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Lancaster in Previous Decades

The City of Lancaster has a long history which is reflected in its rich and varied historic buildings. Scattered throughout the City’s historic neighborhoods are small log houses, farmhouses, rowhouses, markethouses, carriage houses, warehouses, and outhouses, as well as stately mansions, factories, churches, schools and commercial buildings. Lancaster's history is a daily living presence within a modern city.

Lancaster in the 1900s

The core of central Lancaster remains largely comprised of architecture dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Because this area was densely settled by the late 1800s, most twentieth-century development took place at the western and eastern edges of the City's boundaries.

In the City's northeast section, the area surrounding Ross and Clay Streets contains vestiges of late nineteenth-century real estate development. In contrast to the more random growth within the Ross/Clay neighborhood, the McGrann Park neighborhood, east of North Plum Street, is the result of a unified planning effort initiated in 1907. The 25-acre McGrann Park was used in the late 1800s as a race track and county fair grounds. The tract was sold to the McGrann's Park Development Company and may represent Lancaster's first "planned" suburban development of middle-class residences. Following the success of the new McGrann Park neighborhood, the adjacent Grandview Park area developed gradually over the next several decades leading up to World War II.

The development of Lancaster's West End after 1900, meanwhile, can be attributed to a general westward expansion of the city's population. Marietta Avenue became a "status" neighborhood after the 1890s, with the influence of new trolley lines circa 1895-1910, and the impact of the automobile soon afterwards. Houses in this area reflect diverse early twentieth-century architectural styles, including many revival styles. Houses found on Buchanan and Race Avenues, and West Clay and State Streets, include Tudor, Georgian, Colonial and Spanish Revivals and American Four Squares. With broad tree-lined streets and deep lawns, these neighborhoods reflect the growing suburban movement unfolding throughout the United States during this period.

The two major twentieth-century architectural styles represented in Lancaster are Colonial Revival and Art Deco.

Go to the section on Lancaster Architectural Styles to read about the typical characteristics of eleven common architectural styles, including Georgian and Federal.

Among the City's most prominent twentieth-century landmarks:
- Griest Building, 8 North Queen Street (1925)
- Shaub's Shoe Store, 20 North Queen Street (1929)
- Pennsylvania Railroad Station, McGovern Avenue (1929)
- J.P McCaskey High School, North Franklin and Reservoir Streets (1938)

Lancaster in the 1800s

People today often remark about the profound changes in the world during the twentieth century, brought about by air and space travel, the development of computers, and the political upheaval of two world wars.

The nineteenth century was likewise a time of sweeping social and economic changes, new inventions, technological advancements, and rapidly changing fashions and trends that produced diverse architectural styles. In 1800, America was still an agrarian, pre-industrial society where most goods were produced locally by farmers and artisans, or were imported from Europe. By 1900, the American economy had been transformed by industrialization and mechanized factory systems, a national network of railroads, and the mass production of consumer goods.

Lancaster served as the state capital of Pennsylvania from 1799 until 1813 (when the capital was moved to Harrisburg). In the 1800s, Lancaster acted as a regional distribution center for goods being shipped from Philadelphia to frontier settlements to the north, west, and south. The City was also an important market for local farmers, and a center for artisan craftsmen. The 1830s saw the coming of the railroad to Lancaster, and the emergence of factory systems for manufacturing. The city's population grew dramatically, increasing from about 4,200 in 1800 to more than 17,000 in 1860. By the end of the Civil War, Lancaster's transformation from a Colonial turnpike town to a large industrialized Victorian city was complete.

Not until the arrival of the railroad in 1834 did the Industrial Revolution have a real impact on Lancaster. The City's business leaders made sure that the railroad passed through the heart of the town. (The first train depot, now demolished, was located at the northeast corner of North Queen and East Chestnut Streets, pictured above.) The Conestoga Steam Mills is emblematic of nineteenth-century industrial development. The Steam Mills began operations in 1847, and had become the city's largest industry and employer by 1880s. This period of economic growth was accompanied by a civic-minded spirit as well. The year 1852 saw the construction of both the Fulton Hall Theatre on North Prince Street (later remodeled as the Fulton Opera House), and the new County Courthouse at Duke and East King Streets. Telephone service was introduced in Lancaster in 1880, and electric power was first provided by 1886.

Architectural styles also changed rapidly throughout the nineteenth century, ranging from classically influenced designs such as Federal Style and Classic Revival Style, through elaborate "High Victorian" styles such as the Italianate, Second Empire, and Queen Anne. Victorians were highly status-conscious, and a Victorian house became a visual statement of the owner's taste, wealth, and social status.

Go to the section on Lancaster Architectural Styles to read about the typical characteristics of eleven common architectural styles.

Rowhouses became the predominant housing form in Lancaster during the 1800s. The design, size, form and ornamentation of Lancaster's rowhouses are as varied and diverse as the century itself.

Some of the varied rowhome types in Lancaster that span the 1800s are:
- Jacob Miller Houses, 633-639 and 641-647 South Franklin Street (1805-1815)
- 312-314 West King Street (Federal, 1814)
- 28 North Water Street (late Federal, 1825)
- 47 North Lime Street (Classical Revival, 1852)
- 38-44 North Lime Street (1852-56)
- 439 North Duke Street (Second Empire, 1870)
- 224-234 Lancaster Avenue (Italianate, 1878)
- 734-740 Marietta Avenue (Queen Anne, 1886-1888)
- 524-530 West Walnut Street (Queen Anne, 1890)

Lancaster in the 1700s

The area that became the City of Lancaster was settled by Europeans in the early 1720s, and was declared a "townstead" by the Governor of Pennsylvania in 1730. At that time, most of the land that would become the present-day City was owned by Andrew Hamilton. In 1733, he deeded 500 acres of this land to his son James Hamilton, who designed the layout of the new town of Lancaster using a uniform grid plan of straight streets and rectangular property lots. A town square -- originally known as Centre Square, and later called Penn Square -- was placed in the middle of this town plan.

Unlike many other colonial towns, Lancaster was not located on a waterfront, such as a river or coastal port. (The Conestoga River was a mile from Centre Square, and was not deep enough to be navigable for large ships.) Lancaster owed its early prosperity to its strategic location at a transportation crossroads. The Old Philadelphia Pike, extending west as far as Columbia, passed through modern-day King Street. North-south trade routes connected Lancaster with Maryland and areas in north-central Pennsylvania. The city's population grew from 1,500 in the mid-1740s to more than 3,700 in 1790. By 1760, Lancaster had become the largest inland city of the colonial period; it continued as an important center of commerce during and immediately after the Revolutionary War. (Not until the 1810s was the city surpassed by Pittsburgh in population.) Artisan craftsmen played an important role in Lancaster's colonial economy. The skills of German immigrants in metal, leather, and woodcrafts earned Lancaster a solid reputation that drew other artisans to the city. On the eve of the American Revolution, it is estimated that there were about 300 craftsmen working in Lancaster.

Akin to this small-scale industry, small-scale buildings characterized Colonial Lancaster. While a number of elegant townhouses were scattered around the city, these high-style buildings were not typical of eighteenth-century housing in Lancaster. The predominant housing form in Lancaster prior to 1850 were simple one-story houses, built in English, Colonial or Germanic Vernacular Styles, typically constructed of log or clapboard-covered frame. Later examples, especially those built after 1800, were often built of brick. Of the 709 dwellings listed in the 1798 direct tax of Lancaster City, more than 72 percent were one- or one-and-one-half-story types. By 1815, this style still accounted for 66 percent of all city residences. A number of these rare early buildings, predating 1798, survive along Church Street and Howard Avenue.

Larger buildings dating from the eighteenth century were built in the Georgian Style, based on high-style English architecture and often influenced by prototypes appearing in Philadelphia. The Georgian style was popular in the American Colonies throughout the eighteenth century, but fell out of favor shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War - when the Federal Style became fashionable, reflecting the young republic's new form of government.

Go to the section on Lancaster Architectural Styles to read about the typical characteristics of eleven common architectural styles, including Georgian and Federal.

Some of the buildings in Lancaster that date from the 1700s include:
- Trinity Lutheran Church, South Duke Street (1761-1766)
- Henry Musser Farmhouse, 548 South Ann Street (1761-1763)
- Bausman House, 121 East King Street (1762)
- 515 Howard Avenue (1763)
- Jasper Yeates House, 24-26 South Queen Street (1765)
- Bier House, 111 Church Street (1780)
- Rock Ford, Rockford Road (1794)
- Michael Musser House, 323 West King Street (1780)
- Sehner-Ellicott-von Hess House, 123 North Prince Street (1787)
- Lancaster Cultural History Museum (Heritage Center Museum), Penn Square (1795)
- Oyster House, 519 Church Street (pre-1798)