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Historical Walking Tour of York Pennsylvania
Item 12 of 14
Established in 1816, the York Water Company is the oldest investor-owned utility company in the United States and has the longest record of consecutive dividends since 1816. The company's headquarter building is one of the most architecturally significant buildings in York. Samuel Small was the original owner of the property and sold the building to the company in 1928. The marble structure, completed in 1929, stands like a magnificent marble temple amidst common brick buildings. The interior of the building celebrates water with figures such as Poseidon being featured in the center of the ceiling alongside depictions of the “Four Rivers" that coincide with the Four Gospels of the Bible.

  • The York Water Company's Headquarters has stood along Market Street since 1816.
  • The historical marker that stands outside the York Water Company.
  • A panoramic view of Gustav Ketterer's artwork within the York Water Company.
  • A bottom-up view of Ketterer's frescos.
  • The interior that greets you as you arrive to pay your water bill.

York Water Company was established by a group of investors who met at the Indian King Tavern in 1816 who sought to create a method to prevent fires within the town.   When the business began, water was distributed by wooden pipes. These were later replaced by cast iron in 1840 which increased the system's durability. The company pumped water from the nearby river and later began using water from Codorus Creek with a state of the art pumping system that involved steam. By the year 1896, York became a booming town which led the York Water Company to add pumping stations further upriver owing to pollution which also made the water from the Creek unusable.

Polluted water led to a typhoid outbreak at the turn of the century. In 1899, the York Water Company developed a filtration system that was capable of removing the bacteria from the water and allowing the residents to no longer worry about contracting typhoid fever from their water supply.  It was the first successfully operated water treatment facility in Pennsylvania.

The headquarters building, designed by William Billmeyer, includes a 25-foot-high ceiling which is decorated with a 3,800-square-foot mural by artist Gustav Ketterer.  The mural incorporates the theme, "The Gift of Water to Mankind" and  includes Greek, Roman and Christian mythological figures and notions. On each side of the ceiling, there is a picture of a mini water fountain spraying water into the air. Today, there is a live fountain that is spraying water on the top of the ceiling right above the door.  

Behind the building's four exterior Corinthian columnns that support a large pediment that features a relief of a bubbling fountain and large Palladian windows Ketterer's mural dominates the interior.  HIs three frescos present his interpretation of the Four Rivers (Gihon, Tigris, Euphrates and Pison) delivering the gift of water from the Throne of God; the Roman and Greek gods of water, Poseidon and Neptune; and Psyche offering a cup of water to Venus.  Between the windows are four goddesses that are directly linked to water, Pomona the goddess of fruitful abundance, Flora goddess of flowers, Ceres goddess of grain and Amphitrite goddess of water.  During normal business hours, the York Water Company invites all to come view Ketterer's work.

"History of the York Water Company."  York Water.  2016.  Accessed January 4, 2018.

Dasher, Stephanie.  "Art and Architecture of the York Water Company."  Dasher Humanities.  July 8, 2015.  Accessed January 4, 2018.

"The York Water Company, 1816-1966."  Waterworks History.  1967.  Accessed January 4, 2018.

"York Water Company."  Energy and Infrastructure.  2016.  Accessed January 4, 2018.