PA Governor Tom Wolf and other dignitaries gathered in front of the William Goodridge Freedom Center and Underground Railroad site in York on Friday. They were there to unveil and dedicate a monument of William Goodridge, who was born in slavery but became one of York’s leading businessmen and a major leader on the Underground Railroad. It is the first statue of a black man erected in York.
The statue was created by Gettysburg sculptor Gary Casteel. For Casteel, this was the culmination of a four year project. He first visited the site to discuss the project in July 2018 and developed the design concept shortly afterwards. “Creating a public monument is a big project and this went as smoothly as any. A lot of people have to buy-in and the money has to be raised,” he said.
In addition to honoring one of its most distinguished citizens and attracting visitors to the museum, people who sponsored the project hope it will also promote tourism.
Like his statue of Confederate General James Longstreet, located in Pitzer’s Woods along West Confederate Avenue in the Gettysburg National Military Park, Goodridge is human scale and appears at ground level. He sits invitingly on a bench, surrounded by various tools of his trades (including barber scissors and a lantern symbolizing his work with the Underground Railroad), ready to greet visitors.
”People don’t want to look at a statue on a 12 foot platform,” said Casteel. “They want to be able to interact with it, sit beside him, get a selfie.” And sure enough, the minute the ceremony ended, a line of dignitaries formed to get a photo with Mr. Goodridge.
Featured image caption: Living historians (left) and politicians pose with statue [Leon Reed]
Leon Reed, staff writer, is a former US Senate staff member, defense consultant, and history teacher. He is a seven year resident of Gettysburg, where he writes military history and explores the park and the Adams County countryside. He is the publisher at Little Falls Books, chaired the Adams County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee and is on the board of SCCAP and the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. He and his wife, Lois, have 3 children, 3 cats, and 5 grandchildren.