LANCASTER IN STYLE, PART 23: SPANISH COLONIAL REVIVAL: 1915 -1931

If there was confusion regarding the architectural differences between the styles of English Cottage and French Eclectic, there will be no confusion when it comes to identifying Spanish Revival.

The popularity of this style can be traced back to the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego. The nearly 4 million attendees enjoyed a grand display of Mediterranean-inspired architecture highlighting its charm and character spread over 640 acres of land. Previous world’s fairs and expositions featured only Beaux Arts and Neoclassical architectural styles. The visitor’s enthusiasm spread quickly to the East Coast and became an attractive alternative to the more traditional styles of Colonial, English, Dutch and French.

The Exposition introduced America to the simplicity of smooth stuccoed walls, low-pitched “barrel”-tiled roofs, graceful arches, decorative wrought iron and strategically located pops of color. While completely in character with the regional architecture of the Southwest, West Coast and Florida, Spanish-inspired architecture in southcentral Pennsylvania was an anomaly of huge proportion.



The most recognizable design feature of Spanish Revival architecture is the distinctive low-pitch terra cotta “barrel” roof tile. This 3,000-year-old method of shedding rainwater was developed by the ancient Greeks and refined by subsequent cultures and continents from around the world. A close “visual” second to the barrel-tile roof is the use of textured white stucco walls with colored tile accents and motifs.

The use of arches over windows and entryways is also a signature Spanish Revival detail, as are heavy wooden oak doors with oversize iron strap hinges. Exposed rafter tails or decorated roof brackets are common as are wrought-iron balconies, stair railings, window grills and gates.

HG Spanish Revival 13 F11 Wheatland Avenue -.jpg

This detail of a wrought-iron railing above the entry is an example of Spanish Colonial Revival Design found on Wheatland Avenue. It was built circa 1930.

Interestingly, Lancaster’s very own architect C. Emlen Urban did very little Spanish Revival architecture in the city, limited mostly to residential designs. However, Milton S. Hershey convinced him to design all his major Hershey commissions in Spanish Revival, including the Convention Center, the Hershey Theatre, Hotel Hershey and many workforce houses.

HG Spanish Revival 11 F11 East King st.jpg

This East King Street home, built circa 1925, has smooth stucco columns, a pyrimidal roof, a pergola, full-height arched windows and a round-top entry hood with decorative tile insets. It's an example of Spanish Colonial Revival design.

On the other hand, Urban’s protege, Henry Y. Shaub, was quick to embrace the style for both residential and public work — most notably the 1927 George Ross Elementary School.

Lancaster’s third leading architect, Melvern R. Evans, excelled in Spanish Colonial Revival, as evidenced by his work in the original School Lane Hills development.

HG Spanish Revival 16 F11 Wheatland.jpg

This circa-1930 home on Wheatland Avenue has smooth stucco, arched entry, blind arches on the first floor windows and hipped red barrel-tiled roof.

Although the velocity of Spanish Revival slowed down in Lancaster County during the 1940s, it never came to a complete halt. It remains a niche style among certain homeowners.

Why was Milton Hershey so enamored with Spanish style architecture?

Hershey did extensive travel to Cuba for the sugar cane purchases and most likely enjoyed what he saw.

Did Urban travel to Cuba with Hershey to see Spanish style architecture?

We have found no evidence that he ever visited Cuba.

What is the difference between Spanish Colonial Revival and Spanish Mission Style?

Spanish Mission Style has very little decorative detailing.

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.

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