Spring Grove-area residents rally around historic Hoke House as demolition looms

Noel Miller
York Dispatch

The Hoke House, one of the oldest structures in Spring Grove, might not be standing for much longer.

Rutter's, which owns the property, applied for a demolition permit in early January — once again mobilizing the efforts of local preservationists set on saving the 18th-century tavern that sits along a busy traffic circle.

"Once it’s gone, it will never come back," said Paul Nevin, one of the organizers of the Friends of Hoke House group.

For now, the issue rests with borough officials.

According to borough manager Zach Gulden, the preservationists have limited options to block the planned demolition. They can appeal to the borough, which itself has until Feb. 16 to approve or deny the permit. Borough Council members ultimately announced an emergency meeting, planned for Monday, Feb. 13, to gather input from the community.

Rutter's did not respond to requests for comment.

MORE:County prison used force on inmates nearly 300 times in both 2021, 2022 — and that's an improvement

MORE:York-Adams League big picture: Northeastern girls among season's first triumphant stories

MORE:Six more weeks of winter? York County's Groundhog Day events will decide

Nevin and others spoke at the Spring Grove's most recent planning meeting last week, asking the borough to deny the permit. Although the planning commission has no say in the permit approval, at the time, it was the only borough meeting scheduled to take place before the permit due date.

"That house is very important to the historical part of this town," said resident Shawn Carbaugh. "There is a lot more in that house that is worth saving than Rutter's would like you to know about. I don't know that there is anything that can be done, but I think we ought to try."

402 N. Main St. in Spring Grove on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.

Madison Crouthamel, a Hoke family descendant, said her grandmother and her grandmother's cousins have an attachment to the house where they spent so much of their respective childhoods.

"They have fond memories of being there," Crouthamel said.

This isn't the first time the house has been up for demolition. In 2014, the borough issued a letter to Rutter's stating the building had to be brought up to code or be demolished. Crouthamel, who was in high school at the time, remembered joining the Friends of Hoke House group to help prevent the last threatened demolition.

>> Please consider subscribing to support local journalism. 

The Friends of Hoke House approached Rutter's and offered to restore the building, even signing an agreement with the chain of gas stations and convenience stores. According to the agreement, the group would restore the structure and, if the building wasn't leased after three years, the Friends of Hoke House would not interfere with any decisions made over the house's use — including demolition.

That period has since passed without a lease being signed, according to Gulden, ultimately leading to January's permit application.

402 N. Main St. in Spring Grove on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.

Despite that previous agreement with Rutter's, Nevin said the group plans to continue its efforts.

"We cannot fight against demolition," he said. "But we are continuing to inform the public of the significance of the house and what Spring Grove and York County will be losing."

The Hoke House dates to 1750, when it was first opened as Wilson Tavern, and is one of the three oldest structures in the borough, Nevin said. The building has seen various uses over the years, including as part of a farm and as a public library.

Another way the building could be preserved is taking it apart piece by piece and reconstructing it on separate property, Nevin said. However, he said, that option is unlikely given the latest threat of demolition. 

402 N. Main St. in Spring Grove on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.

Crouthamel said the citizens' group has been working steadfastly to save the house for the last decade.

Over that time, the group raised money to restore the house. However, the three-year period has passed, and no lease was made.

"We did make several points of success where we were able to push back demolition permits in the past," Crouthamel said. "I just want people to remember the efforts that were in place before 2023."

Residents can attend the borough council meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 13, at the borough offices located at 1 Campus Avenue, Spring Grove.

— Reach Noel Miller at NMiller3@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @TheNoelM.