There remains an unwritten rule in the world of architects: Never work for family.
However, there are exceptions to every rule, and Lancaster architect Henry Y. Shaub broke that rule in 1929 when he agreed to design a new facade and interior for his younger brother’s burgeoning shoe business on North Queen Street in downtown Lancaster.
Henry and Benjamin’s father, John Shaub, started Shaub’s Shoe Store, 18 N. Queen St., in 1880, and the family maintained it as a city landmark until it closed in the summer of 2012.
Part of the store’s stature on Queen Street derived from its unique and unusual style of architecture, especially for Lancaster County — Art Deco. A style born after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 and further advanced at the Paris international exhibition “Arts Decoratifs” in 1925, art deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance and, most of all, modernity. Art Deco influenced fashion, industrial design, movie theaters, trains, cruise ships, automobiles, jewelry and even had its own lettering style.
From all accounts, the Art Deco style we see on the building today replaced an earlier Queen Anne facade and interior.
Shaub’s expertise included many different architectural styles, but Art Deco was one of his favorites, evidenced by the number of significant commissions where he used it, with McCaskey High School being the largest and most prominent. The notable Art Deco features on the three-story Shaub’s Shoe Store include the large plate glass window above street level flanked by green translucent panels, each with a center-pivot lozenge window, and the one-story-tall brass lantern mounted above the side entry.
Additionally, the cast-bronze stylized peacocks and zigzag design above the second-floor window, the flat relief carvings in the travertinelike stone facing, and finally, the signature Art Deco lettering featuring high-waisted center strokes on certain characters all combine to make this an Art Deco facade.
The rear of the building offers a curved brick wall with rusticated coursing, glass block infill and a metal decorative logo ornament above the window. The second-floor interior features a graceful and organic iron stair rail leading to the third floor and the prominent and impressive floor-to-ceiling plate-glass window mentioned earlier, with its view down to Queen Street.
Did fellow Lancaster architect C. Emlen Urban work in the Art Deco style?
Although Art Deco was quite popular during Urban's most active years in practice, few (if any) examples exist in his portfolio.
Are there other examples of Art Deco in the city?
In addition to Shaub’s and McCaskey High School, Pappagallo’s, Groff’s Funeral Home and the LNP office on West King Street represent surviving Lancaster examples of the style.
When was Art Deco popular?
The style flourished between 1920 and 1939. After World War II, Streamline Moderne emerged as the next popular style.