Skip and Anne Lehmann of suburban York had their wedding reception at the Yorktowne Hotel 31 years ago, beginning what would become a strong attachment to the grand building.
Over the years, they’ve visited the Yorktowne for many New Year’s Eves and business meetings. Sometimes they would just sit in the hotel’s main lobby, have a drink and “feel like you were lifted to a different level” by the lush surroundings, Skip Lehmann recalled.
Sunday night, as the Yorktowne held its farewell event before closing on Sunday for two years of renovations, the Lehmanns stopped in the lobby for one last visit.
The 91-year-old Yorktowne will undergo a $20 million series of improvements before re-opening in November 2018. The last event before renovations begin was Sunday evening’s “Flavors of York” fundraiser for York’s Temple Beth Israel and the temple’s “Doing Good for Goode” project for York’s Alexander D. Goode K-8 elementary school.
As a crowd of nearly 500 people sampled food from 21 of York’s top restaurants in the hotel’s three large rooms on the mezzanine level, pianist Jacquie Sutton was in the lobby playing “As Time Goes By” and other nostalgic pieces.
But Sunday night wasn’t just about nostalgia.
The hotel had been a business hub for many years, a main location for meetings and a place for York companies to put up clients when they visited – and its two-year renovation will again make it a hub of the York business and social scene, the hotel’s general manager predicted Sunday.
“It really has been a center of activity,” said Rick Cunningham, who has been the hotel’s general manager for 27 years. He oversees a staff of some 35 to 40 people.
“But with the downtown resurgence that’s taking place in York, this hotel will again be the place to be for a business person coming to town,” he said.
Along with re-doing the hotel’s 100-plus rooms, hallways and other places visible to the public, the upcoming renovation will feature a lot of work on plumbing, mechanical and other infrastructure systems, Cunningham said. “The guests may not necessarily see it – but they’ll be a lot more comfortable.”
Leaders of the effort to renovate the hotel are planning a public forum to hear what York-area residents and business officials would like to see in the renovated Yorktowne. They are tentatively planning to hold the forum on Nov. 21 and will announce full details soon, they said Sunday.
The term “York’s hotel” for the Yorktowne is not just an honorary title – some 1,200 Yorkers bought stock in order to build the hotel back in 1925, downtown York official Meagan Feeser said.
The chief marketing and development officer for the York revitalization nonprofit Downtown Inc and a York resident, Feeser realized she had never stayed at the Yorktowne, so she did Saturday night, the hotel’s last night for guests for the next two years.
“It’s been a landmark for so long,” she said.
The Lehmanns hope renovations preserve the elegance of the Yorktowne’s lobby and other public venues.
“It’s just a classic, classic place – and this is just the best place to come to a (work) conference,” said Anne Lehmann, a second-grade teacher at Goode.
Her husband added, “The Yorktowne Hotel is a stalwart part of the community, and I think it will be for a long, long time. It’s a shame that it’s changing, but it’s good that it’s changing. We just thank God that they’re not shutting it down.”