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Goldsboro Historic District

Goldsboro Boro, York County, PA

The Goldsboro Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. []

Goldsboro lies on the west bank of the Susquehanna River in northern York County. The town is laid out on a Philadelphia type grid plan, with two wide streets meeting at right angles in a center square. The bulk of Goldsboro's building stock dates from the 1850 to 1930 period. The houses are generally small and frame, and many feature vernacular Greek Revival era motifs. Most of the major mid 19th to early 20th century styles are represented in the district, including Greek Revival, Italianate, Mansard, Queen Anne, Richardsonian Romanesque, Gothic Revival and Georgian Revival. The integrity of the district is generally good, with the streetscapes of 2 1/2 story houses largely intact. The worst of the intrusions are trailers, although a few of the historic buildings have been altered to near intrusion status. There are 86 major buildings within the 23.2 acre Goldsboro Historic District, of which 11 are significant, 68 are contributing and 7 are intrusions.

Goldsboro is situated on the west bank of the Susquehanna River in the Triassic Lowlands region of northern York County. The elevation of the town is about 300 feet above sea level, and just to the west of the Borough wooded hills rise in a relief of 100 to 200 feet. Fishing Creek flows west to east through these hills and separates the northern two thirds of the town from the southern third. The proposed historic district lies entirely in the northern sector.

Skirting the river's edge to the east are the Conrail tracks, and beyond these the mile-wide Susquehanna is divided into three major channels by Shelley Island, closest to Goldsboro, and beyond. Three Mile Island, site of the now-famous nuclear power plant.

Goldsboro is laid out on a Philadelphia style grid plan, with a large center square and two main streets which meet at right angles in the center of this square. The north-south artery is York Street, and the east-west is Broadway. The major route through Goldsboro is State Route 262, which follows South York Street and West Broadway. South York Street leads to York Haven, three miles to the southeast, and West Broadway leads to the Susquehanna Trail and Interstate 83, four miles to the west.

Goldsboro's building stock reflects the town's initial period of development, 1850-1930. The majority of houses are frame, 2 1/2 stories in height, and are relatively small in scale. Some of these are joined in rows, particularly on East Broadway, the first area of Goldsboro to develop. Many are also paired into duplexes and others are grouped into units of three. These houses are interspersed with somewhat larger brick, frame, and in one case brownstone freestanding houses. Seventeen structures in Goldsboro, fourteen of them originally dwellings, exhibit either attic frieze windows, or transoms with sidelights, or both. These structures constitute about 20% of the buildings within the Goldsboro district. Frieze windows and sidelights, which tend to go along with Greek Revival influence, do occur in other York County towns of this scale and era, but generally not so frequently.

Three of the four quadrants of Goldsboro's square are anchored by structures of commercial origins. The southeast quadrant has the 3 1/2 story frame, Italianate, Oddfellows' Hall, with an intact late nineteenth-early twentieth century wooden storefront on the South York Street elevation. The south elevation of this structure has been damaged by fire. Adjacent to the Oddfellows' Hall on the west is a 1 1/2 story, frame Greek Revival-influenced structure, formerly the National Hotel. Across West Broadway on the northwest quadrant of the square is a three story slated mansard roofed structure, also with an intact wooden storefront. The southwest quadrant has a frame, three story mansard roofed structure extensively modernized, and a 2 1/2 story frame Greek Revival-influenced structure. The northeast quadrant is entirely residential in character, with Queen Anne and Greek Revival style dwellings. Other commercial and public buildings of note within the district include a brownstone Richardsonian Romanesque-influenced bank dating from 1908, a brownstone Gothic Revival church built in 1914, a 1 1/2 story, brick Queen Anne-influenced two room school building, dating from 1898, a brick Georgian Revival fire hall dating from the late 1920's, and a large frame, 2 1/2 story Greek Revival/Queen Anne structure, formerly the Eagle Hotel, along the Conrail tracks. The railroad station and all of the buildings associated with the lumber industry, have been lost. These areas have not been included in the district.

There are seven intrusions within the Goldsboro Historic District. The most glaring of these are trailers on North York Street and at the rear of East Broadway. Also included are a ranch-type house, and three concrete block garages. Two of these garages share parcels with contributing structures, but are substantial enough to be considered intrusions, and one occupies its own parcel. Unfortunately, a few of the historic buildings have been so drastically altered that they are very nearly intrusive. One historic building, however, must be considered intrusive, This is the structure at the corner of Zeigler and Railroad streets. Nearly all of the windows on this large 2 1/2 story structure have disappeared under aluminum siding.

Goldsboro has changed little since the first quarter of the twentieth century. The decline of the railroad and rise of the highway has taken Goldsboro off the main north-south corridor in York County, and as a consequence, the later development which characterizes more advantageously located communities has not occurred in Goldsboro. There are no gas stations on the square, nor are there convenience stores and large parking lots to interrupt the streetscapes of 2 1/2 story houses. In its scale, layout, and homogeneity, the Goldsboro Historic District conveys the sense of a mid nineteenth to early twentieth century rail town and agricultural service center.


Goldsboro is important as a well preserved example of a planned rail community of the mid nineteenth century which developed into a locally important service and manufacturing center. The district shows significance in the areas of transportation, community planning, industry, and architecture between 1850 and 1930. Goldsboro became an important stop on the York and Cumberland Railroad after the line was completed in 1851, and was the only water station on the route. Goldsboro was the first planned rail community in York County, and was the last town in that county to be laid out on a Philadelphia type grid plan with a center square. Soon after 1851 Goldsboro became the site of industries of which saw and planing mills were the most important. Goldsboro's architecture displays most of the major styles of the mid 19th to early 20th centuries, and is notable for its high concentration of vernacular Greek Revival motifs.

Before 1851, when the York and Cumberland Railroad was completed between York and the west shore of Harrisburg, Goldsboro, then called Martinsville, had fewer than half-a-dozen houses, a store, and a grist mill. The area around the mouth of Fishing Creek had been the terminus of a ferry by 1738, and with the coming of a turnpike between York Haven and Harrisburg in 1838 two exchange stables were established near what would become Goldsboro. However, not until the construction of the railroad was the town formally surveyed.

The York and Cumberland Railroad was chartered in April 1846 to build a line from York to Bridgeport (now Lemoyne) on the Susquehanna River opposite Harrisburg. This company soon became affiliated with the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad which planned to use the new line as a link between its York-Baltimore route and the Pennsylvania Railroad's proposed line between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. The new link in the Baltimore system was to preserve and if at all possible expand Baltimore's commercial interests in the Susquehanna Valley and points west.

Essentially all of the major contributing and significant buildings within the Goldsboro Historic District, date from the 1850 to 1930 period. The row and semi-detached frame houses of the workers, as well as the larger frame, brick, and stone detached houses of the more well-to-do make up the bulk of Goldsboro's housing stock. As in most towns of this scale, the smallish, otherwise plain houses are given identities through the use of decorative features. In Goldsboro there is a fairly high concentration of features generally associated with the Greek Revival style. These features are attic frieze windows and rectangular transoms with sidelights, singly and in combination. These do occur in other York County towns of this size and era, but generally not so frequently. Other domestic styles in Goldsboro include Italianate, Queen Anne, and "Princess Anne." Styles of public and commercial buildings also include Greek Revival, Italianate, and Queen Anne, as well as Mansard, Richardsonian Romanesque, Gothic Revival, and Georgian Revival. Thus many of the most prevalent architectural styles of the mid nineteenth to early twentieth centuries are represented in the Goldsboro district.

Goldsboro exists today essentially as it was in the first quarter of the twentieth century. The town has literally been bypassed by twentieth century development. With the rise of the automobile age, the main north-south corridor in York County, along with the accompanying development, shifted four miles west of the railroad to U.S. 111, and later, Interstate 83. The trains no longer stop in Goldsboro, and two of the four tracks have been taken up. The station too has been lost. Most of the stores have closed, and many of the buildings are in need of repair. Between 1970 and 1980 Goldsboro lost 17% of its population, which declined from 576 in 1970 to 477 in 1980. Yet because of this long-term general decline the architectural integrity of Goldsboro remains very good. Few buildings have been lost, and little new construction has appeared to compromise the streetscapes of 2 1/2 story frame houses. The Goldsboro Historic District thus serves to represent the cultural and economic climate of a mid nineteenth to early twentieth century York County rail town.

[1]The post office still retains the name Etters. Henry Etter reestablished a post office in the vicinity around 1838. When the office was moved to Goldsboro, "Etters" was retained as its official name.

Major Bibliographical References


Gibson, John. History of York County, Pennsylvania , Chicago: F. A. Battey Co., 1886 pp. 321, 355, 624, 627-28, 630

Goldsboro Historical Association. The Life and Times of Goldsboro. N.P.:,N.P., 1976 pp. 8-12, 16-22, 25, 28, 29-42, 44, 46, 52, 58, 66, 79, 81, 94, 96-98, 100, 105, 107, 119

Livingood, James Weston. The Philadelphia-Baltimore Trade Rivalry 1780-1860. Harrisburg: The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1947, pp. 135-141

Prowell, George R. History of York County, Pennsylvania. Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1907, VI pp. 882-883


Nichols, Beach. Atlas of York County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Pomeroy., Whitman and Company, 1876. pp. 53-55

Shearer, W. J. & D. S. Lake. Map of York County Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: 1860

Small, D. & W. Wagner Map of York and Adams Counties. N. P., N. P. 1821

Barshinger, Jay R., Historic York Inc., Goldsboro Historic District, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
1st Avenue • 2nd Avenue • Broadway Avenue East • Broadway Avenue West • Butcher Avenue • Cherry Avenue • Frazer Street • Kister Street North • Kister Street South • North Avenue • Pennsylvania Avenue • Railroad Street • Route 262 • Shelley Avenue • York Street North • York Street South • Zeigler Avenue