OP-ED: In support of the Modernaire Motel
One of York County's charms is the diversity of architecture found within our borders. From simple Colonial styles to Victorian opulence, grand early 20th-century buildings to more recent post-modern forms, York County offers architectural eye candy to residents and visitors alike.
Some styles, like Colonial Revival, are found everywhere — in towns, suburban neighborhoods and country settings. Other styles are far less common, like Art Moderne. Also known as Streamline Modern, this style was in some ways an outgrowth of Art Deco, although the former is defined by angular forms while the latter incorporates curves and round shapes into its vocabulary.
The Modernaire Motel office building on East Market Street in Springettsbury Township is a wonderful example of this type of "streamline" architecture.
Inspired by transportation — including automobiles and steamboats — Art Moderne is a unique mid-20th-century style, but one that is not well-represented in York County. Within the York City, there are two prominent examples — the White Rose Motor Club building on East Market Street (a lot of Yorkers still refer to it as the AAA Building) and the former White Rose Motor Co. building on West King Street, today owned by Logos Academy.
Situated at the intersection of East Market Street and Mount Zion Road, the office building at the Modernaire Motel is perhaps the highest-profile example of the style. The prominent curved façade, stainless steel and glass blocks are all exemplary features of the style.
In addition to the architectural significance of the building, it also has a historic significance to the community.
The Lincoln Highway was the first coast-to-coast road and traveled through the heart of York County. Throughout the country, Lincoln Highway enthusiasts travel to see the ever-dwindling building stock from its heyday. In fact, the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor is located immediately west of York County's borders.
Perhaps the best example of Roadside Architecture in the country is located not far from the Modernaire Motel — the Haines Shoe House. The former Lincoln Highway Garage on the eastern end of York City was another local icon, but that building no longer stands.
Historic York, Inc. believes that the Modernaire Motel office building is worthy of saving. We like to say that any historic building is worthy of saving, and we understand that there are a number of additional buildings slated for demolition, notably the historically significant Bloomingdale Estate, to make way for a new shopping center.
Progress is vital for every community, but through progress we must not lose sight of our heritage. As the voice of historic architecture in York County, Historic York, Inc. strongly encourages a robust dialogue between Spring Lane, LLC, the property's developer, and officials from Springettsbury Township. When talented minds come together to look at alternative solutions, it is a win for everyone involved, and unique projects often result. Just look around York City and the amazing amount of adaptive reuse projects that have been completed over the past decade.
Historic buildings play a vital role in our future, and we believe that the Modernaire Motel and Bloomingdale Estate can have a vibrant future as part of the Spring Lane, LLC development.
— Mary Anne Bacas is a member of the Historic York Board of Directors. Board member Scott Butcher contributed to this op-ed.