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200-year-old grave site in York being exhumed as part of hotel renovation project

YORK, Pa. -- A nearly 200-year-old gravesite behind the `Yorktowne Hotel` in York is in the process of being exhumed as part of hotel's renovation project.

The gravesite, which sits on the Yorktowne hotel property site, is a part of what was formally known as `Zion Lutheran Church.`

"The church, which is a very historic property, has been vacant since 1995 was in some pretty serious disrepair, so the county asked us to take on this project, along with the Yorktowne Hotel, which is a very good fit," said Kim Hogeman, with York County Economic Alliance.

Kim Hogeman with `York County Economic Alliance` says after the back half of the church was torn down to make room for York County employee parking, they partnered with 'Prospect Hill Cemetery' for some excavation expertise.

"We are in the process of retrieving, of excavating the remains of the folks who were buried here," said Jack Sommer, manager at Prospect Hill Cemetery.

"When you get to a burial level, you'll find the remains of a casket, possibly an outer rough box that they used at that time," said Sommer. "Then pretty much it's all handwork," he added.

Jack Sommer, who is heading the excavation process, says his team is working hard to preserve everything they can.

"The men are in the excavation pit with hand trials, brushes and then carefully removing the remains that are found," said Sommer.

A total of 53 grave stones made of limestone have already been located.

Sommer says due to because of the condition of each stone, Sommer says it is difficult to identify all of the remains.

"Many have worn to the point where they are illegible," said Sommer.

However, Sommer says one stone in particular, may be the remains of a man by the name of John Fisher, who they believe rang the bell when the articles of confederation were adopted.

"Ultimately they'll be re-buried and the stones will be appropriately re-located on the same property but more towards Duke street," said Sommer.

"It's been very interesting it's not something you get involved in a on daily basis its not certainly something we thought we would get involved in but you know if you're going to do it, you gotta do it right," said Kim Hogeman.