York’s Architecture & JA Dempwolf

How many of these buildings do you recognize? 

During the mid-1870s, John Augustus Dempwolf started one of the most successful architectural practices in south central Pennsylvania. Joined by his brother Reinhardt and nephew Frederick, the firm of J.A. Dempwolf designed hundreds of buildings in ten states. Many of York’s architects got their start with this firm including; Martin Bowers, John B. Hamme, Edward Thomas Keyworth, Edward Leber, Harry. R. Lenker, Arthur Rosser,  J. B. Rosser, Robert P. Stair, Harry  E. Yessler. They designed public buildings such as banks, schools and factories, business premises, and churches as well as residences.  Within walking distance of Continental Square one can view numerous surviving examples of their work. A searchable database of the surviving original drawing is found on the York County Heritage Trust website.

Bear's Department Store downtown York PA



Bear’s Dept. Store northwest corner of Continental Square,  addition 1911

Dempwolf was hired to design an addition to the existing 1888 structure in 1911 but the end result was essentially a new structure utilizing a few of the existing walls.  This commercial style building with decorative Italianate brackets was one of the anchor stores in downtown York until the 1970s.





Bon-ton 100 West Market Street (1911)

Max Grumbacher opened a dry goods store in 1898 at 36 West Market Street. In response to his growing business, a new building was designed at 100 West Market Street. Known for its “Tea Room” that could hold 250 people, it also had one of York’s first “moving stairway”. Today it is houses the York County Human Services Center.





Central Market  34 West Market Street (1888)

Located on North Beaver Street and West Philadelphia Streets at Cherry Lane, this commercial red-brown brick and brownstone structure cost approximately $50,000 to complete. Today it stands as the heartbeat of the Arts district.






Colonial Hotel (1893) 18 South George Street and Rupp Building (1892)

With a capacity of 75 guest rooms when it opened, the 1908 addition expanded its capacity to 200 rooms. A fire in 1947 destroyed part of the roof of this Chateauesque style hotel with a dining room found on the top floor. The adjoining Rupp Building is Victorian Romanesque in style incorporating golden brick into its façade.






Fluhrer Bldg  17 – 19 West Market Street (1911)

Established in 1884, Fluhrer Jewelry store  commissioned Dempwolf to design a new building in 1911. With a façade of glazed tile and incorporating Italian Renaissance sensitivities, Harry H. Fluhrer established “York’s finest jewelry store.”




Strand-Capitol  Performing Arts Center 48 – 60 North George Street (1917)

The older portion is the Italian Renaissance structure known as the Capitol Theatre and was built in 1917. Originally known as the Jackson Theatre it served as a popular source of entertainment including vaudeville, silent films to “talking pictures”.







York County court house 28 East Market Street (1898)

The third court house in York, this building incorporated the six granite Ionic columns from the second court house. Following the construction of the York County Judicial Center this building became the York County Administrative Center.





York Telephone and Telegraph 331 South Beaver Street (1929)

Designed by Frederick Dempwolf and built in 1929 this building is one of York’s most notable Art Deco buildings.










York Trust bank East Market Street 21 East Market Street (1910)

Beginning in the late 1800s, it became the York Trust Company in 1901. The building designed by Dempwolf has a Neo-classical façade that incorporates both marble and granite.







                                                                             J. A. Dempwolf