The York ELKS Brotherly Love Lodge #228

Another long one but another piece of our Glorious History. This part is about the Brotherly Love Lodge #228 and its move to West Maple Street from West Princess Street……..

After being located for 42 years at 109 West Princess Street, the Brothers of the Brotherly Love Lodge #228 Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the World came together to purchase a plot of land at 335 West Maple Street on which to construct a New Lodge. Image may contain: text and outdoorThe Brothers were actually forced to move from their West Princess enclave due to the properties on West Princess Street, which was a mostly Black neighborhood, being designated as an Urban Renewal area. This was a common practice in those days to undermine and destabilize Black Neighborhoods. As in other so-called Urban Renewal areas the space eventually became a parking lot.

The Brothers retained attorney John R. Gailey to guide them through what would become a difficult and contentious process. The deed to the property, which was formerly owned by Mr. & Mrs. George A. Jacobs, had a racial restriction which stated that the property could not be sold to anyone who had even a drop of Negro blood in them. This was a common practice in many areas of the North at the time and contributed to the concentration of Negroes in specific areas of the community. To get around this Attorney Gailey had his secretary, a white woman, buy the property and then had the Elk Brothers purchase it from her. It worked like a charm. But the battle had only just begun.Image may contain: text

The neighbors were very wary of a Black Club moving into what at that time was a mostly white neighborhood, so they protested in any manner they could. Despite neighbor attempts to block it the Brothers obtained a building permit for $35,000.00 and retained Architect Robert G. McAlarney to design a one story brick structure for the location. The neighbors did not give up there. They rally their supporters to oppose the transfer of the Lodges liquor license from their Princess Street location to the New West Maple Street location. More than three busloads of York homeowners and neighbors jammed a Liquor Control Board hearing room on Friday December 2, 1960 in an effort to block the transfer of a retail liquor license to the new Elks building under construction. Over 110 protestors and ninety-one signatories went on record opposing the club request.

Attorney GaiImage may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoorley first called The Lodges Grand Exalted Ruler, Raymond A. Rhoades, to the stand. Rhoades testified that more than 60 spaces for parking would be provided for their patrons. Rhoades rebutted testimony by protestor Joseph Borsellino, that the Elks had a “bad” reputation from West Princess Street. Asked by Gailey whether the fact that the club was a Negro club have any bearing on his objections, Borsellino said no. Rhoades said the Elks club had never called the police for a disturbance. “We operated our club the way it ought to be operated”, said Rhoades. Gailey bought out in Rhoades testimony that the area where the club was located was “the social and recreational center of the Negro community”.
Joe Bendel, executive director of the York Redevelopment Authority, testified that the Elks members were Image may contain: 6 people, textgood citizens and that the old club had to be demolished for redevelopment. He stated that the new site would be adequate for the club’s purpose. Other protesters complained of lack of parking and other nuisance objections but eventually on February 18, 1961 the application was granted. The approval raised a storm of protest from the neighbors. But Liquor Control Board Secretary Frank J. Shea who presented the decision said, “Conjecture, fear and supposition cannot be permitted to sway board thinking where sound discretion must be exercised”. He added that the Elks had held a license for more than ten years and had never been cited for a violation. “It would be manifestly unjust to presuppose that a change in location would bring about a corresponding change in conduct. Fairness can dictate that only past good conduct will continue”.Image may contain: one or more people

There is so much more to the Elks story. The rise and fall of this Historic organization is a bittersweet part of our Glorious History and this, like other Historical events from our past is a story I will expand upon as I complete my book. Stay tuned.

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Dr. George W. Bowles

Dr. George W. Bowles

Dr. George W. Bowles was born in York, Pa. in 1881. He was the Son of Mr. Adolphus & Mrs. Harriet Bowles of this town. His father Adolphus Bowles, was born in 1850 here in York. They lived at 127 West Princess Street. His Father Adolphus was employed in the Small building downtown as an Elevator Man. George was always an intelligent and motivated individual. He was the First Black Man to graduate from York High in 1898, although he was the second Black Person overall. Mrs. Emma Robinson, longtime school teacher of this town, was the very first person of color to graduate from York High in 1886.

After graduating from York High, Dr. Bowles attended and graduated from Livingstone College, a Historically Black University in North Carolina, affiliated with the A.M.E. Zion Church. He then pursued a four year Degree in Medicine at Howard University in Washington D.C. Dr. Bowles graduated number one in his class from Howard University on June 1, 1906. He was awarded his diploma personally by U.S. President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. In 1906, immediately after graduation, Dr. Bowles returned to York to become the First Black physician to practice in this city. But Dr. Bowles became more than just a Doctor. He became a Guiding Light in the development of York’s Black community for the next several decades.

In 1917 Dr. Bowles married the lovely Helen Hunter Taylor, a teacher in the Harrisburg public schools. She was the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Lorenzo Taylor, who were prominent in the colored circles of Harrisburg. Miss Taylor in addition to being a school teacher was a musician of marked ability. The couple would reside at 322 Water Street in York which is now Pershing Avenue.

Dr. Bowles was well known in this city and commanded great respect especially among the leading citizens here, both Black and White. He was President of the Peoples Forum a Black organization which stressed education and vocational activities in York. In 1910 the Peoples Forum opened and operated a tobacco factory on Penn & Smyser Street in York. The factory was under the direct supervision of Dr. Bowles and employed about 50 Negroes. The factory was one of the greater accomplishments of the Peoples Forum Vocational and Employment initiatives. The workers were paid between $2.50 and $9.00 per week. Dr. Bowles intended the Forum and its initiatives to be a Great force for uplift among the colored race in this city. The Forum was non-sectarian and held a regular meeting every Sunday at A.M.E. Zion church which was on East King Street at the time. Other officers of the organization were; Marion J. Armstrong Vice-President, S. Milton Gibson, Secretary, Albert Foster assistant Secretary, Paul Foster corresponding Secretary, Nathan Gibson Chaplin, George Chapman Bible Instructor and John C. Reeves Treasurer.

Dr. Bowles along with Rev. Thomas Montouth and his wife Mary, was also instrumental in procuring the Community House for Colored People which was established on North Duke Street in 1917 and had a reading room, reception room, game room and a small gymnasium. Community House was under the auspices of Faith Presbyterian Church and was a model for the Crispus Attucks Association, of which Dr. Bowles along with Rev. Montouth, was a Founding member. In addition to Bible study classes, domestic science and art classes, boys and girls clubs and an employment bureau the Community House became famous for its Community Lyceums or forums. These lyceums were held every week alternatively at the several Negro churches in the community.

In 1915 Dr. Bowles, whose office was at 112 West King Street, was one of three representatives from the State of Pennsylvania to be appointed by then Governor Tener to attend the Emancipation Celebration marking the fiftieth anniversary of Negro Freedom, which was to be held in Chicago.

In 1917 Dr. Bowles was elected as a member of the House of Delegates of the National Medical Association, an organization of Negro doctors, surgeons, dentist and pharmacists throughout the United States. In 1938 he was elected as President of this prestigious organization. As President of this organization Dr. Bowles was honored by the Pennsylvania Institute of Negro Health for his “outstanding contributions” and for his activity in planning for better Negro health in the United States. He testified before the U.S. Senate committee on a national health bill.

For 10 years Dr. Bowles chaired the advisory committee of the National Negro United Public Health Services in Washington. In 1942 he was appointed by Governor Gifford Pinchot as a member of the Pennsylvania Inter-Racial Commission. Locally he served for six years as Chairman of the Inter-Racial Commission of York. And in addition to his character building efforts at Crispus Attucks he was instrumental in insuring that the young Black males of York had an opportunity to build their character and leadership skills by participating in the Historic Boy Scout Troop #11, which he along with others worked diligently to sustain.

Dr. Bowles was a prolific writer and a powerful speaker. He would write many letters to the local newspapers trumpeting the need for Negro Unity to address the problems in the Negro community. During celebration recognizing the two hundred and ninety sixth anniversary of the Negro in this country, held at St. Pauls Hall on West Jackson Street, Dr. Bowles spoke on the subject “Will the Education of the Negro Solve the Race Problem?” For a speech at the Bethel A.M.E. church on Newberry & King Street, Dr. Bowles chose as his topic “Race prejudice and Some of It’s Causes”. At another Lyceum at Bethel A.M.E Dr. Bowles spoke on “The Negro Problem Real & Imaginary”.

In March of 1916, Dr. Bowles and others, organized a committee of persons interested in uplifting the colored people of this community. They called a mass meeting for the expressed purpose of forming a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The objectives of the organization would be to form a center for popular education, to create a bureau for the study of local racial conditions and to seek the overall welfare and advancement of the colored people of York.

A short time later Dr. Bowles and a delegation of York Negroes met with Mayor Hugentugler to petition against the showing of the racist film “Birth of a Nation”. The delegation felt that the already considerable prejudice against the Negro race in York would be made far worse by the showing of this anti-Negro film which was based on the Thomas Dixon, Jr. book “The Clansman”. Other members of the delegation were; Rev. J.A.S. Cole, Pastor of A.M.E. Zion church; Rev. G.S. Burton Pastor of Shiloh Baptist church; Rev. W.E. Williams, George I. Reed, G.H. Chapman, and B.T. Montgomery.

Dr. Bowles served on the Board of Directors of Crispus Attucks for over 20 years. Crispus Attucks had a resounding impact on the growth and development of York’s Black Community during and after the tenure of Dr, Bowles. Dr. Bowles statement on the founding of Crispus Attucks was prophetic. He said, “We have a National Purpose in forming this organization. We will be a character building organization. We want to influence the young in order to bring them into Harmony with our ideals. We hope in the development of our center to bring to bear influences that will create conditions which will enable another rising generation to develop character and to perpetuate the best of our culture and traditions. The overall purpose of our organization is for the promotion of the social and moral welfare of the colored people of York. To us this means up-building character by creating and developing activities and conditions that will help the individuals to live happily and normally with each other.”
Dr. George W. Bowles was a Giant in the History of York

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