Peer through a hole in the century-old brick, and the view includes scuffed concrete floors and part of a paint-chipped metal railing. Truck tires are stacked in one corner, under a high ceiling.
Standing amid the echoes is Rusty Mirasol.
Pull back for a wider view of that old industrial space at the corner of West Philadelphia Street and Pershing Avenue in York, and a great deal of context is revealed. Mirasol, owner of CrossFit York, is set to use the space for a gym, re-opening this weekend. But the building dates from the 1800s.
And the cavernous space is filled with history.
"I took us a long time to find this place," Mirasol said. "It just had a feel. There's something about it."
Dave Keech, a broker with Rock Real Estate, said the property is the former Met-Ed steam plant and offices. The plant building is about 28,000 total square feet, and houses several businesses, said Keech, who's been involved with the site for 30 years.
The plant - originally called the York Steam Heating Co. Inc. - went online in 1898, according to a Met-Ed company history from 1983. Around the turn of the 20th century, it served an area bounded by North Street, Pine Street, College Avenue and Water Street, today called Pershing Avenue.
In its first season, the site served 28 customers, according to a York Area Chamber of Commerce publication from the 1940s.
In the early years, the site provided York with needed steam - and, for a time, power.
Demand grew, and in a few decades the company added 2½ miles of gas lines under the city, and expanded its service to 325 customers. The lines themselves were made of "tin-lined wood casings wrapped with tar paper," according to the Chamber packet.
Times changed, though, and the plant officially went offline on May 31, 1977.
According to a newspaper account from 1975, the writing was on the wall after the "new William Penn Senior High School" switched from steam to oil heat in the mid-1970s. From there it was only a matter of fixed costs and time, and production soon ceased.
Still, that wasn't the end. The machinery was gutted. But "eventually the building changed hands, and got a new life," Keech said.
The site housed First Capitol Wire & Cable through much of the 1980s, and then served as a paper company's distribution center for more than a decade, Keech said.
While much of the former plant space has sat vacant because of the sputtering economy, Keech said the old brick building has remained a hidden gem.
"It's a cool building," he said. "It's been a sleeper. No one ever knew all the things going on there."
As gym members hauled in medicine balls and kettle bells Thursday afternoon, Mirasol said he's excited for the next chapter.
The 39-year-old city resident explained CrossFit is a stripped down workout regimen with few frills but plenty of worn truck tires to lift. Members work hard together even forming a sort of community, pushing toward a common goal, he said.
The old steam factory in York is a perfect fit.
"No doubt," he said. "We're going to turn this back into a power plant."
Met-Ed steam plant history
The former Met-Ed steam plant near the intersection of West Philadelphia Street and Pershing Avenue dates back to the 19th century.
Source: York County Heritage Trust
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