Cookes House

York City, York County, PA

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The Cookes House (338-340 Cororus Street) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document [1]


The Cookes House (also known as Tom Paine's House), built in 1761, is a stone house with a four-window front facing east has stone arched over window supports on the first floor level. The original date stone with builder's inscription is yet in place over the original front door location. Both Germanic and Provincial Georgian architectural features were used. Gable ends still have the original cornice boards with the peculiar "outward kick" or upsweep about one foot from the lower ends. Originally the central chimney system of the German settlers was installed. At the turn of the last century, the house was converted into a double dwelling by facing the north gable end with a brick double entrance front and the interior divided along its north-south axis.

At present [1972], the Cookes House is newly roofed, interiors gutted except for a few remaining original baseboards and chair rails. Basically only the stone shell remains.


Built in 1761, the Cookes House (Tom Paine's House) is the third oldest surviving structure in the City of York. It predates the time (September 1777-June 1778) when York (Yorktowne) was briefly the seat of government of the United States. Strong local tradition ties this house as the residence of Thomas Paine (secretary of Foreign Affairs) at the time Congress convened in York. In the area surrounding the house, Congressmen grazed their horses. Tradition also claims that national documents were stored in the Cookes House.

The Cookes House (Tom Paine's House) is also the earliest surviving stone building in York (the 1751 Gen. Gates House being rebuilt). It is an interesting mixture of traditional Germanic architecture with influences of Georgian symmetry in its facade.

Other than the Friends York Meeting House built in the 1760's, the Cookes House (Tom Paine's House) is the last remaining building in York having direct connections with York's term as the Federal Capital.

Testimony of Historic Significance

In April of 1969 Mrs. Gorman Knaub informed Walter Van Baman, Attorney at law, that her father, Robert Kline of Mount Royal, Dover RD 1, Pa., when he was 15 years old in 1903 and his father, then living in the Cookes House, found letters in the rear shed of the house. These letters were damp, rnoldy and so they spread them in the sun to dry along with other articles.

He recalls the letters were addressed to Thomas Paine at Yorktowne. All were from one woman of London. Not knowing their value, Mr. Kline and his father burned them with the debris removed from the shed.

Mrs. Knaub is quite willing to attest to the truth of these facts.

Attorney Van Baman has sworn statements made by Mr. W.F.O. Rosenmiller, now deceased, who recalled as a child in the late 1800's being shown the Cookes House and having it described to him as the place where Thomas Paine stayed when in York doing work with the Continental Congress.

M. Conway in his book, Life of Thomas Paine 1892, Putnam N.Y. Volume I page 102 states,

"the stone house on the banks of the Codorus at York is still pointed out by trustworthy tradition as that to which he bore the chest of Congressional papers with which he had fled to Trenton when Howe entered Philadelphia."

A footnote on the same page: "The house is marked B (built) by J.B. Cookis in the year 1761. It is probable that Congress deemed it prudent to keep important documents a little way from the edifice[1] in the centre of the town where it met, a building which no longer stands."

Other than the Friends Quaker Meeting House built in the 1760's, the Cookes House (Tom Paine's House) is the last remaining building in York having direct connections with this Town's term as capital of the United States of America.

[1]Refers to the County Court House built in 1755 and torn down in 1841.


Life of Thomas Paine. New York, Putnam & Sons 1892 and 1909.

Life and Works of Thomas Paine. by Thos. Paine National Historic Association, 1925.

York Gazette and Daily, York Pa. April 3, 1969.

York's Centennial Memorial. Hiram Young, 1887.

  1. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Cookes House, nomination document, 1972, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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