director of the York County National Bank, proprietor of a clothing and men's furnishings store in York City and owner of the later-demolished home at 439 North Beaver Street mentioned above; and John D. Gallatin, York County Sheriff from 1892-5 (453- 455 North Beaver Street). Smaller lots were often sold to investors who built homes that were rented to others. John Gallatin was one of these investors, owning seven houses in Fairmount. Another was Harry M. King, who owned six houses and lived in a seventh (507 North Beaver Street). King owned and operated a carpet and oil cloth store in York City. George C. Coover, who is listed as a pattern maker in the City Directories, owned three houses but did not live in any of them. These three investors owned Fairmount property during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The middle-class people who lived in Fairmount during the late 19th and early 20th centuries worked in a wide variety of professions as shown by the City Directories. Some owned their homes while others rented. Ida Grove both resided and operated a dressmaking business at 330 North Beaver Street for at least a quarter-century. Louise and John H. Duttera owned the duplex at 336-338 North Beaver Street. He was a cigar maker and she operated a corner store (at #338). Charles King lived with his wife Margaret at 405 North Beaver Street for at least seventeen years; he was an engineer. I. Palmer Diehl was a purchasing agent at the Smyser-Royer Foundry (sometimes called Variety Iron Works); he lived at 407 and later at 437 North Beaver Street. William and Francis Rockey were brothers who resided in a duplex at 416-418 North Beaver Street with their families; both worked as molders at the York Manufacturing Company, which made ice and refrigerating equipment (today known as York International). J. Robert Ernst and his wife Sarah lived at 419 North Beaver Street for twenty-three years or more; he was a clerk at the McClellan and Gotwalt hardware and grocery store in York. David J. Small was an insurance agent and James A. Kline was the manager of the Kline Motor Car Corporation; both lived at 444 North Beaver Street at different times. Herbert B. Kain lived at 446 and later at 439 North Beaver Street with his wife Ethel. He was the general secretary and superintendent of the Society to Protect Children and Aged Persons. The house at 500 North Beaver Street was converted into a corner grocery store during the 1920s and '30s; it was owned and operated by John D. Myers. Harry Watson was a telephone operator who lived in the other half of the duplex at 502 North Beaver Street. Minnie and John Riedel resided at 511 North Beaver Street for a quarter-century or longer. He was a carpenter who worked at a family-owned business called the York Woodworking Company. J. Alien Rudy, another longtime resident, lived with his wife Ida at 517 North Beaver Street. He was a cigar maker by profession. It seems likely that he worked at the Pfaltzgraff cigar factory a short distance away on Jefferson Avenue, which sits just outside the historic district boundaries but within the boundaries of the original development (it has been converted into an apartment house).

The residents on Hamilton and Stevens Avenues lived in smaller houses on smaller lots and had lesser social status for the most part. Again, some were renters and some were owners. Lettie Hubley, a cashier, lived with a relative Sarah Hubley at 117 Hamilton Avenue while another Hubley (Edward) lived in the other half of the duplex (#119) and was a machinist. George Farcht, who was a yard master employed by the Northern Central Railroad, resided at 123 Hamilton Avenue. His neighbor at 127 Hamilton was Henry Steininger, who was a bricklayer. Elmer Frey was a stenographer who lived at 146 and Edmund D. Diehl was a painter who lived at 154 Hamilton Avenue. Ferdinand Boettcher (Boettjer) lived at 113 Stevens Avenue with Helen Boettcher, a seamstress, and Herman Boettcher, a laborer. Ferdinand also owned 115 and 119-121 Stevens Avenue as well as 126-128 Hamilton Avenue. Mary Westhafer owned and resided at 127 Stevens Avenue. Also living at that address were Emanuel and Erastus Westhafer, both laborers, and Harry Schaefer, a safe painter. Augustus J. Fischer (Fisher) lived at 123 Stevens Avenue; he was a butcher by trade. Jesse Shed was a cigar maker, Sarah Hilbert was a laundress and J. Walter McClellan was a painter; they lived at 143, 147 and 161 Stevens Avenue respectively. Harry S. Ebert was a real estate broker, William Harkins was a tobacco packer and John Rodes was a watch maker. All three owned rental properties on Stevens Avenue but did not live there themselves. All of the above owned or rented Fairmount property during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Buildings of Fairmount

The Fairmount neighborhood is an excellent example of the type of community built by and for upper-, middle- and working-class citizens in York during the Victorian era. These are solid mainstream homes that were built by local carpenters, builders and contractors. The Riedels' York Woodworking Company, which operated a planing mill and was involved in building and contracting in York City, is likely to have built some of these homes, particularly John Riedel's residence at 511 North Beaver Street. Everything needed to build these homes was available locally through firms like the Billmeyer and Small Company and the J. G. Fallon Company, both of which manufactured window sash, doors and blinds; the Wolf lumberyards, which continue to provide York with building supplies today; the York Tack and Nail Works; Broomell, Schmidt and Steacy, which made boilers and steam heating supplies; Variety Iron Works (later called the Smyser-Royer Foundry), which manufactured railings, hardware and other iron products; and numerous other companies. Construction materials and the labor to use them to build houses were all readily at hand.

One of Fairmount's buildings (453-455 North Beaver Street) was designed by York's premier architectural firm, the Dempwolf Brothers. The duplex is not one of the better examples of the Dempwolfs' work and its architectural integrity has been somewhat compromised. Brothers John A. and Reinhardt Dempwolf designed some 600 buildings between 1874 and about 1930 in and around York County. Several other locally well-known architects began their careers in the Dempwolf office but none achieved the same level of renown. Possibly one or two other homes in Fairmount were also architect-designed but the majority were not. It was common practice to obtain plans from popular architectural publications and pattern books. These designs could be modified according to the individual homeowner's preferences and often resulted in a vernacular house featuring a combination of stylistic features. Even the more modest homes in Fairmount display a wide range of the types of ornamentation that were popular during the Victorian era. Elements from the Queen Anne, Second Empire, Gothic Revival, Colonial Revival and Italianate styles are all well-represented in the development. As with many of the country's more provincial areas, new architectural styles arrived in York a little later than the national norm and generally were used longer, often by ten or more years. For example, a three-story brick duplex at 405-407 North Beaver Street was built around 1904 yet displays features of the Italianate and Gothic Revival styles, which are usually associated with an earlier time period.

Very few of the homes in Fairmount could be described as plain or free of embellishments, yet the difference between the homes of the upper and lower classes of people is easily discernible by the varying amounts or elaborate nature of their stylistic features. The duplexes and rowhouses on Hamilton and Stevens Avenues are smaller and have far less ornamentation than the homes on Beaver Street. Whereas a Hamilton Avenue rowhouse may have a slate mansard roof, a dormer with a shaped pediment, a bracketed cornice and an oriel window, a house on North Beaver Street might have a patterned slate roof with several dormers, a tall decoratively corbeled brick chimney, a bracketed cornice, windows with stained glass or Queen Anne sash, oriel windows topped with a turret or polygonal dormer, fishscale shingles and a full-facade or wraparound porch with spindled frieze and turned balustrade. The five pre-Fairmount buildings are largely unadorned in the somewhat austere manner of the Federal style. The majority of original stylistic features have been retained throughout the neighborhood. A distinctive feature of the Fairmount development is its high percentage of frame buildings. This concentration of frame dwellings is extremely unusual in York City where the bulk of the building stock is brick.

Other Historic Suburbs of York City

The Borough of York, incorporated as York City in 1887, annexed various tracts of land including a number of small villages around its perimeter at different times up to the turn of the century. The largest of these additions was the sprawling village of Freystown to the east of York. Established along both sides of the Wrightsville Turnpike (currently called East Market Street, one of York's major thoroughfares) in the mid-18th century, Freystown, now known as the Freystown Historic District, grew in a haphazard fashion to include industries, commercial businesses, rowhouses and other miscellaneous resources. Two other notable suburbs were North York and West York. The former grew from a meager beginning as a single cigar factory surrounded by some rowhouses for its employees. The latter was planned as a self-sufficient combination of industries, commercial businesses and worker housing as well as some large stylistically ornate homes built by the industries' owners. Neither of these suburbs were annexed to the city but were instead incorporated as boroughs (North York in 1899 and West York in 1904).

Fairmount and another neighborhood now called the Northwest Historic District were the first of York's platted residential suburbs. Both were laid out in 1884 and both were annexed to York City along with Freystown in 1900. The larger Northwest Historic District is located three blocks to the southwest of Fairmount and was also originally in West Manchester Township. The West End Improvement Company, a division of the York Bank and Trust Company, was organized by Captain William H. Lanius and included some of the most prominent citizens in York. Numerous residences reflecting Victorian-era architectural styles and ornamentation were constructed and offered for sale or rent, and a large adjacent park (Farquhar Park) was included within the neighborhood's boundaries. Like Fairmount, the Northwest Historic District has very good architectural integrity and a high percentage of homes with Queen Anne features. A third platted residential suburb is Springdale at the southern end of the city. This neighborhood was developed in the 1920s and is noted for its unique single dwellings and spacious landscaped lots. Many of Springdale's homes were architect-designed and a number of them are examples of architectural styles rarely used in York.

There are two other platted residential neighborhoods that were originally advertised as outlying suburbs of York City, Elmwood and East York. Both are located to the east of Freystown.

The former was laid out during the first decade of the 20th century and includes both single and double residences. Some of the more stylistically elaborate homes were designed by Elmwood residents Harry and Russell Yessler, who were a father and son team of architects. East York, now the East York Historic District, was developed in the 1920s and is somewhat similar to Elmwood although the majority of its resources are single residences on slightly larger lots. Both Elmwood and East York have remained part of Springettsbury Township.


1998 York County tax records, York County Courthouse, 28 East Market Street, York, Pennsylvania 17401.

Anderson, T. Sherman, compiler. York City & County Directory 1896-7. York, PA: Crider & Brother.

Boyd, W. Harry, compiler. Boyd's York City Directory 1882. 1883-4, 1887 & 1888. York, PA: Crider & Brother.

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Insurance Map of York Pennsylvania 1894. New York: Sanborn-Perris Map Company, Ltd.

Insurance Map of York Pennsylvania 1908- 1932. New York: Sanborn Map Company.

LaForge, Bob. 426 North Beaver Street, York, Pennsylvania 17404. Informal interview in November 1998 by B. Raid, author of nomination and Architectural Historian at Historic York, Inc. No written or taped documentation of interview. Information provided by Mr. LaForge included architectural details, structural soundness, speculation as to date of construction and other miscellaneous details of his residence in the Fairmount Historic District.

Map of York. Pennsylvania. Boston: Fowler & Downs, 1888.

McElhinny, C. M. Know York Better (The Wonderful Civic and Industrial Life Story of York. Pa., told in picture and bulletin form. York, PA: York Chamber of Commerce, 1917.

McKinnon, Robert B., civil engineer. Atlas of the City of York York County Pennsylvania. York, PA: McKinnon, 1909.

Nichols, Beach. Atlas of York Co. Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Pomeroy, Whitman & Co., 1876.

Peckham, Betty. The Story of a Dynamic Community York Pennsylvania. York, PA: York Chamber of Commerce, 1946.

Polk's City Directory: York. Pennsylvania 1898, 1899, 1902, 1903, 1905, 1907, 1911, 1913, 1917, 1919, 1921, 1923-4 & 1925-6. Detroit: R. L. Polk & Co.

Prowell, George R. History of York County Pennsylvania, Volumes I & II. Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1907.

Roe, Fred'k B. Atlas of the City of York York County Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Roe, 1903.

Sheets, Georg R. Made in York (A Survey of the Agricultural & Industrial Heritage of York County. Pennsylvania). York, PA: Agricultural & Industrial Museum of York County, 1991.

Sheets, Georg R. To the Setting of the Sun: The Story of York. Windsor Publications, 1981.

Walker, Alice. 36 East Main Street, Windsor, Pennsylvania 17366. Informal interview in November 1998 by B. Raid, author of nomination and Architectural Historian at Historic York, Inc. No written or taped documentation of interview. Information provided by Ms. Walker included architectural details, speculation as to date of construction, speculation as to the name of the architect and other miscellaneous details of the residence in the Fairmount Historic District (501 North Beaver Street at Jefferson Avenue).

York City & County Directory 1894-5. Baltimore: Bell Publishing Company.

Young's York City Directory 1892, 1886, 1889 & 1890. York. PA: York Dispatch Print.

  1. Raid, B., Historic York Inc., Fairmount Historic District, York County PA, nomination document, 1999, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Fairmount Historic District Map

Street Names
Beaver Street North • Cherry Lane • Cottage Hill Road • Hamilton Avenue • Stevens Avenue

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