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.