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.
Architect’s extravagant 1905 Stevens School is a lesson in forecasting the future
With the arrival of a new century in 1900, C. Emlen Urban continued to rise in popularity and notoriety in all circles of engagement, public, private and social. The recent completions of the Stehli Silk Mill, the Wharton School, Stager Hall at Franklin & Marshall College and the Quarryville School set the stage for a commission that would test the mettle of this young rising star.
In 1902, the School Board of Lancaster commissioned 39-year-old Urban to design the girls high school. After visits to recently completed commissions by other architects in York, Reading, Chester County and Atlantic City, Urban returned to Lancaster to design what would be considered the most extravagant, controversial and expensive high school between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
The center-city site at Chestnut and Charlotte streets, with tree-lined streets, rolling topography and generous sidewalks, was the perfect setting for his three-story all-masonry structure. He employed three architectural styles: beaux-arts, Italian Renaissance and Greek Classical. Urban’s four-year apprenticeship 20 years earlier with Philadelphia’s avant-garde architect, Willis G. Hale, gave him the confidence and skills necessary to effectively mix and match these diverse styles. The purple brownstone foundation blocks, golden bricks, elaborate terra cotta ornamentation, green copper cresting and hand-carved chestnut entrance led to severe public criticism for the significant cost overruns that occurred during construction.
On October 22 and 23, 1897 the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal and New Era newspapers announced that a major international silk manufacturing company would begin construction on the world’s second largest silk mill operation to be located along Martha Avenue. Stehli & Co. of Zurich, Switzerland was “induced” by the Lancaster Board of Trade to locate their first United States operation in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. When announced, the initial construction would employ over 500 men and women in a three-story structure measuring 50 feet wide by 250 feet long utilizing 600,000 bricks and housing 300 looms! When all five phases of expansion were completed in 1925, the mill employed more than 1,600 workers, contained 250,000 square feet of floor space, 2,500 windows, 1,100 looms and was 883 feet in length, making it the longest single building in America and the second longest in the world.
Stehli & Co retained Lancaster’s 34 year old architect, C. Emlen Urban, to be their architect of record. As in the past, Urban’s business connections and personal relationships in the community positioned him to receive this landmark commission that would expand his geographic reach to two other Stehli states: North Carolina and Virginia.
Credit for historical photos: LancasterOnline.com
Full LNP Article: Architect’s Work on Lancaster’s Stehli Mill was Smooth as Silk
Architect C. Emlen Urban develops a sweet partnership with candy entrepreneur Milton S. Hershey
C. Emlen Urban understood the power of relationships as well as anyone in the business. Shortly after launching his career in 1886, he joined the most prominent social clubs in Lancaster including the prestigious Hamilton Club. This club in particular provided Urban with an opportunity to meet other successful business persons in the community including James Shand, Peter Watt, A. B. Rote and, perhaps most fortuitously, Milton S. Hershey! Hershey (age 32) and Urban (age 27), two young and emerging entrepreneurs, teamed up in 1890 to design alterations to Hershey’s personal residence with his wife Catherine Hershey.
This residential venture was the beginning of a long and illustrious career between two friends spanning more than 40 years. Similar to Urban’s experience with Peter Watt and the Watt & Shand department store, the relationship began by designing a residential project followed quickly by numerous commercial ventures. Residential commissions are always the most challenging, risky and exhausting because of the intense personal nature of the design decisions. Urban’s success with the three-story Shingle Style mansion and carriage house for the Hersheys resulted in several major commissions that would take him well beyond Lancaster City.
Full LNP on-line article: C. Emlen Urban’s Sweet Partnership with Milton S. Hershey
Urban takes his show on the road
The year is 1898. It has been12 years since the 35-year-old architect hung his “Open for Business” shingle. During those 12 short years C. Emlen Urban designed many private homes, multiple mansions, a school, a department store, a café, a small hotel, a cigar factory, a farmer’s market and several commercial structures. His reputation for producing high quality designs that were both timely and innovative was growing. However, as impressive as the 1898 Beaux Arts Watt & Shand Department Store and the very stylistic four-story Davidson Buildings were – it was a pair of unpretentious three-story residences located on West Chestnut Street that caught the eye of a New York City real estate developer and ultimately took Urban’s work on the road. The Italian Renaissance style was growing in popularity across the country and Urban’s Lancaster City was no exception.
Defined by distinctive low pitched, hipped roofs with red barrel tile shingles, deep overhangs and exposed decorative rafter tails, these identical twin residences were a radical departure from the traditional Queen Anne and Federal style designs that lined the streets of the city. However, the real Italian flair can be seen in Urban’s use of terra cotta putti or cupid statuary over the second floor windows and in the third floor medallions. There is little doubt that the New York developer was impressed by Urban’s attention to detail, proportions and use of materials, but his attraction most likely focused on the upper floor level where Urban’s ability to successfully integrate functional building elements into his designs with grace and beauty was demonstrated.
Read the full LNP article: Lancaster’s Architect Takes his Show on the Road
Head back to the classroom to ‘tour’ some of architect’s greatest schools
It’s September and even C. Emlen Urban had to go back to school! However, as a young architect it was for a new objective—to design them! Urban’s illustrious career included many building types: residences, civic buildings, churches, industrial, mercantile, offices and even schools. In all, he designed 13 public schools, from his first in 1895 at the age of 32 to his last in East Lampeter Township on Old Philadelphia Pike toward the end of his career. His more notable school designs included Stevens High School, 1906; Milton Hershey Consolidated School, 1914; Fulton Boy’s School, 1916; Reynold’s Middle School, 1927; and Lancaster Catholic High School, 1929.
Urban’s school designs were as varied as the architectural styles that he chose for each of them. Each school represented a popular style of the time beginning with Italian Renaissance for the 1895 Strawberry Street Elementary School, to Gothic Revival for The Reynold’s Middle School, and Beaux Arts/French Renaissance for his most controversial design, the Stevens High School. All 13 buildings are still in existence; some are being used for their original function while others have been repurposed for a new use. Either way, their longevity reflects the integrity of the materials he specified, the quality of the design and the buildings’ ability to adapt to the changing times.
The full LNP News article and photos are available at Lancaster On-line.
Urban makes house calls
Despite C Emlen Urban’s rising success in designing large scale and significant commercial, retail, and civic structures – he still made house calls. Residential design is often where architects learn the trade and begin understanding how buildings are constructed. Although smaller in scale, a private residence is just as complex, and often more demanding of skill, patience, time and knowledge than the larger public structures. Urbans’ reputation for producing quality and innovative designs at all levels and styles resulted in residential commissions in Lancaster, Lititz, Millersville, Manheim, Marietta, Strasburg, Gap, Annville, and Hershey.
His residential design styles were as varied and unique as his clients and included: Queen Anne, Chauteauesque, Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, Italian Renaissance Revival, Shingle Style, Beaux Arts, and Georgian Revival. Each architectural style has its own ‘vocabulary’ of details, proportions, materials and overall character that must be taken into account when developing the plans and elevations. For example, the Paired Mansions at 623-625 W Chestnut Street are designed in the Italian Renaissance Style and incorporate terra cotta ornamentation, low projecting tile roof overhangs with exposed rafter tails and distinctive recessed third floor balconies. His design solution for these companion homes was so well received that he was commissioned to replicate them in New York City!
Read the full LNP Article: Take a virtual tour: Lancaster’s most famous architect left his mark on private homes, too