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Last Revolutionary POW Camp Saved

Nov 18, 2014 05:07PM ● Published by Erica Shames

Digging to find evidence of Revolutionary War prisoner-of-war Camp Security began near the Schultz House in Springettsbury Township, PA. Photo by John A. Pavoncello

Gallery: Camp Security [8 Images] Click any image to expand.

by Darrin Youker

Photographs by John A. Pavoncello 

Following the Revolutionary War, and after America got down the business of forming a new nation, Camp Security—the prisoner of war camp that housed British soldiers after the crucial Battle of Saratoga— faded into obscurity and eventually was torn down. The land, located outside the city of York, became farmland and remained so for more than 200 years. All around it, open space turned into development—houses replacing the corn and hay fields. And the same fate nearly befell Camp Security. 

Volunteer Craig Landis of Red Lion sifts dirt from sample holes. Photo by John A. Pavoncello.

Camp Security is the last undeveloped prisoner of war site left from the American Revolution. “As far as we know, Camp Security is the last undeveloped virgin site left,” said Carol Tanzola, president of the Friends of Camp Security, a non-profit dedicated to preserving the site.

A Lengthy Fight

Volunteers at the site of a Revolutionary War prisoner camp looking for possible artifacts. Photo by John A. Pavoncello.

The fight over Camp Security got its start thanks to the development of a mall outside York. In the late 1980s the York Galleria Mall opened, and during the building of the mall, a historic house was torn down. That led to the formation of a citizens group in Springettsbury Township—just outside the city of York—to list the historic sites that needed saving. The ones at the top of the list were those “you would lie down in front of the bulldozer to save,” Tanzola said. Camp Security was at the top of the list.

While the location of Camp Security was known among historians, it was forgotten by the general public, Tanzola said. “It was kind of a hidden gem,” she offered. “It had just slipped through the cracks.”

Among the preservation community however, the camp was a valuable piece of history. But it also was becoming valuable to developers. In the late 1970s, after a nearby farm was turned into a housing development, there was a small archeology study on Camp Security. What archeologist found was a treasure trove of artifacts. More than 10,000 items were discovered in the dig, including buttons, coins and bones.

Some of those artifacts are now on display in the Pennsylvania State Museum in Harrisburg. Eventually in the late 1990s, a developer approached the township about putting a housing development on the Camp Security property.

Volunteer Brittany Zeigler, an anthropology major at Gettysburg College from West York, breaks apart dirt clumps while sifting dig sample. Photo by John A. Pavoncello.

The township rejected the housing development, but the issue quickly went into litigation—a legal battle that lasted nearly a dozen years. During the ensuing court challenge, Tanzola and others formed the Friends of Camp Security, with the purpose of protecting the property from development.

Fighting for the Cause

Steve Warfel, senior archeologist, looks over an item found by volunteer Irene Burrill of Manchester. Photo by John A. Pavoncello.

As the lawsuit dragged on, the Friends of Camp Security brought various preservation groups together to develop a long-term strategy to save the property. The logjam broke in late 2009 when an adjacent landowner approached the Conservation Fund, a Virginia-based open space organization which has previously protected historic sites, about selling a 115-acre tract next to the proposed development.

The Conservation Fund reached out to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, along with Springettsbury Township, about contributing funding to purchase the land. Using public funds and money raised by the community, the Conservation Fund purchased the tract for $2.1 million, said Todd McNew, Pennsylvania State Director for The Conservation Fund. 

Soon thereafter, the developers of the adjacent property decided to also sell to the Conservation Fund. Because there were other buyers interested in the property, the Conservation Fund purchased the land and held it as the township and Friends of Camp Security raised donations, McNew said.

Volunteer Craig Landis of Red Lion sifts dirt from sample holes. Photo by John A. Pavoncello.

In late December, the township officially took control of the land. Springettsbury would have been unable to raise the money for the project, without putting taxpayers in a pinch, said John Holman, township manager.

By working with the Conservation Fund and other partners, the township was able to preserve a valuable property, protect it from development and open it to the community, he said.

Into the Future

Irene Burrill of Manchester, right, and other volunteers at the site of Camp Security. Photo by John A. Pavoncello.

Springettsbury Township, with more than 27,000 residents and home to a Harley Davidson manufacturing plant has grown into a suburb, putting open space at a premium.  

“We have protected an important historical site, but also valuable open space for the township,” Holman said.

The future of Camp Security is still being written. Now that the land is owned by Springettsbury Township, the first objective is for a comprehensive archeology study on the property. Eventually the land will be open as a park with passive recreation including walking trails, Holman said. Depending on what archeology studies reveal, the park could feature interpretive sites and informational displays.

Camp Security is buttressed on all sides by residential development. Tanzola views it as a perfect spot for quite reflection and understanding of this crucial time in our nation’s history.

“I’d like to see if used as a restful site that honors the people who were here,” she said. “I’m not going to sit back and say they book has been written. This is just the first chapter.”

Archeologist Amanda Snyder of Lebanon measures a sample hole while documenting the dig. Photo by John A. Pavoncello.

Darrin Youker is a freelance writer based in Berks County.

John  A. Pavoncello is a photographer with the York Dispatch. 

Web Extra

The History of Camp Security - Nov 19 2014 1043AM

The History of Camp Security - Nov 19, 2014 10:43AM

Web-exclusive content from the winter 2014 edition of Susquehanna Life Magazine. Read More » 

 

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    Intro to Social Media Marketing SM 101, Tuesday & Thursday, January 30 - March 1 6 p.m. - 9 p.m...


  • The Art of Felting: 2-D Composition

    02/08/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    The Art of Felting: 2-D Composition CE 239, Thursday, February 1 - March 22 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $...


  • Oil Painting

    02/08/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Oil Painting CE 169, Thursday, February 1 - March 22 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $245 Michael Allen Ex...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/09/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Music Together Family Classes

    02/09/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Runs for 8 weeks on Fridays Session A: 10-11am Session B: 11:15-12:15pm Music Together® is a f...


  • Books Undone

    02/09/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • Homework Happy Hour Tutoring

    02/09/2018
    03:00PM — 04:15PM

    Fridays 3-4:15 p.m. during the school year beginning Feb.9th.  Bloomsburg University Education...


  • Paint Me a Story

    02/10/2018
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    This Saturday morning story time-art-studio-mashup is a whole lot of fun for your little ones age...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/10/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Intergenerational Drawing (8 & up)

    02/10/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Intergenerational Drawing (8 & up) CE 189, Saturday, January 27 - March 3 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., $1...


  • Short Story Writing

    02/10/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Short Story Writing CE 208, Saturday, January 27 - March 3 (no class on February 24) 10 a.m. - ...


  • chttp://engage.pcad.edu/winter2018

    02/10/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Young Artists Academy for Grades 6.7.8.9 YS13, Saturday, January 27 - March 17 10a.m. - 12 p.m....


  • Youth Studio Art I for Grades 1.2.3

    02/10/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Youth Studio Art I for Grades 1.2.3 YS11, Saturday, January 27 - March 17 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., $1...


  • Youth Studio Art II for Grades 4.5

    02/10/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Youth Studio Art II for Grades 4.5 YS12, Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, January 27 - March 17 10...


  • Intro to 3D Printing

    02/10/2018
    01:00PM — 03:00PM

    Intro to 3D Printing: Saturday, February 10th 1-3 p.m. Learn about 3D printing and 3D modeling....


  • The 135-year-old Berlin Philharmonic is consistently ranked as one of the best orchestras in the ...


  • February 10, 2018 | 7:00pm Treat your Valentine to a concert featuring Nashville Recording Chr...


  • Books Undone

    02/11/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/12/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Adobe InDesign

    02/12/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Adobe InDesign DES 154, Monday & Wednesday, January 29 - February 28 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., 1 credit,...


  • Illuminated Letters

    02/12/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Illuminated Letters CE 206, Monday, January 29 - February 26 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $195 Matt Chapma...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/13/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Homeschool Art Studio Ages 6-13

    02/13/2018
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    Homeschool Art Studio Ages 6-13 YS 40, Tuesday, January 30 - March 20 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m....


  • Books Undone

    02/13/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • Homeschool Physical Education

    02/13/2018
    01:00PM — 02:00PM

    Students engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity through a variety of enjoyable game...


  • Business Practices for Creatives

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Business Practices for Creatives DES 200, Tuesday, January 30 - April 3 6 p.m. - 9:00 p.m., 1 c...


  • Intro to Social Media Marketing

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Intro to Social Media Marketing SM 101, Tuesday & Thursday, January 30 - March 1 6 p.m. - 9 p.m...


  • HTML5 & Website Design

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    HTML5 & Website Design DES 155, Tuesday, January 30 - April 3 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., 1 credit, $475 ...


  • Drawing (Portrait & Figure)

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Drawing (Portrait & Figure) CE 91, Tuesday, January 30 - March 20 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $245 Evan ...


  • Acrylic Painting and Mixed Media

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Acrylic Painting and Mixed Media CE 238, Tuesday, January 30- March 6 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $215 Ju...



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