York County, PA

Laid out as the first town west of the Susquehanna River in 1741, York is preparing to celebrate 275 proud years of creating our nation in 2016.

From serving as the First Capital of the United States to powering the Industrial Revolution and helping to win World War II, centuries of American progress have come through this charming city near the Mason-Dixon Line.

But why wait to visit next year? Get the historic birthday party started this November!


Articles of Confederation Turns 238 Years Old 

On November 15, 1777, the Continental Congress was seated in York after fleeing the redcoats in Philadelphia.

Here they adopted the Articles of Confederation officially uniting what was then just a rebellious collection of British colonies as the "United States of America."

Although the actual anniversary falls on a Sunday this year, the York County Heritage Trust is hosting Colonial Complex Public Tours Tuesday-Saturday, giving you the chance to stand amid the setting where history was made in York 238 years ago this November.

Also, the Colonial Court House will feature programming on the Articles of Confederation Saturday, November 14.

If you haven't visited before, the Colonial Complex features four historic sites all telling separate, unique stories of York's and America's earliest days:


Colonial Court House - Learn about the important decisions reached while the Second Continental Congress was in York.

1741 Golden Plough Tavern - Discover the important role taverns played in colonial life and get a glimpse of life for a working-class family during the founding of the City of York.

General Horatio Gates House - Explore a home used by General Horatio Gates during the winter of 1777-1778 while the Continental Congress met in York.

Barnett Bobb Log House - Learn about family life in the early 1800s.


This will also be the final month of the year to explore all four sites of Downtown York's historic Colonial Complex before they close for the season.


Drop in a Little 21st Century Fun

In the age of selfies, there are picture-perfect spots throughout York's historic downtown to say "You were there" where so much more of America's history took place while the city served as the U.S. Capital.

Use the hashtag #exploreyorkpa to share with everyone.


Toast With Lafayette

In one of the most intriguing episodes of early American history, General Gates and others talked of removing General Washington in an episode known as the Conway Cabal, which occurred while the Continental Congress was seated in York.

As the story goes, the rumbling never progressed after Marquis de Lafayette supported General Washington. A statue of Lafayette giving his toast now stands along West Market Street next to the Colonial Complex - one of York's most identifiable images. 


First Thanksgiving

Shortly before the Articles of Confederation were adopted and to commemorate the watershed Battle of Saratoga, a most American of holidays was first proclaimed from York in November 1777: Thanksgiving.

Get your picture taken next to the marker that stands on East Market Street near the historic Yorktowne Hotel - A Historic Hotel of America, which itself has marked 90 years this fall.


Ring In York's History 

No, this isn't a bell. At the York County Heritage Trust's Agricultural & Industrial Museum in Downtown York, a cross-section of very old tree is on display.

Colored indicators mark various sections of tree growth rings showing how big this one-towering giant was at various points of York's history, including when the Continental Congress met here.

You can point to where your birthday falls - it's pretty much guaranteed to make you feel young by comparison.


Explore More York History


American Civil War

Get on a faithful-replica period locomotive at Steam Into History and follow the route Abraham Lincoln took to give his epic Gettysburg Address in November 1863. In fact, the 16th president himself will be on the train this November 14-15, so don't miss your chance to Ride the Rails with Lincoln!

Then visit Wrightsville in eastern York County, where the Burning of the Bridge Diorama commemorates the North burning the bridge across the Susquehanna River and likely altering the course of the war right before the Battle of Gettysburg.

And to bring the whole York County side of the Civil War story together, visit the York County Heritage Trust's Historical Society Museum for The Fiery Trial exhibit highlighting our region's role in the conflict. Including, unfortunately, York's surrender in 1863.


A History of Industry

Learn while touring the Trust's Agricultural & Industrial Museum how Phineas Davis designed and built the first coal-powered locomotive, then walk up to colossal manufacturing equipment of the past and learn just how many major corporations and global products are linked to York.


The York Plan & More

The Agricultural & Industrial Museum shows you how York fueled the war effort that helped to defeat fascism during World War II at the York Plan exhibit.

And in addition to industrial might, York County also contributed "A Quiet Streak of Lightning" General Jacob L. Devers to the fight. You can learn more about General Devers at a presentation and symposium coming up November 6 and November 7 at the Trust's Historical Society Museum.


In the Neighborhood

America's First Capital city is also your convenient central locale to explore the nearby Gettysburg Battlefield, Lancaster County's Amish country, the War of 1812 historic sites of Baltimore and so much more.

Want to make it easy to plan a multi-day stay in York to see it all? As always, an extensive list of themed lodging packages offers the right option perfectly paired to your tastes for a historic getaway to York County, PA!