The year is 1888. C. Emlen Urban is 25 years old and has just completed his first major architectural commission to rave reviews. The Southern Market Center demonstrated his ability to design and oversee a complex civic building with the ease of a seasoned architect.
This accomplishment, in addition to his expanding involvement in local business and social clubs, led to a groundswell of opportunities that allowed him to continue honing his skills.
Urban’s 1889 introduction to Lancaster’s aspiring 32-year-old confectionery entrepreneur, Milton S. Hershey, led to the design of Hershey’s private residence at 222 S. Queen St. Together, these two young professionals designed and built what has been described as a Queen Anne, shingle-style and Eastlake-style mansion.
The distinctive residence was replete with wrap-around porches, as well as a conservatory, library, indoor plumbing, central heating, electric light and a two-story carriage house with expansive lawns and manicured gardens. This successful residential commission in 1889 led to a productive and diverse 30-year relationship between Hershey and Urban.
Within his first two years as a professional, Urban had designed and detailed four different architectural styles and was about to tackle two more.
In 1891, Lancaster hotelier Charlie Wagner commissioned Urban to design a three-story cafe and hotel on a tight site at the corner of Lenox Lane and Grant Street. Urban chose Romanesque Revival for the style, using red brick and brownstone for the materials. The influence of his Philadelphia mentor, Willis G. Hale, is evident in the unique melding of details and forms on facade of the building, which now serves as law offices. Of note is the Byzantine, twisted cast-iron column at the corner entrance, the faux square tower with pyramidal roof, and the brick diapering above the second-floor windows.
In 1893, two prominent and unrelated families commissioned Urban to design side-by-side mansions for them in the popular 600 block of West Chestnut Street. Urban chose a very popular, but very complex, style of architecture for the companion structures: Chateauesque.
Reminiscent of the 16th-century chateaux of the Loire Valley in France, architectural details include spires, finials, towers with conical roofs, stepped gables, hipped roofs, broad porches, brick diapering, decorative windows and tall chimneys. Fortunately, the Menno M. Fry and Elmer E. Steigerwalt mansions have withstood the test of time and remain fully intact.
How did C. Emlen Urban influence Lancaster's "look?" We examine his first project up close.
- What happened to the Milton S. Hershey Mansion at 222 S. Queen St.?
Hershey lived in the mansion from 1890 to 1905. He moved his manufacturing operations to Dauphin County and sold his Lancaster city residence, and it was subsequently demolished.
- What is “brick diapering”?
“Diapering” is the term used to describe a decorative, diagonal patterning of brick on building facades. It is used to break down the scale of large, flat wall surfaces.
- When was Chateauesque style popular?
The French-influenced style was popular in the United States between 1860 and 1910. The homes were designed to impress and, therefore, most often were found in upscale neighborhoods and elevated above street level.
- 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.