Following our multi-part series on architect C. Emlen Urban, this is the first in a series that will focus on another architect whose talents had a lasting impact on Lancaster County.
Although his portfolio of local work was varied and his list of clients impressive, Henry Y. Shaub’s real fame as an architect was what he was able to accomplish in the classroom. This Lancaster native was acknowledged throughout the eastern United States as the leading authority on school design. He would sit among the students to understand how the physical environment, including natural light, acoustics and special relationships, could affect their ability to learn.
A rising star in his own right, this young architect was often overshadowed, but not intimidated, by his 24-year-older contemporary C. Emlen Urban. At 25, Shaub struck out on his own and promptly entered and won a nationwide competition to design the highly sought-after Lancaster YWCA commission in 1915.
Little has been written about this noteworthy architect who followed in the footsteps of Urban. He not only continued to reshape the architectural landscape of our community, but also to shape the minds of our children through designing better environments for learning.
This series will focus on the diversified work of architect Shaub including the Lancaster YWCA (c. 1915); Posey Iron Works (c. 1918); Shaub Shoe Store (c. 1929); Manheim Township’s Brecht Elementary School (c. 1929); J.P. McCaskey High School in School District of Lancaster (c. 1936); and Groff Funeral Home (c. 1950) — just to name a few.
Shaub’s innovation and bold design ideas earned him an honor that only 3% of all architects achieve: being named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. The fellowship distinction is reserved for architects who have made outstanding contributions to the profession.
Born Oct. 13, 1887, Henry Y. Shaub was educated at Bordentown Military Institute and Franklin & Marshall Academy, then received an architectural degree from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1909.
In 1912, he married Bertha Barron, an orphan who had been raised at the Northern Home for Friendless Children in Philadelphia. They would continue living with his parents, at 246 E. Orange St., for a decade.
Records indicate Shaub registered for both World War I and World War II, but he would never serve in the military due to being described as “crippled from infantile”.
For the full article and photos, subscribers can access the LNP on-line edition of Take a Closer Look at An Architect Who Helped Build Lancaster’s “Look.”
C. Emlen Urban Series – Final Installment
Cassius Emlen Urban’s 53-year career was nothing short of extraordinary and his contributions were immeasurable. He singlehandedly introduced Lancastrians to a new vocabulary of bold and sometimes uncomfortable architectural styles. Prior to Urban’s arrival in 1884, red and brown tones comprised the downtown Lancaster color palette and the architectural styles were predominately Queen Anne, Georgian and Federal. This quickly changed in 1892 when Watt & Shand debuted Urban’s French Beaux Arts style department store in the heart of Penn Square. One by one, other city merchants retained Urban to help them advance their own images.
The next 30 years saw a dramatic transformation in the scale and texture of the downtown landscape including French Baroque, Italian Renaissance, Perpendicular Gothic, French Renaissance, and fresh interpretations of Romanesque and Greek Revival. But what do we really know about the architect behind the pen? How did he do it? What made him tick? Did he ever sleep while designing more than 273 buildings?
We do know that Urban was the second child born to Conestoga residents Amos and Barbara Anne Urban on February 20, 1863. His formal education ended after graduating as the valedictorian of his high school class, followed by a four-year apprenticeship with two unique and well-established, but completely different architects in Scranton and Philadelphia. Shortly after starting his private practice in 1884 at the age of 21, Urban married Jennie Olivia McMichael in her parents’ home at 28 East Lemon Street. He was 23 and Jennie was 24. The couple moved to 141 East New Street to begin their life together and raise their two children: Miriam and Rathfon. Rathfon and Urban’s younger brother Christopher Urban, and nephew Frank Urban were employed by Urban over the course of five office relocations in center city. Beyond these gentlemen and his head draftsman, Ross Singleton, little is known about his office personnel.
What Urban lacked in physical stature at only five feet, six inches tall, he more than made up for in his larger than life personality and engaging blue eyes. His social and business connections in the community were second to none, holding court with notable local figures including Milton S. Hershey, Peter Watt, James Shand, Herman Wohlsen, Christian Guzenhauser and Congressman William W. Greist. Research to date has come up short on a significant number of portrait or family photos, with a grand total of five found so far. We do know he traveled extensively to Europe, South America and the Mediterranean from 1911 through 1934, which were also the most prolific years of his practice. Although his public designs were quite progressive, his style preference for the two residences he designed for himself was the conservative and understated colonial revival.
Under the heading of trivia: on November 16, 1911, the Lititz Record reported that Urban, an “excellent fisherman”, landed the largest bass ever recorded in the Susquehanna River at Peach Bottom. Weighing 6.25 pounds “he lifted the fish with pole and reel and fed a multitude of Urbans.” Unrelated, the October 6, 1934 edition of the Gettysburg Times reported that his Buchanan Avenue home was burglarized by a 21-year-old suspect from Atlanta, Georgia! And lastly, to his grandchildren, he was known as Baba!
His final commission was documented March 15, 1939 for East Orange Street resident John S. Groff, almost 80 years ago to the day of this article. Urban passed away two months later on May 21, 1939 at the age of 76 and is buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Lancaster, along with his immediate family. The understated granite headstone simply says – URBAN with the incised biblical verse: “UNTIL THE DAY BREAK AND THE SHADOWS FLEE AWAY.”
Author’s Note: It has been an honor to share C Emlen Urban’s story with you these past two years. A special thank you to his great granddaughters, Miriam and Alexa, for their insightful contributions and Deb Oesch and Alex Kiehl for their incredible discoveries and research assistance.
For this month’s full article and photos: Tying up the life of a legend: architect C. Emlen Urban and links to previous articles in the series, visit LNP On-line.
C. Emlen Urban Series – CONTINUED
With more than 24 months of research completed, there is sufficient evidence to claim that C. Emlen Urban designed at least 39 different building types that encompassed 25 architectural styles!
Essentially, Urban spoke 25 languages and possessed enough knowledge to understand the design components, nuances and requirements for nearly 40 different categories of buildings, ranging from a single-story residence to a 14-story skyscraper and everything in-between!
As prolific as Urban was in producing over 273 designs during his career, there are a fair number of “one-off” commissions in his portfolio–defined as building types or design styles that he only designed once. Some were quite glamorous, while others were rather mundane. The following are a few of Urban’s one-offs: a bakery, funeral home, community center, hospital, children’s home, freestanding farmers market, movie theater, YMCA, drug store, tobacco shop, insane asylum, opera house interior, tavern, Moose Lodge, home for the aged, a storybook style cottage, a church crown and storage garages. All are worthy of mention and a few certainly deserve additional explanation.
In April of 1898, Urban and other representatives from Lancaster County were directed to tour and inspect insane asylums around Pennsylvania to gain knowledge prior to beginning the design and construction of a new state of the art facility for Lancaster. The end result was an attractive three story red brick structure designed to support the latest concepts in the moral treatment’ of patients with a special focus on the psychological and emotional state of the individual. Beyond design concepts, Urban introduced the latest building technologies including refrigeration, production kitchens and mechanical systems. The structure remained in use for 70 years.
The five story Lancaster YMCA was constructed at the corner of North Queen and West Orange Streets in 1900. Urban was just 37 years old when he designed this monumental Beaux Arts building complete with an indoor pool. He only designed this one YMCA in his career.
Interestingly, the building type that launched his career in 1888 was a ‘one-off’ design. The free-standing Queen Anne style Southern Market was heralded as ‘one of the grandest in size and appearance’ in the city. The 873 seat Grand Theatre, located at 135 N Queen Street, offered movies to audiences from 1913 through the 1960s. This one-off design by Urban was considered a showpiece for movie goers.
For any architect, designing a hospital requires a great deal of knowledge, trust and communication with the stakeholders. The 1902 three story Georgian Revival Lancaster General Hospital designed by then 39-year-old Urban was his sole free standing medical hospital.
All architects fall on hard times sometime during their careers. Perhaps 1919 was a slow year for Mr. Urban when he agreed to design a row of one story garages on the 300 block of N Queen Street. These simple red brick structures survive today and now house the retail shops of Building Character one hundred years after they were built!
Can anyone deny that Urban was clearly a ‘one of a kind’ architect himself?
Gregg Scott, FAIA
The LNP published version of this article is available to subscribers on-line: The First Time was the Charm
Historical Photo Credits: LancasterHistory.org, Hershey Archives and LGH Archives
C. Emlen Urban Series – Part 20
On January 19, 1914, Milton S. Hershey wrote an unsolicited letter of reference to U.S. House of Representative William Walton Griest espousing the merits and talents of Lancaster’s young architect C. Emlen Urban. Hershey concluded the endorsement by stating, “We have a great deal of confidence in his ability as an architect and can safely recommend him as being very capable and very honorable in his line of work.” Ten years later, Lancaster City would see its first skyscraper rise 14 stories above Penn Square. It would retain its distinction as the tallest building in Lancaster for 80 years.
Supporting the claim that relationships build buildings, Hershey, Griest and Urban were mutual friends and business acquaintances for decades, sharing common ground through social clubs, education and politics. Griest was president of three Lancaster public utility companies: Conestoga Traction Company, Edison Electric Company and the Lancaster Gas Light and Fuel Company. The boards of directors commissioned Urban to design a signature structure to honor Griest and house their expanding businesses.
Urban chose two of the most popular styles of the time, French Beaux Arts and Italian Renaissance Revival, to define this landmark skyscraper. The structural steel frame permitted fast construction and had an immediate impact on the city skyline. At street level, pedestrians enjoy Urban’s gift for humanizing large buildings through his use of graceful arches, decorative stone panels with shields, festoons, urns, pilasters and even stone rope. The 12th, 13th and 14th floors comprising the building’s crown included a 300-seat auditorium and ballroom with a green and gold frescoed ceiling. The exterior of the crown is a well-proportioned and beautifully detailed example of Italian Renaissance architecture with glazed terra cotta arched pediments, dentils, curved brackets, balustrades and even a lion’s head cornice.
The Griest Building’s acceptance was so profound and so fast that it quickly stole the thunder from the ever popular Woolworth Building, leading to its eventual demise. On September 21, 1925, The New Era reported that “Time may bring other skyscrapers to Lancaster, but the Griest Building will never forfeit its claim to priority.”
The full article C. Emlen Urban’s Griest Building Boosted Lancaster in the Skyscraper Age is available on LNP News.
C. Emlen Urban Series – Part 19
Interestingly, C. Emlen Urban used the description “solid and enduring” to describe his design intent for the Stevens High School during the dedication ceremonies on December 22, 1905. However, there is no more suitable description than solid and enduring to describe the four freestanding banks that he authored between 1910 and 1923. The century old buildings remain today—virtually untouched
In 1910, Urban was commissioned by the Union National Mt. Joy Bank to design a structure that would speak to strength and security and remind customers that their accounts were in safekeeping. He chose a massive masonry limestone symmetrical structure in the Beaux Arts style to reflect that message. The classic Greek design elements, including paired two-story tall ionic columns, flanking pilasters and an oversized entablature with parapet, reinforce strength and security.
In 1912, Milton S. Hershey commissioned Urban to design a building that would impress the public and encourage people to start saving for the future. The two-story marble, brick and granite Renaissance style structure includes a well-proportioned Greek pediment and entablature resting on paired columns. The interior is as impressive as the exterior with marble flooring, mahogany millwork, and an imposing vault door, topped by a 30 day wall clock flanked by lions representing time and strength. Located at the intersection of Cocoa and Chocolate Avenues, the Hershey Trust Company still retains its impressive public stature.
Urban’s third design, Lititz Springs National Bank, was designed in 1922 and holds the distinction of being his only bank with a corner entrance. The two story masonry structure, at the corner of Main and Broad Streets, softens the intersection with the curved façade and thoughtful detailing. Although another imposing and impressive design, this bank features generous amounts of windows and natural light.
Ephrata National Bank retained Urban to design its new building in 1923. His fourth and final freestanding bank embodies all his knowledge of bank designs to date, and presents another fine example of thoughtful and creative design innovation. The combination of Vermont marble columns and English bond brick on the façade emulate the Hershey Trust Building, and the eagle perched above the main entry resembles Lititz Springs National Bank. The sky-lit interior, utilizing American walnut millwork, is organized around a 26-ton vault door and frame. More than 10,000 visitors toured the aptly described “landmark of admiration” on dedication day, July 11, 1925!
The full article, C. Emlen Urban’s architecture was something Lancaster could bank on, can be found on LNP/Lancaster On-line.
C. Emlen Urban Series: Part 18
We may never know what drove C. Emlen Urban in his relentless quest for excellence, but his passion for architectural innovation and experimentation was unparalleled. By 1921, the 58-year-old Urban was celebrating his 35th year of practice and had completed well over 130 commissions in Lancaster and Dauphin Counties alone. Department stores and commercial structures were a large part of his portfolio. In true Urban fashion, he chose a new and unusual architectural style for German immigrant Miles F. Goodman’s landmark furniture store: Perpendicular Gothic Revival.
Perpendicular Gothic Revival, named for its emphasis on verticality, ornamentation, pointed arches and stained glass, was growing in popularity in the first quarter of the 20th century. Urban presumably selected this style, typically reserved for churches and collegiate buildings, as a differentiator in the commercial district of downtown Lancaster. The six-story structure, utilizing structural steel to create large expanses of glass, exudes success with its use of granite, limestone, glazed terra cotta tile, bronze and leaded glass
There are three notable details on the King Street façade: first, the large sweeping segmental arch with curved decorative leaded glass detailing; second, a rare transverse barrel vaulted storefront entry and lobby; and third, the highly crenelated skyline parapet complete with shields, ribbons, rosettes, quatrefoils and fleur-de-lis. Close examination of the façade reveals four carved stone lion heads left and right of the arch. The store lauded its 2,000 square feet of floor space, a fireproof steel elevator and padded booths to test grafonolas (phonographs) in quiet privacy. The new furniture store was the talk of the town in 1922 with over 15,000 Lancastrians attending the grand opening on a cold winter day in January
Addition information and photo are available from the full LNP article Thirty-Five Years Into His Career, Architect Still Designing Outside the Department Store Box.
C. Emlen Urban Series: Part 17
On June 25, 1880, 17-year-old C. Emlen Urban stood before classmates, faculty, school directors and guests of honor as the senior class valedictorian for the Lancaster High School, and delivered a poignant speech of promise and praise. In 1880, the three story, red brick building was a fine example of 1874 Queen Anne architecture that faithfully served the Lancaster community for more than 44 years. In 1916, however, the school directors commissioned Lancaster High School alumnus and architect Urban to replace his alma mater with a new and more appropriate structure that would reflect the latest design principles for a modern education. What an honor this must have been for him, while equally bittersweet.
It had only been 12 years since the school superintendents had retained Urban to design the new Girl’s High School at the corner of West Chestnut and North Charlotte Streets. However, shortly after its dedication in 1906, the structure was forced to accept boys due to the rapid growth of the city’s population. The new Boy’s High School would correct the issue and return things to normal, for at least 20 years. Urban seized the opportunity to again showcase his talent and skills by designing a new three-story structure in the popular Beaux Arts style. The resulting building, that still stands today as Fulton Elementary School, is organized around an impressive and innovative 960-seat semi-circular auditorium with 20 large, leaded glass, ceiling diffusers. The auditorium is suspended above the gymnasium and indoor running track on massive steel girders
The exterior reflects an equal level of detailing and careful consideration with gold-colored tapestry brick, cast stone balustrades, cut stone bases and capitals, sculptured stone panels, Greek urns, garlands and a most impressive eagle with torches above the main entrance. An enthusiastic School Board President, P. E. Slaymaker, proclaimed the new school to be a “beacon of light …guiding and leading the students in the higher paths of rectitude and right.”
The full LNP article, Building Boys’ High School, and additional photos are available through Lancaster Online.
C. Emlen Urban Series – Part 14
Like the proverbial cat with nine lives, the current day Fulton Theatre has enjoyed nine or more incarnations over its 166-year history. By this point in our series, it should come as no surprise that C. Emlen Urban was among the notable architects who left their mark on one of our city’s most recognizable landmarks. Designed in 1852 by Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan as the Fulton Hall, the popular Italianate style venue offered the traditional fare of the time including musical entertainment, lectures, church fairs, celebrations, balls, exhibitions, graduation exercises, political meetings and county conventions.
Within only 21 years of its debut, Fulton Hall was ready for a make-over, this time at the hands of one of our country’s most accomplished theatre designers, Philadelphia architect Edwin Forrest Durang. His interiors represented the best of Victorian high design complete with carpet, upholstered seats, gas sconces and chandeliers.
On April 25, 1904 the Lancaster New Era announced that the Fulton Opera House had retained 41-year-old Lancaster architect Urban to help propel the Opera House into the 20th century. In true Urban fashion, he graciously accepted the commission and delivered on the promise. The news release assured readers that the Fulton will be “one of the best arranged and most beautifully decorated amusement places in the State”
Urban’s plans called for the removal of the entire 1873 interior with the exception of the four walls and the main balcony. The stage was enlarged, the auditorium expanded, box seats added, an upper gallery was introduced, the ceiling raised, fireproofing added, exit stairs improved and the restrooms were expanded. Other design interventions by Urban included the introduction of smoking rooms and the grand staircase, a larger lobby space, marble walls, ornate plaster molding and new lighting throughout.
Although there have been other updates since that time, the stunning neo-classical interior that we all enjoy today is essentially the gift and talent of Urban. As anyone who has ever enjoyed a performance at the Fulton Theatre can attest, he deserves a standing ovation! The full LNP article is on LancasterOnline.com: Architect’s Work Earns a Standing Ovation at Fulton Theatre.
All photos by Larry Lefever Photography
C. Emlen Urban Series – Part 12
Building strong and lasting relationships is first and foremost to the career of any successful architect. By 1908, C. Emlen Urban had designed and built a dozen different building types including private residences, churches, manufacturing facilities, a market house, a hospital, a department store, two hotels, a YMCA and even a funeral home, but never a bakery.
Orphaned and penniless, Christian Gunzenhauser arrived in America at the age of 14 seeking a new life and employment. Following 12 years of learning the trade working for bakeries in Lock Haven, Philadelphia and Lancaster, Gunzenhuser seized the opportunity to purchase the Goebel Bakery at 231 West King Street sometime around 1895. His attention to detail, focus on cleanliness and utilization of the latest production technologies soon had his brand of breads, pastries and cakes overtaking his competitors.
Gunzenhauser’s rising success afforded him the opportunity to retain Urban to design a new residence at 250 West Orange Street for his expanding family. In addition to sharing an entrepreneurial spirit, Urban and Gunzenhauzer shared membership in the Lancaster Elks Club. It may have been this connection that led to a business relationship that spanned well over a decade.
The three-story Gunzenhauser residence is a unique blend of Georgian, French and Italian Renaissance Revival styles. The Georgian details include the distinctive Flemish bond brickwork, shutters and keystones, however the keystones feature unusual corner blocks. The French influence is found in the steeply pitched and flared hipped roof, while the Italian Renaissance references are the exposed rafter tails and hipped dormer details. The floor plan included servant’s quarters, a wine cellar, a provisional cellar and dedicated laundry spaces reflective of a family with wealth and means. Urban drew upon his four years of experience with Philadelphia’s controversial architect Willis G. Hale to create this eclectic and rather unorthodox blending of architectural styles. With the exception of the once open front porch, the building’s exterior is completely intact, 110 years later!
Urban also designed many of Guzenhauser’s bakery plants, horse stables and wagon sheds to house and support his growing operations throughout Lancaster City and perhaps as far away as Harrisburg. The Gunzenhauser story is another example of Urban’s ability to not only secure commissions but also to sustain lasting relationships.
The full LNP News Article, Architect’s Designs Help Trace Christian Gunzenhauser’s Rags-to-Riches Lifetime, includes additional photos and architectural plans.
C. Emlen Urban Series – Part 11
Architects typically hit full stride in their early 40s, and C. Emlen Urban was no exception. With his practice in full swing and his reputation for producing high-quality work growing exponentially, Urban was able to be more selective with the commissions he accepted and the architectural styles he designed.
Approximately two years prior to the Stevens Girls High School dedication, the bishop of St. James Episcopal Church offered a blessing for its newly constructed Parish House at 119 N. Duke St. Its architect was none other than Lancaster’s favorite design professional, 41-year-old Urban.
Respecting the adjacent Federal-style church and rectory, Urban selected Georgian Revival style for the 1903 three-story, five-bay brick Parish House. This monumental yet understated structure is one that is easily overlooked by the passer-by. Today, and even in the earliest known photographs of the Parish House, massive shade trees along the narrow sidewalk make it difficult to appreciate and fully enjoy the architecture and detailing. Behind the canopy of branches, however, lies Urban’s largest and most exquisite example of nonresidential Georgian Revival architecture.
The Parish House exhibits textbook Georgian Revival details, including Flemish bond brick, quoins, a water table, two belt courses, keystone window lintels, six-over-six window panes and classic Ionic columns. However, the real magic occurs at two locations on the facade. Directly over the main entrance door is a cast-stone balcony supported by two large decorative consoles and, above that, a stone pediment with the date inscribed in Roman numerals. The second location is Urban’s attention to detailing at the roof cornice; the deep soffit consists of square blocks with pegs, round rosettes, dentil molding and the traditional use of Greek “egg and dart” trim.
The full digital version of the LNP News article can be found on LancasterOnline.