C. Emlen Urban: Part 4

Watt & Shand Department Store

As the 19th century was waning, C. Emlen Urban’s architectural career was waxing.  In 1898, at the age of 35, Urban was commissioned to design what many of his admirers consider to be his high-water mark—the Watt & Shand building. If not his crowning achievement, it is certainly the most recognizable and prestigious public building in downtown Lancaster.  Having successfully completed the personal residence for mercantilist Peter T. Watt in 1896, Watt and his business partner, James Shand, challenged the young Urban to further elevate their position in the retail community and bring the department store into the 20th century.

Concurrently, a new architectural style was sweeping the country and replacing the ever popular Queen Anne style. The newest craze was grounded in European design with a flair for the flamboyant!  The Beaux Arts style, named after the French national university in Paris, Ecole des Beaux Arts, arrived in the United States during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.  Many cities of wealth and prosperity subsequently introduced this radical departure from the norm into their downtowns.  Civic buildings including courthouses, capitols, libraries, train stations, and post offices were the typical candidates for the Beaux Arts style.  The most distinguishing characteristics included Greek and Italian Renaissance decorative elements such as columns, pediments, balustrades, ornamental windows, stone carvings and elaborate sculpture.  The traditional building materials utilized were tan colored brick, marble, and cut stone.

Read the full LNP Article:  Architect designs the heart of Lancaster city’s Penn Square