Visit the City of York’s 1741 Golden Plough Tavern

Part of York’s fascinating Colonial Complex is the Golden Plough Tavern. Considered the oldest existing structure in York, Martin Eichelberger built the tavern in 1741, initially for use as a family home. Located today on Market Street, the road was originally a Native American trading path known as the Monocracy Trail that extended into western Maryland in the 1700s.

Golden Plough Tavern

The building’s convenient location along the Monocracy Trail near Codorus Creek made it an ideal spot for a tavern, and Eichelberger soon converted his home into one. The two-story, Germanic-influenced style building was originally one floor, with the second story being added a few years later.

The establishment served York residents and travelers into the early 1800s.

Today, the building, part of the York County History Center’s Colonial Complex, is open for daily guided tours. On my recent trip, I learned the etymology of the phrase “Bar and Grill.”

Did You Know?

When you hear the phrase “bar and grill,” what comes to mind? Probably a full-menu restaurant that serves alcohol. We have several eateries in Lancaster County, PA, with bar and grill in the name, such as Applebee’s Grill + Bar, Trio Bar and Grill, and American Bar & Grill.

In the modern sense, the phrase refers to a bar that provides food options beyond just stale peanuts. This combination may have been influenced by blue laws that permitted bars to allow minors inside if they had a substantial food menu in addition to their drinks. Hence, the grill in bar and grill.

However, if we get Doc Brown’s DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour and travel back to the 18th century, you might be surprised that the word grill means something very different and has nothing to do with food.

But first, the term “bar.”

The term “bar” likely comes from the turn of the 17th century, describing the railing or bar that provided a clear barrier between thirsty patrons and the potent potables. It also served as a handy support for tired or intoxicated patrons. Over time, the name of the structure’s key feature became synonymous with the drinking establishments themselves.

The bar and grill at the Golden Plough Tavern.

Now for the “grill” part of the etymological equation. Grill refers to the bank teller’s window-like gate. At the Golden Plough and other colonial taverns, overnight patrons often slept on the floor in the same room where they ate and drank. When the innkeeper went to bed, he could lock up his precious grog, ensuring his expensive alcohol didn’t disappear overnight. So the “grill” part of “bar and grill” may originate in liquor security rather than kitchen equipment.

Close-up of the bar and grill at the Golden Plough Tavern.

Planning Your Trip

Learn fun facts like this and more at 157 W Market St, York, PA 17401, when you visit the Colonial Complex in York, PA. For more information and to schedule your guided tour, visit their website. They are open from April to November, with tours at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm.

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This summer, I visited York’s Colonial Complex, where my good friend, Marquis de Lafayette, agreed to pose for a selfie. Located at 157 West Market Street in York, PA, Lorann Jacobs created this life-size statue of the French aristocrat and American Revolution hero. It was placed on the sidewalk at this location in 2007. While likely a coincidence, the implication of Lafayette’s statue also being near North Pershing Avenue was not lost on me. Click the link to find out why.

Then & Now: Wagner’s 1830 Borough of York

In 1830, artist William Wagner created a series of 38 watercolors that accurately showed how York looked. In the pre-photography era, this remarkable collection of architectural views makes York, PA, one of the most highly depicted communities of the early nineteenth-century United States. I have attempted to match Wagner’s 1830 paintings with their modern Google Street Views counterparts. Click the link to see more.

Northeast corner of Beaver and Main Streets 1830.

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