Spring Grove Historic District, Spring Grove Borough, York County, Spring Grove PA 17362

Spring Grove Historic District

Spring Grove Boro, York County, PA

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The Spring Grove 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. []


Spring Grove Borough is a fine representative of a one industry town whose development and existence evolved around a paper mill on the Codorus Creek. The west branch of the creek forms the southwestern boundary of Jackson Township with the Borough of Spring Grove extending north of the creek. A range of low hills, known as the Pigeon Hills, lay west of Spring Grove, extending southwestwardly about eight miles toward a point north of Hanover. The town is surrounded by low wooded hills and open farmland. The historic district as outlined contains 48.81 acres within the Borough limits. The architectural character of the district is represented by the 2 1/2 story Georgian vernacular home with Italianate or Queen Anne details. The significant buildings feature high style elements from the Italian Villa and Queen Anne periods of the late 19th century. There are 210 buildings within the district boundaries, of which 24 are significant, 175 are contributing and 1 are intrusions.

The Spring Grove Borough Historic District consists of three major north/south streets: Water Street, Main Street, and East Street. Main Street is Pennsylvania Route 116 which links Hanover 9.3 miles to the southwest and York 9.7 miles to the northeast. The tree-lined Main Street exhibits the majority of significant buildings. Both Water and East Streets are parallel to Main Street, flanking it on either side and are generally residential in nature.

Two railroad lines enter the lower third of the Spring Grove Historic District and act as transportation lines to the paper mill. From 1908 to 1939 a trolley linking Hanover to York passed through Spring Grove by way of Constitution Avenue.

The boundary of the historic district follows the general outline of the former residential limits of the bird's eye view drawn by Fowler in 1887. There are distinct changes in land use at the boundary limits. Modern factory buildings and parking lots border the south and east. Great open spaces consisting of lawns and recreational fields front the northern and eastern boundaries. On the western perimeter and continuing on parts of the other three sides there is an obvious change in lot sizes and building styles. The area within the district boundaries developed rapidly between 1880-1900. It is a cohesive district distinguished by simple 2 1/2 story Georgian vernacular houses built on narrow parcels.

The town originated, grew and thrived as a result of the paper mill industry. The Spring Grove Borough Historic District stands today with most of the significant structures as they were during the height of the town's development. The period of architectural significance in Spring Grove is 1880-1930. Although there are a few structures still standing that date from the 1861 to 1880 period, these buildings were farmhouses which were incorporated into the townscape. Similar in scale to the neighboring worker houses, these farmhouses are of a Georgian vernacular style but made of brick and are more substantial than the wood framed laborers' homes.

The Victorian flamboyance of the era is evident in the high style detail and scale of the significant buildings within the district. The highly detailed buildings were designed by J. A. Dempwolf's regionally prominent York architectural firm. The finer buildings include an Italian Villa school building with a three story campanile and carved griffins; a four story Queen Anne hotel with a five story turret and cast terra cotta details; a three story firehall with cast terra cotta lion heads and decorative brickwork; and a Late Gothic Revival brownstone Cathedral.

Although the district is characterized by Georgian vernacular residences and high style Queen Anne public buildings, there are significant structures which have been constructed in this century. Of these, the two brownstone Gothic churches on Main Street, the Art Deco auditorium on East Street, the Deco shop entrance on Main Street, and the Georgian Revival gas station on Main Street are architecturally significant, even though they differ from the predominantly residential character of the district.

There are only fifteen intrusions within the district boundaries: a 1 1/2 story contemporary fire station at the corner of S. Main and E. Railroad Streets, a one-story narrow commercial building, a three-story brick 1960's commercial building, a garage not visible from the street, and two parking lots near the mill on Main Street, contemporary houses on N. Water and Jackson Streets, a 1960's addition on the school lot, a concrete block storage building set back from the street, and two rows of garages on East Street.


The Spring Grove Historic District shows significance in the areas of architecture and industry. The district is characterized by simple Georgian vernacular homes which reflect the relationship between labor and industry. Spring Grove is a one industry town. The success of its paper mill has allowed Spring Grove to prosper at a rate unlike surrounding towns its size. The wealth generated by the P. H. Glatfelter Paper Company has been, in part, recycled into the community to fund social programs as well as the construction of several public buildings. The relationship between the paper mill and the town's people is one of mutual respect. The historic district as outlined contains 210 buildings within 48.81 acres. Of the twenty-four significant buildings, ten were funded by the Glatfelter family. Several were architect-designed, exhibiting a level of design and craftsmanship quite unique for a town its size.

Before Peter Dicks built his bloomery in 1755 the area which later became Spring Grove was inhabited by the Seneca-Susquehannock Indians. By 1770, Dicks built a forge and started the first iron industry west of the Susquehanna River. This iron industry was bought and sold by a number of owners who helped to establish the area as well as the name Spring Forge. For nearly a century, iron was made and forged at this site near Codorus Creek.

Jacob Hauer managed the forge from 1835 to 1852. He purchased the forge in 1852 and converted it to a paper mill. After his death in 1855, his heirs managed the mill until 1863 when it was sold to P. H. Glatfelter and Martin Laucks, men with prior paper mill experience.

Under this new leadership, 1864 marked the beginning of an era of great enterprise for the paper mill settlement at Codorus Creek. The mill race and water-powered mill took on new dimensions. A decade later, P. H. Glatfelter, having kept in step with new inventions and machinery, moved the mill to its present site. This modernization of the buildings was the first of four that the mill would receive over a seventy year period. [1]

Horse drawn wagons were insufficient to move the raw materials [2] and finished products needed for the paper mill business. As a result, in 1876 the railroad laid tracks to the mill, and with it came industrial revolution and economic development. Spring Grove being somewhat isolated and situated halfway between York and Hanover, relied heavily on the railroad for its business.

As a direct result of the success of the paper industry, the town grew steadily. In 1882, the Borough of Spring Grove was incorporated. The paper mill built and sold housing to its workers. The progressive company also provided electricity and water mains to the borough long before surrounding areas received them.

The period between 1880 and 1900 represented an era of dramatic growth for the industry. Due to the expansion of the paper mill, more employees and materials were needed for capacity production. Houses were erected to accommodate the increased population of new workers and businesses were created to complement the flourishing paper mill. The borough's second wave of expansion is illustrated in the 1887 bird's eye view of Spring Grove.

During this period of major construction many of the architecturally significant buildings were completed. Noteworthy structures such as St. Paul's Lutheran Church (a High Victorian Gothic building — later replaced with the present Gothic Revival Cathedral), the Queen Anne style firehouse and Aldine Hotel, the Italian Villa style public school, and the Stick style train station were built and furnished in whole or in part by Glatfelter generosity. A number of Glatfelter Company buildings as well as the stately homes on South Main Street are architect-designed and architecturally significant. The new prosperity allowed the town to hire such regionally prominent architects from York as J. A. Dempwolf and Hamme and Leber.

From 1878 only a variety of businesses established themselves in Spring Grove. An ice house, iron ore mines, tobacco and cigar companies are just a few of the businesses that have come and gone. Stambaugh's meat market and butcher shop, Alwine's brickmaking and Senft's furniture, planing and lumber business have been in existence since that era. During the late 19th century, these support businesses and diverse industries continued to attest to the diligence of the German and English settlers and were economically interrelated to the existence of the paper mill as the mainstay of the town.

After the turn of the century, a generation after its incorporation, the borough went through its fastest growth period. Spring Grove experienced a time of economical and social stabilization. In the decade beginning in 1900, a number of institutions manifested themselves architecturally. Two banks were established on Main Street, the three major churches were either built or first occupied by their congregations and the York-Hanover Electric Railroad first provided Spring Grove with interurban transit.

Through 1980 Spring Grove has shown a steady increase in population. New commercial establishments opened with continued regularity and the paper mill even expanded from 1922-1930. A number of auto-related businesses and ribbon, clothing, and hosiery factories assisted in the steady economic development of Spring Grove. These light industries, however, never experienced the booming prosperity of the paper mill and, therefore, have closed down or only supplemented the town's economy.

Due to its rural setting, surrounded by farmland, the borough has been saved from heavy modern day strip commercialism and has not catered to the urban pressure of building demolition. There are 210 buildings within the district boundaries of which 24 are significant and 175 are contributing. Of the eleven intrusive buildings only the contemporary fire station with its aluminum mansard roof is blatantly intrusive. The others are either set back from the street of a smaller scale or less than fifty years old. The eleven intrusions are scattered and have little effect on the integrity of the district.

The architectural character of the district is represented by the 2 1/2 story Georgian vernacular home with Italianate or Queen Anne details. The significant buildings feature high style elements from the Italian Villa and Queen Anne periods of the late 19th century.

The Spring Grove Historic District displays architectural cohesiveness in building style, lot size, and rhythm created by the housing density. The outlined district is similar in scale to the developed area seen in the 1887 bird's eye view. The late Victorian era brought several significant buildings to Spring Grove as well as the steady construction of the modest Georgian vernacular style worker houses. Together these create an exceptional relationship. The Spring Grove Historic District has retained its overall integrity, architectural variety and sense of scale. As such, it projects a picture of a late 19th century one industry town worthy of listing on the National Register of Historic Places.


  1. The paper mill complex was not included in the Historic District due to its scale. The buildings of the mill complex have been altered a number of times and appear as several buildings under one roof. Even though, from Main Street, the building facade was built in 1927, the additions which extend behind it were built or altered from the 1960's to the present. Although, there are two buildings which stand alone and display the architectural detail and character of the 1887 renovation of the mill, their location does not enhance the district and a justification of their inclusion cannot be made. Industrially, the mill remains a vital historical component of the borough's evolution, however, architecturally it has lost its integrity and remains at the edge of the Spring Grove Historic District.
  2. The P.H. Glatfelter Paper Company was one of the first mills in this country to use wood instead of rags for paper production.



Emig, Evelyn F., Joseph S. Lewis, Eloise Lovegren, and Josephy W. Seitz. A 100th Anniversary History of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Spring Grove, Pa. NP, published in or around the year 1980.

Forry, Larry S. Spring Grove Bi-Centennial 1747-1947. NP, published in or around the year 1947

Gibson, John. History of York County, PA. Chicago: F.A. Battey Publishing Co., 1886.

Hersh, Grier, Francis Farquhar and George Prowell. York, Pennsylvania: Introductory, Financial, Manufacturing, Historic, The York of Today. Philadelphia, PA: Sheldon Company, Inc., 1904.

Kurowski, Sandra S. ed. The Spring Grove Years 1882-1982

Lipper, Mark. Paper, People, Progress: The Story of the P.H. Glatfelter Company of Spring Grove, Pennsylvania. NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1980.

Prowell, George R. History of York County, Pennsylvania. Chicago: J.H. Beers and Co., 1907. Vol I pp 909-915, Vol II.


Shermeyer, Mark David. "The Dempwolf Public Schools." York, Pennsylvania, 19 March 1982. (Typewritten).


The Government of York County. Issued by the Board of County Commissioners. York, Pennsylvania: July 1981, pp. 56-58.


Fowler, T.M. Spring Grove, 1887. Morrisville, Pennsylvania. Bird's eye view of the community.

Nichols, Beach. Atlas of York County, Pennsylvania. PA: Pomeroy, Whitman, and Company, 1876

Shearer, W.O. and D.J. Lake. Map of York County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: 1860.

Small, D. and W. Wagner. Map of York and Adams Counties. PA: Small and Wagner, Publishers, 1821.

Mosely, Thresa M., and Klosowski, R. Stefan, Spring Grove Historic District, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Church Street • College Avenue • Constitution Avenue • East Street • Main Street • Railroad Street • Water Street

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