Hager Store Ushers in a New Era of Modern Architecture

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

LeadingAge PA June 20-22, 2018

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.

The Fulton Theatre: A Standing Ovation

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  Architect’s Work Earns a Standing Ovation at Fulton Theatre.

All photos by Larry Lefever Photography

RLPS Promotes Four Employees

We are excited to announce the promotions of Dan Godfrey, Jodi Kreider, Carson Parr, and Brent Stebbins to Partner. All of these individuals have worked with RLPS for a number of years and are familiar to many of our clients and business associates so we’ve asked each of them a few questions about their career path and personal inspiration.

Dan Godfrey, Jr., AIA, LEED AP

22 years of Experience / 19 Years at RLPS

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Golf and coaching my daughter’s basketball team.

How did you decide you wanted to be an architect?

I became interested in construction while working with my uncle who is a residential contractor. I began my post high school education at Harrisburg Area Community College with the intent of keeping all doors open. Shortly after being employed by an architectural firm I discovered the evening architectural program at Drexel University. My goals and ambition grew as new opportunities became available in the profession.

What was your first part-time job?

I worked in residential construction at an early age with my uncle. My first official part-time job was at Staples Office supply store.

Do you have a favorite quote?

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value” – Albert Einstein

Professional Qualifications:

  • Bachelor in Architecture / Drexel University
  • Associates Degree in Applied Science / Harrisburg Area Community College
  • NCARB Registered architect
  • Member, American Institute of Architects
  • AIA Central Pennsylvania
    • Board Member 2010-2017
    • Past President 2017
  • Architectural and Building Construction Management Advisory Committees, Harrisburg Area Community College
  • Member, United States Green Building Council


Jodi Kreider, LEED AP

27 Years of Experience / 15 Years at RLPS

What do you like to do in your spare time?

My favorite pastimes are either curling up with a good book or heading out for a long walk. I also recently joined the Lancaster Rotary Club and volunteer at the Hospice & Community Care annual Labor Day auction and at LCBC Church in Manheim. Prior to becoming a parent, I was also a volunteer reading tutor with the Lancaster-Lebanon Literacy Council. As an avid reader, I felt like it was a logical choice for me. Now a good bit of my spare time is spent shuttling and cheering on my daughters for their various activities.

How did you end up being the lone English major working at an architectural firm?

I started out as a dietetics major in college, but after a couple of semesters of pre-med sciences switched over to English and communications. My second choice career has been a great fit for me since I love to write and thoroughly enjoy coordinating communications for the firm as well as continually researching and learning new things.

What was your first part-time job?

My first part-time job was working in the food service department at Willow Valley Manor in Willow Street, Pennsylvania.  An interesting coincidence is that now RLPS is working with Willow Valley Living at the Manor and other campuses.  It’s great to see how much it has grown and changed since I worked there.

What was your most unique job experience?

My most unique job was working in various capacities on my parents’ dairy farm. For the most part I loved working with the animals and being outdoors, but I was not a fan of the long hours and especially disliked waking up before 4 am!  I think that experience resulted in a strong work ethic, but also an understanding that I was better suited to a desk job.

Do you have a favorite quote?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou

 Professional Qualifications:

  • Bachelor of Arts with Honors in English/Communications from Albright College
  • LEED Accredited Professional, United States Green Building Council


Carson Parr, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

8 Years of Experience / 8 Years at RLPS

How do you spend your spare time?

Playing soccer, golfing, snowboarding, and hiking with my dogs. I love to travel and experience places and cultures.

When did you decide you wanted to be an architect?

From Lincoln Logs and Legos to my first toolbox and working in my grandfather’s glass shop, I’ve always liked building things.  At some point, I realized people’s lives were impacted by the spaces they inhabit and that’s why I became an architect—to help improve the quality of people’s lives by creating and defining the spatial experience. Following my internship at RLPS, the sincerity of the people, the quality of the work, and the culture of the firm made me feel at home. I look forward to coming to work every day.

What was your first part-time job?

My first job was a tractor trailer washer. Need I say more?

What was your most unique client quote or job experience?

Every client and project is unique. I cherish them all in their own way – It’s about people and our clients are among the best!

Do you have a favorite quote or is there an architect whose work you admire?

My favorite quote is “Everything happens for a reason.” I have two role models:  my father and grandfather.  Both have inspired me to work hard, be humble and take nothing for granted.

Professional Qualifications:

  • Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Architecture: Community and Urban Design / Pennsylvania State University
  • NCARB Registered Architect
  • Member, American Institute of Architects
  • 2018 President and Board Member, AIA Central Pennsylvania
  • Member, United States Green Building Council Building Design and Construction


Brent Stebbins, AIA

25 Years of Experience / 18 Years at RLPS

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy touring new places, visiting noteworthy architectural sites and also enjoy hiking/walking (mostly), history, time spent with my family, church and exercise.

When did you decide you wanted to be an architect?

I probably began considering architecture as a profession in high school drafting class, but my interest in building started much earlier with LEGOS, wooden blocks, Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys. As a child I was always imagining and creating. Bouncing between the contrast of life on a farm and progressive suburbia as I grew up also had a very strong influence, leading to my love of nature and outdoor connections.

What was your first part-time job?

I started helping out on a farm from a very early age, but my first “real” job on my own was as a bag boy at Acme Markets.

Are there any unique quotes or job experiences you can share?

A loose quote from Architect Peter Bohlin:  “Architecture is much like people’s faces.  It’s the unique differences, the quirks, that make them interesting, maybe even beautiful.”

Do you have a favorite architect or role model?

I have many favorite architects for varied reasons.  A good architect builds on the shoulders of giants.  You study all the greats and then morph them into your thoughts to develop something uniquely your own.  Frank Lloyd Wright for example, was strongly influenced by H.H. Richardson, Louis Sullivan, Japanese Architecture and many others (but he famously only credited Louis Sullivan.)

Professional Qualifications:

  • Bachelor of Architecture with Honors and Bachelor of Environmental Design in Architecture with Honors / North Carolina State University
  • Associate Degree in Architectural Technology with Honors / Pennsylvania College of Technology
  • NCARB Registered Architect
  • Member, American Institute of Architects



Gunzenhauser Residence & Bakery: From Rags to Riches!

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.


DESIGN INTERVENTION: St. James Parish House is an ‘exquisite’ example of its Georgian Revival inspiration

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.

Seniors Housing News Best Independent Living Design 2017: Willow Valley Vistas & Chautauqua Hall


“Avoid the diminished standard, you don’t have to give anything up.”

This was the directive from John Swanson CEO of Willow Valley to the RLPS design team.  We were challenged to envision an upscale apartment model and event venue that would reflect the community’s high standards for gracious, vibrant spaces that avoid the limitations of conventional ideas about what is appropriate for older adults.

The five-story apartment building occupies a prime hilltop location allowing for underground parking as well as commanding views toward the city of Lancaster on one side and farmland on the other side.

“The building footplate was defined as part of a planning initiative several years before the actual building design work started,” according to Paul Nikolaus, AIA, project designer.  “Fixed property line setbacks, impervious coverage limitations, site grading and a 60-foot building height requirement provided the framework for the final plan solution which uses the hilltop location to advantage.”

“Despite the 60-foot limitation, generous ceiling heights were accomplished by utilizing a thin floor/ceiling assembly via a steel frame and concrete plank structural system,” states project architect, Rob Beal, AIA.  “This system, along with large, projecting box bay windows, helped to create open and bright living areas that take advantage of panoramic views.”

Generous spaces for gathering and entertaining include a 360 degree rooftop terrace, community meeting rooms, a business center for resident use, library, fitness area, game room, top floor dining room, and a catering kitchen that residents are able to use for private parties.

“We wanted these spaces to be functional for seniors, but not compromise the hospitality-driven design Willow Valley is known for,” Beal says.

The rooftop venue includes casual seating areas, fire tables and bar for a range of casual interactions and events.  The commanding views were also a priority inside the building where the top floor dining terrace focuses on the outdoors.

The name “Chautauqua Hall,” was selected for the event pavilion due to its Native American association with bringing people together. Rustic, agrarian-influenced design details combine with state-of-the-art technology for an appealing indoor/outdoor venue to host a variety of functions.

According to Rebecca Slenker, AIA, project architect for Chautauqua Hall, “The Lancaster County Amish construction details, such as mortise and tenon joinery, required the involvement of local craftsmen to maintain authentic regional construction techniques.  We also wanted to be sure about structural integrity and safety for this type of commercial event space.”

The four season building includes a raised platform, green room and dance floor, small scale commercial equipment kitchen and bar, as well as an outdoor fireplace and grill.  Operable garage doors allow for open air events that can spill out to the exterior patio.

“There are also active louvers in the cupolas for natural ventilation in the summer months,” Slenker adds.

Comments from members of the jury are included in a feature article from Senior Housing News about this award-winner.




C. Emlen Urban: Part 10

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.

Full LNP Article:  Architect’s Extravagant 1905 Stevens School is a Lesson in Forecasting the Future

C. Emlen Urban: Part 9

Architect’s work on Lancaster’s Stehli mill was smooth as silk

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:

Full LNP Article:  Architect’s Work on Lancaster’s Stehli Mill was Smooth as Silk