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
Dec. 12, 19 & 26 / 5 pm-7pm
The 2018 RLPS Gingerbread Display made its debut to the public on Wednesday, December 12th from 5 pm – 7 pm for the first of three public open house nights. You are also welcome to view the display on the following two Wednesday evenings: December 19th and 26th from 5 pm – 7 pm. No admission will be charged, but you will have the opportunity to donate non-perishable food items for the Water Street Mission during each open house. The food drive is optional for those who wish to participate. Thank you to past attendees who suggested the idea.
There are likely to be long lines each night, so please plan accordingly. Please no pets. Doors open at 5 p.m.
RLPS Gingerbread 2018 Winners, based on votes by our clients and business associates.
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.
Thank you to our many clients and business associates, as well as new connections, from this year’s event in Philadelphia! We attended a number of great sessions sharing new ideas, current challenges and emerging trends.
RLPSers were also be part of the speaker’s panel for the following educational sessions at this year’s conference. Click on the session title to download handouts:
131-B. Design Strategies for Big Living in Small Spaces – Monday, October 29, 2018 / 8:00 – 9:30 a.m.
Ric Myers, Director of Sales, Willow Valley Communities and Gregg Scott
32-G. Extending Housing and Services to the Middle Market – Wednesday, October 31, 2018 / 8:00 – 9:30 a.m.
Beverly Asper, director, Baker Tilly; Lynn Daly, Senior Vice President, BB&T Capital Markets; and Craig Kimmel
165-H. Fostering an Employee-Centered Workplace – Wednesday, October 31, 2018 / 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Steve Jeffrey, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, Garden Spot Village Retirement Community; Lisa McCracken, Director Senior Living Research and Development, Ziegler; and Jessie Santini
More information is available on the LeadingAge Conference website.
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.
Gregg Scott, FAIA, Senior Partner at RLPS Architects will be hosting a private walking tour of Historic Downtown Lancaster. This tour will highlight a diverse mix of commercial and residential buildings reflecting a myriad of architectural styles, all within a few blocks of the city square. Many of the featured buildings are the direct result of the impressive architectural career of Lancaster’s own C. Emlen Urban.
HANDOUT FOR TOUR:
The following is a pdf file for tour-goers to reference during the tour: Lancaster Walking Tour – September 2018
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 15
In 1910, the Hager family knew they had to do something radical if they were going to survive in the competitive Lancaster City department store business. Their claim to being the oldest continuously operating department store in the United States did not sufficiently impress consumers who were attracted to the new shopping experience offered by Watt & Shand. Additionally, new stores were being planned for M. T. Garvin and Reilly Brothers and Raub. Interestingly, the Hagers commissioned , C Emlen Urban, the very same architect that Peter T. Watt and James Shand had retained to reinvent their store a decade earlier!
This time, however, Urban was able to take advantage of the benefits of structural steel construction, allowing for larger window openings and virtually column-free floor space. This revolutionary new construction method transformed the way buildings looked and performed. For a department store, this meant superior natural lighting to showcase merchandise and open floor plans for customer convenience.
Until the advent of structural steel framing, commercial buildings in Lancaster were masonry, load bearing structures with restrictions on height, window and door openings. The Hager Department Store changed all that and ushered in a new era of taller, lighter and more impressive buildings in the downtown. On March 22, 1911, The Lancaster New Era heralded the transformed five-story commercial building as “the best example of modern department store building construction in our State outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.”
Urban was careful, clever and deliberate with his choice of materials to clad Lancaster’s newest building. He chose the traditional detailing associated with the French Renaissance Style to acknowledge the past, but melded it with modern details of the emerging Chicago Style. White glazed terra cotta blocks, ornate medallions, embossed metal panels, large plate glass windows and cast iron columns that were topped off with a decorative pressed metal cornice created an imposing presence on West King Street.
The full-story and photos are available at LNP online: Lancaster City’s Hager Store Ushers in a New Era of Modern Architecture
We hope to see many of our clients and business associates at this always busy, informative, and enjoyable conference. Please stop by RLPS Architects’ booth #50/51 or RLPS Interiors’ booth #30. We’ll also be participating in the following education sessions:
Pixel Perfect – Design Technology for Today and Tomorrow
Thursday, June 21st, 12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Solutions for the Middle Market Senior Housing
Thursday, June 21st, 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
The Wave of the Future: Urban Senior Housing
Friday, June 22nd, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Attracting & Retaining Highly Engaged Workers Through Strategic Person-Centered & Environmental Initiatives
Friday, June 22nd, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Achieving Long Term Goals: Implementing Your Master Plan While Adapting to Emerging Trends and Government Policy
Friday, June 22nd, 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.