National House to replace all 3 floors of porches

Sean Philip Cotter

Sixty one-story columns across four floors hold up three layers of porches spanning the better part of a city block, wrapping around one of York City's more recognizable buildings.

And soon, just about all of it will be replaced — but the goal is to keep the building at the corner of South Beaver and West Market streets looking "virtually the same," according to developer Joe Musso.

The historic National House building at 57 W. Market St. is looking to undergo a makeover that would include a section-by-section replacement of the old porches that surround it.

Pending the city's approval, developers will work their way around the building that holds the Holy Hound Taproom and three stories of apartments over the course of the summer, Musso said. They'll replace the floors as well as the green columns and railings, and and they'll do some work on the soffits, but they'll keep the same cream-colored slats, he said.

Right now, it's all wood, but the replacement columns would be fiberglass and the floors would be composite, Musso said.

National House

The original National House Hotel was built in 1828, and hosted Charles Dickens and President Martin Van Buren, according to York Dispatch archives. Musso said the decks were built in the 1890s, but some owner in the 20th century removed them, maybe around when a department store moved in during the 1950s.

A restoration project in the 1980s returned the facade to it's original form based off old photos from the porches' first years, and brought back the decks. With only minor repairs, the wooden porch structure around the building has remained for the three decades since. But now it needs to be overhauled, Musso said.

"The owners at this point both for aesthetic and safety purposes would like to get this done," said Musso, a former city council president who runs Musso Development Services.

The building is owned by Sherman Property Management.

This property's located in York City's historical district, so the project needs the city council to grant it a certificate of appropriateness. This is standard protocol for work on a facade on a building in that district, which extends a ways around the city's downtown core. Someone wanting to undertake a project such as this has to present it to the city's Historical Architecture Review Board — HARB — which then gives a recommendation to council on whether the certificate should be granted, based on how well the project would conserve the history of the building.

How should York City's historical-preservation law work?

HARB gives its blessing to projects more often than not, and council usually — but not always — goes with what HARB recommends.

During Thursday's HARB meeting, Musso more or less emceed a presentation to the board, speaking about the planned work before introducing several people specializing in in different parts of the project to go into more detail. They presented to the board for about an hour before HARB voted to table the proposal until next meeting. Musso said that was the point of the presentation — to get HARB's input on what they're proposing before the developers make a final proposal, which will probably happen next time.

HARB members had several questions for the presenters about the nitty-gritty aspects of the project, such as the exact level of heat reflectiveness of whatever paint they're planning on using, but seemed largely supportive of the major elements of the project.

Board chair Dennis Kunkle said the fact that Musso was talking about replacing the porches' wooden floorboard with a wood-like composite likely wasn't a big deal.

"We don't care that much if you don't see it from the street," he said after the presenters produced samples of what the composite would look like.

The decks bear snow during a January 2016 blizzard that dumped almost 3 feet on York City.

Musso said there's still some aspects of the project they need to iron out, such as what paint the developers plan on using on the fiberglass columns, and how they will brace the railings so people can lean against them. He said he plans on working that out in the next couple of weeks so the developers can present at the May 26 HARB meeting. If the board votes on it that day, its recommendation would then get passed along to council for a vote during that body's June 7 meeting.

If all that works out, Musso said, they plan to start work quickly and wrap up the project by the end of the summer.

— Reach Sean Cotter or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.