Historical Penn Commons York PA

I’ll admit it, I’ve never been to Penn Commons in my life.  That changed last night.  I’ve heard the stories of people being robbed, attacked, shot, etc. in the park area, but I’m a risk-taker.  Interestingly, when I approached the Soldiers & Sailors monument with my camera in hand, the group of young men sitting nearby quietly walked or rode their bikes away from the lens.  😉

The Soldiers & Sailors monument is a striking sculpture in the round, the bronze work done by Bureau Brother’s Bronze Founders.

“In 1898 the towering Soldiers & Sailors statue, designed by the noted York-based Dempwolf architectural firm, was dedicated.

To this day, it remains the most visible York-area commemoration to those who served in the Civil War.”


In the parks glory days.

In the parks glory days.

“Shortly after the erection and dedication of the Solders and Sailors Monument June 15, 1898, the Order of Elks erected a rockery at a cost of $2,200. Vandals beheaded the elk in 1987, and, after receiving an estimate of $18,000 to repair it, the City of York decided to remove it.”

What a shame this had to be removed.  If it is still hidden away, perhaps it could be restored and placed back in the park, on top of a high, nearly impossible to climb, column,

THE ELKS MONUMENT IN PENN PARK  (Jim McClure's blog) submitted





Click the first thumbnail to open to photo gallery.

After exhausting every angle of the monument, I noticed a tiny stone house nearby and in shambles.  Dale and I began taking guesses at what this house could have been used for.  “It has a chimney so someone must have stayed inside.” Dale pointed out.  It did have a chimney and did look like a miniature, well-made house.  I guessed it was the park’s caretaker house, so tiny, it must have been prison-like to sit inside.  Dale and I were both wrong.

“This blocky building in York, Pa.’s, Penn Park is weather beaten or, well, just beaten up. But when the Penn-Coates Memorial appeared on the cover of its dedication brochure on Sept. 25, 1926, it was a welcome sight. “The Common … was secured by gift from John Penn and John R. Coates, who, by their deed dated June 11, 1816 granted … the inhabitants of the Borough of York a certain tract or lot of land containing about 20 acres … and now used as a public common,” according to the dedication pamphlet. John Penn was the last proprietary governor of Pennsylvania and John Coates was his agent.”

“The grant also included two lots for a Potter’s Field, a burial ground for the indigent of the community. That land along College Avenue eventually became the location of the original Hannah Penn Junior High School and is now the parking lot and playground for St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. The brochure says the concept for the building came from a group of men who did not like the “small shanty used by Patrolman Charles F. Carr” that was in the park. “It was often remarked by the Penn Commoners that the cop should have better quarters than the humble shanty.” The Penn Common Community Association was formed to fund and build a new police station and rest area for the public. The $20,000 to build and furnish the structure was secured by public subscription.”

“The upper room of the building is for use as a public rest room and reading room. The police doing duty on the Common have desk and telephone in the rest room. A washstand and first aid equipment are there. The basement is equipped with a public convenience to be used under certain restrictions to be enforced by the policeman in charge.” (Back then “rest room” would have been just that, a place to rest. “Public convenience” would have been what today is called a “restroom.”) The columns and the plaques are no longer on the building.” 

Early 1900's

Circa: 1926

Penn-Coates Memorial 2013

Penn-Coates Memorial 2013

Click the first thumbnail to open the photo gallery.

Is there any hope this building might be restored to its former glory before it crumbles?  ~P.

References Jim McClure http://www.Yorkblog.com


  1. Anthony House says:

    again, beautiful photos and thanks for the slew of old memories about the park. Yorkers (especially those who do not live in York proper and who base their opinions on the sometimes biased reporting of others) have the uncanny ability to offer opinions (usually bad) about places and areas they know little about –save for the reports of others.

    Appreciate that you actually went there –glad you “survived” — to get your shots. My recollections involve those from childhood, High School (and the story of my Grandfather engaging me in a game we played when I was child — only I was not a Jr in High School!) , and as a parent reliving memories in the Park with my 1st and second graders and, eventually, nearly 20 neighborhood children running out to join us playing in the leaf piles. No shots fired, no robberies, mugging, just a lovely park with tons of trees, leaves, grass, and memories.

    Thanks again Pattie.

    • You are very welcome! Thank you for commenting…I love to hear feedback. We had a very pleasant evening in the city and I look forward to my next photo shoot in York. ~P.

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