The date was March 18, 1948 and the location, the York YMCA. A group of local artisans met to form the York Chapter of the Pa. Guild of Craftsmen. Mr. Roy Helton, the state president, chaired the meeting. The chapter adopted the name York Towne Chapter at its 3rd meeting, and in1958 incorporated as a non-profit organization. Meetings over the years have been held at artisans’ homes, at the Allen Building, the YMCA, the VNA, St. John’s Parish, the Children’s Home (on Philadelphia St.), the YWCA’s Putter Room, The Pine Street Center and Tile Friendship Craft Center. The members taught each other various handcrafts. Emphasis was put on teaching children as well as adults. It was always volunteer work with no remuneration for instructors. Members were always looking for vacant stores or places suitable to hold craft shows.
From the outset, the artisans wanted their own building. Sylvia Newcomb was interested in having the Chapter quartered in the Pine Street School Building, then being renovated by the City. Negotiations continued until April 1959 when members, in colonial dress, held their first meeting in the Pine Street Building. The Chapter had the use of two rooms and the basement. Slowly we acquired looms, pottery wheels, kilns, enameling ovens, cabinets, tables, chairs, etc .. We needed everything. The first classes there were in 1959: Hugo Fiora taught pottery and Lula Rennoll taught beginning weaving. In 1960 Ross Raffensperger taught jewelry.
We have been teaching classes since 1959 and these have paid for all our expenses at the Pine Street Center. Most classes started with volunteer instructors who were happy to teach for the benefit of the chapter. We also enlarged membership and increased dues for extra income. The children who were taught were for the most part from low income families in the neighborhood; they were given classes in pottery, weaving, and painting at no cost to them.
After 20 years at Pine Street we had outgrown the space. In August 1981, a member had found the perfect solution: The Friendship Fire Company was being disbanded and they were looking for a nonprofit organization to whom to donate the building in the Windsor Park area of York. Lyn Jackson, state executive director, negotiated with the Spring Garden Township on the acquisition of the building. On January 19, 1982 we held our first chapter meeting at the Friendship Fire Hall, renamed in February 1983 The Friendship Craft Center.
The Friendship Craft Center had a kitchen, a library room, a weaving room, pottery rooms, classrooms and an office — not to mention our own parking lot. Classes started to fill, with two sessions each year (in the spring and fall). Weaving, pottery, enameling, silver jewelry, rug braiding, stenciling, and pierced lamp shades were all included on a regular basis. One-day workshops in a variety of areas were offered. By 1989, the Guild membership had doubled.
In 1990 , Meadowbrook Village offered us 2,000 sq. ft. of space, rent-free, which became Meadowbrook Gallery — the Chapter’s craft retail store. This provided income for the Guild and a marvelous showplace for our crafts until 1994 when the building was demolished.
From 1981 to 1993 the York Towne Chapter co-sponsored the PA Guild of Craftsmen Holiday Craft Fair with the State Guild at the York Fairgrounds. This became the major fund-raising event each year for our Chapter. When the State Guild stopped the show, our Chapter needed to find alternative funding in order to support our building. In 1995 and 1996 the Chapter made two Victorian-style crazy quilts for raffle. ln 1996 we started “Christmas at the Guild,” an in-house retail show for our juried chapter members.
For 67 years The York Town Craft Guild has been working, following the principles of the PA Guild of Craftsmen: “To promote, educate, teach, disburse and practice the art of handcraft and to do all things necessary to accomplish the foregoing.” Dreams, aspirations, and hard work have made the York Towne Chapter what it is today.
Come and take advantage of all that’s being offered. Come and have some fun!