Charlie Wagner’s Café (1891-1892) – 40 E Grant St


Utilitas: Wagner’s Café was clearly built to house a commercial establishment. Its utilitas, for example, is mostly clearly expressed by the inset corner placement of the entrance. The purpose of this was to allow for ease of access—or at least to make the entrance to the building visible from the streets on both sides. Originally, this building housed a tavern on the first floor and rooms for rent on the upper floors. The different purposes of the stories are expressed on the façade via the large “belt” that surrounds the façade between the first and second stories. An cursory examination of the first floor reveals that this building was designed in the divisive method of ordering spaces.

Firmitas: As a late-nineteenth century Lancaster building, Wagner’s Café utilized brick because it was immediately available, commonplace, and (likely) fashionable. Brick also is the structural composition of this building.  Romanesque arches that flank the corner entrance are not just visually enticing and historicizing but also structural. Generally, though, this building follows the trabeated model of structure.  Because of the brick construction, openings for windows are relatively narrow compared to wall length and the building is limited in height (intentionally or not) to three stories. A notable exception to the brick structure is the iron post that supports the upper floors over the corner that has been cut away for the entrance.

Venustas: In many ways, Wagner’s Café is very much a historicizing building, stylistically. It borrows its arches from Rome, but its overall vibe strongly echoes medieval vernacular architecture. Definitively, Wagner’s Café combines elements of the Victorian Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne styles. In one way, the Café is predominately picturesque. The asymmetrical plan suggests a level of informality, while the severity in its proportion and verticality hint a slight air of formality—at least formality brought on only by the sublime, much like a Gothic cathedral. The feeling of the “sublime” arises particularly at the cut-away corner entrance: one feels quite disturbed—but at the same time, awed—in approaching the cutaway space that supports two stories plus a tower over it. The tower itself visually emphasizes this structural feat. There is a measure of “heaviness” to the façade of this building that is probably the result of what we know about its construction and the materials used.


One Response to “Charlie Wagner’s Café (1891-1892) – 40 E Grant St”

  1. jhausladen Says:

    Reblogged this on Artistry and Architecture.

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