The Yorktowne Hotel, in the heart of downtown York at 48 E. Market Street, has been a local and regional landmark for almost a century. Central to it’s riches to rags to riches story – in addition to its enduring community legacy – are the historic tax credits that played a big part in it’s 21st century renaissance.
A Brief History
The Yorktowne Hotel, in the heart of downtown York at 48 E. Market Street, is a 11-story, brick, and stone commercial building. Designed in the Renaissance Revival style, the handsome building features commercial storefronts, decorative stone cornices and window surrounds, and a striking row of tall arched windows along Market Street.
W.L. Stoddart was picked to design the Yorktowne after a Chamber of Commerce committee determined that the prospects of building a luxury hotel in York were favorable given the city’s proximity to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Harrisburg. The city officials advertised the development plan in local newspapers with headlines like “Modern Hotels DO pay!” The Hotel opened its doors in 1925 in the midst of the Roaring Twenties when York was a city on the rise. The newly completed hotel included 198 rooms and was known for its high ceilings, large guest rooms, brass and crystal chandeliers, and mirrored and paneled walls.
In the Yorktowne’s most prosperous periods, the hotel had a great reputation and was a place where family, business, and large social events were often held. It was a must stop for politicians on the campaign trail traveling through York, like Bill Clinton did in 1992. Famous individuals such as Frank Sinatra, Walter Cronkite, Tony Bennett, and Lucille Ball were among some who also made a stop at the luxury hotel.
The Yorktowne had its ups and downs in the 20th century, like so many businesses in urban centers. The Great Depression was a challenge to weather in the 1930s but success in the 1940s and 1950s resulted in another expansion in 1957. However, by the 1960s and 70s, the proliferation of inexpensive chain hotels along major highways and interstates drew tourists and business travelers away from the hotel. By the end of the 20th century, the historic building fell into a period of neglect and deterioration with a leaky roof, failing masonry, and an interior that was extremely outdated and didn’t meet modern code requirements.
In 2011, Starwood Property Trust purchased the hotel property at sheriff’s auction and it was sold again to the York County Industrial Development Authority in 2015. Concern over the fate of the Yorktowne Hotel lead to its being listed on Preservation Pennsylvania’s 2017 Pennsylvania at Risk list. The current property owner, YTH Landlord LLC, acquired the Yorktowne in 2017.
Between 2017-2022, YTH Landlord, LLC completed a $65 million rehabilitation project of the Yorktowne Hotel, turning the vacant property into a new Hilton hotel and destination event space using historic tax credits.
Because the Yorktowne is a contributing resource to the York Historic District, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, the project was eligible for the federal and state historic tax credit programs. Fortunately, the new owner was able to meet the other qualifications for both incentives and the 20% federal credit and a $300,000 PA Historic Preservation Tax Credit from DCED became vital components in the project’s overall financing package.
The project balances the retention of the hotel’s important spaces and features with code-required upgrades and modern conveniences. Exterior work included:
- preservation of exterior masonry features,
- addition of new rear code compliant stair tower and entrance with vehicle access/drop-off,
- repairs to the main entrance’s original revolving door,
- minor modifications to the storefronts for new tenant spaces on the first floor,
- repair of existing windows with replacements where necessary, and
- renovation of existing roof penthouse, including the installation of a new roof deck area.
On the interior, the work focused on:
- preservation and restoration of the original historic public spaces such as the main lobby and ballroom,
- retention and repair of original historic finishes such as tile flooring, plaster detailing, and wall and ceiling trim,
- upgrades to hotel rooms, including new finishes and features, and
- new tenant spaces on the first floor.
One of the interesting but familiar problems in this historic building rehab project was the preservation of the original decorative metal balustrades on the main stair and along the mezzanine outside of the ballroom. To meet today’s code requirements for height, the rails needed to be raised. The solution was to carefully remove the historic rail, install a simple metal piece on top of the historic balustrade, and reattach the rail.
The project team’s resolution minimally altered the existing railing system and was acceptable to the local code reviewer. The completed project received its final Part 3 certification from the National Park Service in April 2023, as the completed work met the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
The Yorktowne Hotel, now operating as a modern boutique hotel under the Tapestry Collection by Hilton, is once again an active part of the City of York and benefits local businesses, colleges, and the York community.
The federal and state historic tax credit programs are great tools to use in reviving historic buildings – for continued or new use – that will have positive impacts on the people and places around them.