LANCASTER IN STYLE, PART 34: 260 YEARS, 1719-1979

It’s a wrap.

This is the final edition of the “Lancaster in Style” series and will conclude with a few reflections of the many unique and distinctly different architectural styles that have spanned the past 260 years.

Our community is fortunate to have many fine intact examples of each architectural style dating from the early 1700s through to our present time and all within a very tight geographic footprint.



Other Colonial East Coast cities may claim to have the same number of styles, but certainly not within the reasonable walking distances that Lancaster offers.

The average center city historic walking tour reveals more than 34 different styles of architecture in less than two hours! That represents 70% of the 46 documented styles in Lancaster County; the balance are found in the surrounding suburbs.

HG 1889 Romanesque Revival Scott J13.JPG

An 1889 example of Romanesque Revival architecture, Lancaster Central Market  was designed by James H. Warner. It has a unique checkerboard brownstone pattern. with Roman arches and distinctive checkerboard gable detailing.

Why is this?

Lancaster city grew like a tree; the center of the city, like a tree, contains the oldest growth — being German, Georgian and Federal styles. Many original structures, but not all, were razed and replaced with “new growth” rings compacting the density and expanding the girth around the original core.

The newer styles included Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival, Beaux-Arts, Gothic Revival, etc.

HG 1896 Chateauesque  Roslyn Scott J13.jpg

Roslyn, the Peter T. Watt mansion on Marietta Avenue, is a 1896 example of Chateauesque architecture.

Another reason is Lancaster was fortunate to have a preponderance of clay pits and stone quarries within arm’s reach. This meant that the community core used fire-resistant materials for residences, religious, civic and commercial structures because masonry was plentiful and cost effective.

Why so many styles in such a small city compared to others?

Lancaster is equidistant from Philadelphia and Baltimore; both cities were arbiters of design and fashion in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. As transportation improved, architects and civic leaders were exposed to the latest architectural trends and brought the ideas home with them.

Our research has found no less than 56 Philadelphia architects with commissions in our city and another 34 architects from cities as far away as Chicago, New York and Los Angeles Those 90 architects, in addition to our own design professionals, kept Lancaster at the leading edge of design innovation.

HG 1925 Storybook Style  Cottage President Ave Scott J13.jpg

This 1925 Storybook-style cottage is on President Avenue in Lancaster.  It has parged and painted brick walls, a round-top entry and door, exaggerated shutters and diamond casement windows.

What influenced design styles and trends?

World and domestic wars, international expositions, increased world travel, the development of photography, advancements in industry and technology, societal shifts and archaeological discoveries all contributed to and influenced architectural styles. For instance, the 1911 Hager Building is the result of structural steel availability; the 1925 art deco Shaub Shoe Store followed the discovery of Ancient Egypt’s King Tut’s tomb in 1922; and, lastly, the demise of the Queen Anne style coincided with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.

HG 1922 English Tudor Wohlsen Mansion Scott J13.jpg

This example of English Tudor design is the Herman A. Wohlsen mansion, built in Lancaster in 1922. it has half-timber detailing with decorative quatrefoil and a clay-tile roof.

Interestingly, very few architectural styles are homegrown; the majority are adaptations and imports from European and Asian cultures.

We live in a truly amazing community, rich in the arts, architecture and culture! It is no wonder we’ve caught the attention of so many people “from away.”

HG 1913 Egyptian Revival Community Mausoleum  Greenwood Scott J13.JPG

This 1913 community mausoleum in Lancaster's Greenwood Cemetery is an example of Egyptian Revival style. The granite sphinx is on on a plinth block, near smooth columns with lotus capitals, bronze doors and rolled molding. 

What will the next series be for Design Intervention, starting next month?

Back by popular demand, we will revisit “The Architects’ Alphabet” from A-Z; using only examples from Lancaster County! I’m already working on Z!

HG c1970 Swiss chalet Scott J13.JPG

This Swiss Chalet-style bi-level home, built around 1970, has a  large transom over double front doors and projected triple living room windows over the den.

How do you accumulate all the information?

I have the great fortune of having research historian extraordinaire Deb Oesch at my side culling through endless newspapers, obituaries, census reports and other historic documents.

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.

What to Read Next