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In the 1950s, Architect Henry Y. Shaub Introduced Mid-Century Modern to Lancaster

This is the fourth article in a series focusing on Henry Y. Shaub, an architect who had a lasting impact on Lancaster County.

Architects by nature are innovators as well as problem solvers.  Google CEO Eric Schmidt said “…innovators don’t just listen to what people tell them; they actually invent something new, something you didn’t know you needed, but the moment you see it, you say, “I must have it.”

Option 1: Traditional brick Neo-Colonial concept

In 1952, architect Henry Y. Shaub sat down with funeral home directors Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Groff, Sr. and presented two very different design concepts for their proposed new funeral home on West Orange Street.  According to their son, Robert F. Groff, Jr., “. . . Mom and Dad were handling half of all the funerals in the city and needed to expand their facilities.”    Although funeral home designs were not Shaub’s forte, he took this opportunity to think creatively and help the Groffs reinvent the aesthetic for a building of this type.

Good architects typically present their clients with several options to choose from, with the hope that one will resonate and lead to further refinement.   Historically, funeral homes or parlors in the city of Lancaster were housed in either repurposed mansions or in new structures designed in a conservative architectural style such as Colonial Revival.  Shaub presented the Groffs with two very different options.

Option 2: mid-century modern concept

The first was a predictable and attractive three-story, three bay, red brick neo-colonial concept with a one-story annex including an overhead garage door to screen visitor parking from public view. The second concept was an entirely different look for a funeral home and featured a style foreign to the city of Lancaster—mid-century modern.  Characterized by a clean aesthetic with an emphasis on rectangular forms, horizontal lines and an absence of decoration, this second concept, which the Groffs selected, turned heads in a city steeped in traditional architecture!

Groff, Jr. recalls that his parents said to Shaub: “. . . make it look like a marble monument and give the funeral home a new look!”  The result was a building that stood out in sharp contrast to the surrounding neighborhood and remains one of the few genuine examples of mid-century modern architecture in downtown Lancaster today.

Design Intervention is written by Gregory J. Scott, FAIA, Partner Emeritus

For LNP subscribers, here is the link to the original LNP Article, “In the 1950s, architect Henry Y. Shaub introduced a new style to the city.”

A New City School Brought Spanish Revival Flair to 1920s Lancaster

This is the fourth article in a series focusing on Henry Y. Shaub, an architect who had a lasting impact on Lancaster County.

The world expositions of the 19th and 20th centuries often led to new architectural styles in the United States. The Panama-California Exposition of 1915 was no exception. San Diego hosted a two-year long celebration for the opening of the Panama Canal. The architects who designed the structures for this grand event deviated from the Greek and Roman architecture traditionally used for these types of exhibitions and instead selected Spanish Revival for the theme.  This unique style featuring red tile roofs, walls of stucco, decorative wrought iron and half-round arches, doors and windows captured the attention and imagination of visitors everywhere, including those from the east coast.

Local entrepreneur Milton S. Hershey and architects C. Emlen Urban and Henry Y. Shaub were captivated by the charm and character of this non-indigenous architectural style and quickly introduced it into their domestic and public buildings when possible. Considered informal, eclectic, fanciful and romantic, the Spanish Revival style remained popular from 1915 to 1940.

By the 1920s, Shaub was emerging as the “go-to” architect in Lancaster County for school design work. In 1923, the school directors of Lancaster City retained Shaub to design what was to be the largest and best equipped elementary school in the city: The George Ross Elementary School. The new school building included 21 classrooms, an auditorium and gymnasium.

The architectural features Shaub selected include low profile hip roofs with red clay barrel tiles, large half round arched windows and door openings, decorative wrought iron grills, cast stone decorative motifs including open textbooks, deep-bracketed overhangs and blind niche balconies. In lieu of traditional stucco on the walls, Shaub elected to use a buff colored wire-cut brick to create the visual texture found in stucco. Today, 95 years later, George Ross continues to serve the needs of elementary school students in a setting and a building design that has withstood the test of time and style despite its Southern California heritage.

Design Intervention is written by Gregory J. Scott, FAIA, Partner Emeritus

For LNP subscribers, here is the link to the original LNP Article, A New City School Brought Spanish Revival Design to Lancaster in the 1920s.

Architect highlighted family business with an Art Deco facade

This is the third article in a series focusing on Henry Y. Shaub, an architect who had a lasting impact on Lancaster County.

There remains an unwritten rule in the world of architects:  Never work for family!   However, there are always exceptions to every rule and Lancaster architect Henry Y. Shaub broke that rule in 1929 when he agreed to design a new façade and interior for his younger brother’s burgeoning shoe business on North Queen Street.  Henry and Benjamin’s father, John Shaub, started the shoe business in 1880 and the family maintained it as a Lancaster city landmark until it closed in the summer of 2012.

Part of the store’s stature on Queen Street derived from its unique and unusual style of architecture, especially for Lancaster County, Art Deco.  A style born after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922, and further advanced at the Paris international exhibition Arts Decoratifs in 1925, Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance and most of all modernity.   Art Deco influenced fashion, industrial design, movie theaters, trains, cruise ships, automobiles, jewelry, and even had its own lettering style.  From all accounts, the Art Deco style we see on the building today replaced an earlier Queen Anne façade and interior.

Shaub’s expertise included many different architectural styles, but Art Deco was one of his favorites, evidenced by the number of significant commissions where he used it, and McCaskey High School is the largest and most prominent.  Some of the notable Art Deco features on the three-story Shaub’s Shoe Store include the large plate glass window above street level flanked by green translucent panels, each with a center-pivot lozenge window, and the one story tall brass lantern mounted above the side entry.

Additionally, the cast bronze stylized peacocks and zig zag design above the second floor window, the flat relief carvings in the travertine-like stone facing, and finally the signature Art Deco lettering featuring high-waisted center strokes on certain characters all combine to make this an Art Deco façade.

The rear of the building offers a curved brick wall with rusticated coursing, glass block infill and a metal decorative logo ornament above the window. The second floor interior features a graceful and organic iron stair rail leading to the third floor and the prominent and impressive floor to ceiling plate glass window mentioned earlier, with its view down to Queen Street.

Design Intervention is written by Gregory J. Scott, FAIA, Partner Emeritus

For LNP subscribers, here is the link to the original LNP Article, Architect Highlighted Family Business with an Art Deco Facade

1915 YWCA gave Lancaster architect Shaub his career-boosting opportunity

This is the second in a series focusing on Henry Y. Shaub, an architect who had a lasting impact on Lancaster County.

All architects wait for the “big one,” the opportunity to showcase their talent and accelerate their careers.  For another notable Lancaster architect, C. Emlen Urban, it was the Southern Market in 1888 at the age of 25; for Henry Y. Shaub, it was the YWCA in 1915 at the age of 28.  Both commissions were sizable, highly visible and subject to public scrutiny.  Not surprisingly, both of these talented architects came out on top.

Urban took advantage of his family connections to the Southern Market Building Selection Committee to help secure his first breakout commission.  Shaub, on the other hand, had to employ another tactic to secure his noteworthy and highly sought-after commission. His strategy was collaborating with an out-of-town expert for a design competition. Shaub invited an experienced and accomplished Pittsburgh architect, Harry S. Estep, to join him in submitting a design for the Lancaster YWCA, only the fourth freestanding facility of its kind in the United States.  This nationally advertised competition drew interest from east coast and mid-western architectural firms.

The proposed location for the YWCA required a solution that would complement the architecture of the surrounding residential neighborhood, and that would be pleasant to look at from its two primary exposures: North Lime Street and East Orange Street.  The Shaub/Estep team chose a style rooted in American tradition and history—Colonial Revival. The 1876 Centennial International Exhibition, held in Philadelphia, had sparked renewed interest in our country’s past architectural heritage. This renewed interest and the resulting Colonial Revival architecture would remain highly popular for another 80 years.

With broad porches, impressive front doors, gabled roofs, fluted Tuscan columns, elaborate dormers, double-hung windows with keystones, Flemish bond brick, fanlights, mutules, quoins and cast stone balustrades, this three and a half story structure provided a familiar appearance and a welcoming presence on a busy street corner.  The interior architecture offered a well-designed and well-appointed Colonial Revival experience, including a grand entrance hall and staircase, stained hardwood floors, paneled walls and an impressive auditorium with stage to accommodate several hundred guests.

The success of Shaub’s first major commission set the stage for a long and successful career that would span 58 years and include hundreds of commissions in dozens of building types and design styles.

Design Intervention is written by Gregory J. Scott, FAIA, Partner Emeritus

For LNP subscribers, here is the link to the original LNP Article, 1915 YWCA gave Lancaster architect Shaub his career-boosting opportunity.

 

Take a Closer Look at Henry Shaub: An Architect Who Helped Build Lancaster’s “Look”

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.

SHAUB BIOGRAPHY

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.”

 

Tying up the life of a legend: architect C. Emlen Urban

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.

First Time Was The Charm for Urban’s “One-Off” Designs

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

Urban’s Griest Building Boosted Lancaster PA into the Skyscraper Age

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.

Architecture You Could Bank ON

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.

Architect Still Thinking Outside the Department Store Box

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.