LANCASTER IN STYLE, PART 4: Georgian style, 1730-95

Editor’s note: This is Part 4 of a series about the various styles of architecture found throughout Lancaster County.

After three kings and 74 years, the Colonies were finally able to cast off Georgian as the architectural style of the New World. The trend began with the coronation of King George I in 1714 and ended with the adoption of the United States Constitution in 1788, during the reign of King George III.

Until then, Georgian evolved as the most prominent, dominant and visible architectural style among the 13 colonies. Lancaster County was no exception. Although Germanic and Traditional English were on parallel time tracks, Georgian outpaced them.

Defined by unwavering symmetry and visual balance, Georgian was all about formality, discipline and attention to every detail.

Andres Graeff House Lancaster Twp with German pent roofd c1767_2.jpg

The Andres Graeff House, circa 1767, in Lancaster Township, combines Georgian style wiht a German pent roof.

Typically constructed of brick or stone for both longevity and pretentiousness, this style has several notable characteristics: central fireplaces with two chimneys inset from the gable ends, a central entry hall and grand stair, keystones, oversized windows with 12 over 12 panes of glass, a dentiled roof cornice, water tables, belt courses and a pedimented entry with an eight-panel front door.

There was a time when virtually every building in downtown Lancaster was built in the Georgian style and featured red brick with white trim. The steeply pitched roof structures were one, two or three stories in height with black shutters. Under the king’s authoritarian rule, there was no need or ability to test new ideas except to evade taxes as it applied to the number of windows and stories.

Unlike other burgeoning cities in the Colonies, Lancaster is unique for the influence of German immigrants — and their pragmatic approach — on its Georgian architecture. This influence led to the melding of the two styles. For example, the German pent roof can be seen on both Georgian and Traditional English buildings throughout the county.

Masonic Hall c1798

The old Masonic Hall building, circa 1768, on West King Street is an example of Georgian architecture.

The Rock Ford Plantation, established by Gen. Edward Hand in 1795, represents a good example of “late Georgian,” as does the Old Lancaster City Hall on Penn Square.

Both buildings have all the usual design characteristics, including a Flemish bond brick pattern.

The 1784 Sehner-Ellicot-von Hess House on North Prince Street is referred to as “half-Georgian,” because it lacks traditional symmetry.

Sehner-Ellicot von Hess House c1780   (5).jpg

The Sehner-Ellicot von Hess House, circa 1780, on North Prince Street, is an example of Georgian architecture. 

The narrow, three-bay building places the front door to the side rather than the center allowing for a more efficient floor plan.

The half-Georgian design is very typical in a city with narrow building lots.

The Georgian style slowly lost favor with the general public after the end of the American Revolution and was replaced with the first true American style — Federal.

Flemish bond brick pattern

A Flemish bond brick pattern is created by laying down alternating layers of short and long bricks, referred to as headers and stretchers.

What is a Flemish bond brick pattern?

A Flemish bond brick pattern is created by laying down alternating layers of short and long bricks, referred to as headers and stretchers.

What is a keystone?

The keystone refers to the wedge-shaped stone at the center of a masonry window head. It locks the adjacent stones in place and prevents collapse.

What is a water table?

The water table is the decorative projecting course of brick at the base of a masonry building, designed to deflect rainwater away from the foundation.

This column is contributed by Gregory J. Scott, FAIA, a  local architect with more than four decades of national experience in innovation and design. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows. Email GScott@rlps.com.