LANCASTER IN STYLE, PART 10: ROMANESQUE REVIVAL, 1880-1900

Romanesque Revival is the third Victorian style that was prevalent in the United States from 1880 to 1900.

Of the seven Victorian styles, Romanesque can be described as the most masculine and massive of the styles.

Based on the revival of medieval architectural forms, including towers, turrets, roman arches and masonry walls, it was applied primarily to civic structures rather than residences.

The thick masonry walls were typically rough-cut brownstone combined with red pressed brick and terra cotta tile detailing.

These materials in combination with deep recessed windows and dark slate roofing added to the earthy, “grounded” appearance associated with this distinctive style.



Noted Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson introduced the architectural community to the use of a massive single arch at the main entrance to his Romanesque Revival buildings. His colleagues quickly followed his lead and renamed the style Richardsonian Romanesque out of respect for his invention.

Lancaster architects were quick to adopt and adapt this style to their buildings in and around the city.

C. Emlen Urban and James H. Warner designed markets, schools, libraries, churches and other public buildings during this 20-year time frame. Many exist today as reminders of this popular style during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Several of the most notable structures include Lancaster’s Central Market, designed by James H. Warner in 1889. The twin masonry towers, brownstone base, red brick walls, Roman arches and complex roof forms identify it as Romanesque Revival.

S. Duke Street School

The South Duke Street Public School was designed by James H. Warner, built in 1892 and later razed. Romanesque Revival details included a square tower and a Richardsonian arch on squatty column.

Urban’s 1889 Wagner’s Cafe on Grant Street uses Roman arches, pressed red brick, brownstone and brick details that include diapering, dog-tooth and honeycombing.

The best example of a Richardsonian Romanesque arch can be found at the main entrance to the Lancaster Theological Seminary on West James Street.

Designed by Harrisburg architect John Christopher Smith in 1894, the three-story red brick and brownstone structure employs the signature massive Roman arch associated with this style. The arch consists of six courses of brick topped by alternating brownstone trim to further emphasize the bold entry statement.

Romanesque Revival’s popularity waned after 1900 as the era of Queen Victoria ended abruptly following her death in 1901.

Wagner's Cafe 2

Lancaster architect C. Emlen Urban designed the Wagner's Cafe building, Lenox Lane and Grant Street, in 1891 for businessman Charlie Wagner. Its Romanesque Revival details include a simulated square tower, Roman arches, brick corbelling, dog-toothing and a diapering-corner entry with a Byzantine column.

Its sturdy appearance and massive construction played a part in its ability to survive replacement by subsequent styles that followed.

Other surviving Romanesque Revival styles in Lancaster County include St. James Episcopal Church on North Duke Street; an apartment building at 14 N. Lime St.; Sacred Heart School on North Nevin Street; and Millersville University’s former library, designed by James H. Warner in 1891. Enjoy!


What is diapering?

Diapering is a term that describes the decorative crisscross pattern found on brick walls that adds interest to an otherwise plain, flat surface.

What is dog-tooth brickwork?

Dog-tooth is a decorative brick pattern where each brick is set at 45 degrees and projects from the face of the wall

What is a squatty column?

It’s a foreshortened column supporting an arch found in Romanesque Revival — especially Richardsonian Romanesque.

This Design Intervention 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. Scott's column runs in LNP | LancasterOnline on the second Thursday of each month.

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