If you travel west across the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania, you enter the city of York.It is an average, mid-sized city among the green hills of the Susquehanna Valley, but only an hour’s drive north of the Baltimore-Washington churn.It is a place rich in history that lays claim to the title of the “first capital of the United States,” as it held this status during the American Revolution allowing the Continental Congress to adopt the Articles of Confederation and then move the capital elsewhere.
York is a city that’s seen a development explosion in its suburbs, but still maintains a downtown with a weekend market, a symphony orchestra, the offices of not one, but two, daily newspapers and a spiking crime rate.
Speaking broadly, its citizens tend to be of German descent, hold conservative, hard-working Protestant values and avoid showiness where a simple nod will do.
York is getting by okay.It is named for the town in England.It is the subject of the song Shit Towne by the popular 90s band Live, whose members were themselves native Yorkers.
Nationally, York is also renowned for peppermint patties, barbells and the Harley-Davidson factory.A recent branding strategy by the Chamber of Commerce bills York County as “The Factory Tour Capital of the World,” though it’s really only the Harley plant that’s worth coming for.Other selected tours include that of a local credit union and, listed in brochures without a hint of a joke, a landfill.
Internationally, I get questions about my hometown.When I say I’m from York, I’m asked about the city’s possible relation to the Big Apple.
“No, no,” I clarify, “it’s just York.”
“This is the old York then?The original city, before the New one?” they’ll ask, interest piqued.
“Almost,” I nod.