Shrewsbury Borough, York County, Pennsylvania (PA)

Shrewsbury Borough

York County, Pennsylvania

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Shrewsbury Borough Hall is located at 35 Railroad Avenue, Shrewsbury PA 17361.
Phone: 717‑235‑1666.


Beginnings [1]

Shrewsbury was one of the first settled areas west of the Susquehanna. Due to the area's topography and the positioning of a major transportation artery through it, Shrewsbury developed as the commercial focal point for the surrounding agricultural region. In 1810, the Baltimore-York Turnpike bisected the village, bringing numerous settlers and diverse influences. These people adapted themselves fully to the village's commercial nature, becoming shopkeepers and service personnel. The village expanded rapidly as both a prosperous commercial center and a functional community.

During the twenty years following Shrewsbury Borough's inception in 1884, the community had developed as a closed society whose citizens were a thrifty and pragmatic mix of English and Germans. This was reflected by their building's styling and decoration. Given thereby, that the commercial centering of the village shaped its earlier inhabitants, during the area's second developmental phase, the architectural choices of its practical population then began to mold the village.

Shrewsbury reached its social and financial apogee in the antebellum. Despite a levelling off of population, the borough's solidly established commercial base allowed it to maintain itself throughout the next 100 years. In 1960, the positioning of I-83 allowed a massive influx of new settlers which tripled the area's population.

Shrewsbury Borough has the finest mid-19th century streetscape extant in York County.

The most significant period of development in Shrewsbury occurred during the first six decades of the nineteenth century. During this era Shrewsbury developed into the religious, educational, financial, social, mercantile and artisans' center for the Shrewsbury Township area. During the 1840's for instance two brick, church affiliated schools were built. In 1850, the Shrewsbury Savings Institution was established. In 1856 a public school was established, as was the Shrewsbury Academy, which had a staff of six professors. Numerous church congregations were established, and many civic committees, fraternal organizations, and social clubs were founded. In 1853, only seven years after gaining its charter, the local Odd Fellows chapter built its own hall. This large, 3 1/2 story brick structure was constructed in the Greek Revival style and is south-central York County's finest example of that style. The building is particularly noteworthy when one considers that the population of Shrewsbury at this time was around 500.

In 1838 the railroad line which later became part of the Northern Central system was completed between Baltimore and York.* The route passed about one mile west of Shrewsbury in a narrow stream valley, close enough for a stop named Shrewsbury Station to be established. Soon afterward a turnpike was established between the new station and Shrewsbury Borough. This station grew to be an important shipping and manufacturing center, and was incorporated as Railroad Borough in 1871. The rail line marked the beginning of the end of the turnpike as a major link between Baltimore and the Susquehanna Valley. In 1858 the line was completed to Sunbury.

Shrewsbury, continued to be the dominant community in Shrewsbury Township during the years just after the opening of this new rail line. However, over the next half century the new, nearby rail towns of New Freedom, and in particular, Glen Rock rose to challenge the preeminence of Shrewsbury in the area.

The second half of the nineteenth century remained prosperous for Shrewsbury, but the town attracted little new growth. The population of Shrewsbury Borough declined from a peak of 600 in 1870 to 554 in 1900. On the other hand, the population of Glen Rock, with an economy based on light manufacturing, mushroomed from 537 in 1870 to 1117 in 1900. Glen Rock remained the larger of the two towns until the mid-twentieth century. New Freedom Borough, one mile southwest of Shrewsbury along the rail line, began to develop in the 1880's as a light manufacturing center, much like Glen Rock. By 1910 New Freedom has also become more populous than Shrewsbury, and remained so until the 1960's. New Freedom in recent years has developed much like Shrewsbury.

*Two years later the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal was completed between Wrightsville and Havre de Grace.

  1. Barshinger, Jay. R., Shrewsbury Historic District, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Towns: Glen Rock Boro • Loganville Boro • New Freedom Boro • Railroad Boro • Seven Valleys Boro • Stewartstown Boro • Winterstown Boro •

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