Urban school collage

Of these three schools, only the Strawberry Street school, top, is a confirmed C. Emlen Urban design. Yet the other two -- the former Buehrle School, bottom left, and the former Marietta High School, all shown in period photos, both bear enough similarities to known Urban works that more research into their design is warranted. 

When this series began two years ago, there were 106 buildings attributed to C. Emlen Urban. Since that time, the list has grown to 273.

While this expanded number of commissions may seem incomprehensible for a sole practitioner more than 100 years ago, there are another two dozen or more buildings in our community that are considered unattributed. That means the building has all the hallmark design characteristics of an Urban structure, but there has been no documented evidence confirming that it is his design.

Typically, Urban designs can be verified through construction documents bearing his name, meeting minutes from boards or committees, personal letters, trade journals or books with photos crediting him as the architect.

Two examples of noteworthy unattributed designs in the city include the former Louis Weber Jewelry Store at 40 N. Queen St. and a neighboring building at 30 N. Queen St. The former opened for business on March 25, 1911, and the latter on April 3, 1914.

Both buildings fit the time frame for Urban’s amazing run at downtown buildings between 1900 and 1925. In that time frame, he was responsible for Watt & Shand, Hager Building, Kirk Johnson, Harold’s, Reilly Brothers and Raub, Bausman Building, Fulton Theatre interior, Keppel’s Confectionery, Brunswick Hotel, the former YMCA, Garvin’s and, of course the Griest Building.

The Louis Weber Jewelry Store opened just two days after the Hager Department Store and was designed in one of Urban’s most revered styles, French Renaissance. It features his signature ivory-colored, glazed terra cotta tiles, a distinctive lion’s head parapet, French plate glass and a marquee that since has been removed. Conveniently, his architectural practice was located next door in the former Lancaster Trust Building.

Unfortunately there is no documentation available to classify it as an Urban design.

The paired mansions at 623 and 625 W. Chestnut St. brought him great esteem at the turn of the last century (see the October 2017 Design Intervention at bit.ly/pairedmansions for the story). These attractive Italian Renaissance residences have a next-door neighbor that, like the North Queen Street commercial buildings, was designed in Urban’s popular French Renaissance style. The similarities between these buildings are too numerous to discount the probability of his involvement. The signature narrow-gauge gold brick, similar porch post detailing and ornate cast-stone sculpture, including cherubs and serpents, are all Urban staples.

Other unattributed buildings requiring further investigation include Buehrle School, 1002 Marietta Ave., 43 N. Shippen St., 636 W. Chestnut St., 549 N. Lime St., the Rhoads Mansion at 121 S. Prince St. and the Keystone National Bank (now Fulton Bank) in Manheim, to name a few. Information on any of these buildings would be welcomed.

How did the number of attributed C. Emlen Urban designs more than double in the two years of this series?

A large number were the result of reviewing archives both locally and in Philadelphia, reviewing trade journals and newspaper accounts, receiving leads from readers and general contractors sharing their records and files.

Do we know how many employees Urban had available to produce that quantity and quality of work?

Unfortunately, we have very little information available to answer that important question. Research will continue.

  • Interested in more? You can read previous installments of the series on architect C. Emlen Urban here

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