Lancaster Farmers Trust Company Building



In this post I will briefly examine the Vitruvian element of “venustas” (beauty) for the Lancaster Farmers Trust Company Building, which is a 1929 creation of a local architect, Malvern R. Evans. The very first thing to notice is that this is a formal building. A look at its elevation clearly reveals perfect symmetry and identical series of evenly spaced windows and dormers on this building. The main entry is centered and flanked by two very large windows that are topped with decorative arches. Moreover, the central door is enclosed with two projecting ionic columns and an overhead swan pediment. As such, the Farmers Trust Building can be considered of classical order. As we can see from its elevation, this is a quite complex looking and thought-provoking building with numerous ornaments and eclectic decorative elements. Contrary to our usual expectations from a formal building, this is not a monochromatic construction either, but one with a beautifully pigmented brick façade that nicely melds with its dark-blue roof and bright cement decorations. The dark mansard roof features three beautiful and identical dormers that are set behind a white decorative balustrade. At the very top of the building, we find four brick chimneys at each of the roof corners. These are connected with another, differently patterned balustrade. The main window openings on this building are out of scale and as such almost entirely predominate its front façade. This affects not only the exterior form of the building, but it also creates a high level of natural illumination in its interior, making it very comfortable and thus beautiful. Of all the other details that make this building aesthetically attractive, the most noteworthy is probably the cement swag, set right above the main entrance, as a particularly nice decoration to this central part of the building,


As I have already noted, Lancaster Farmers Trust Building is a harmonic architectural piece, built in a classical order. The use of classical architectural style seems logical and quite appropriate if we examine the message this building attempted to communicate to the general public. The classical forms are generally considered to be of eternal beauty and value and have throughout much of history generated “sense of longevity, rectitude and stability.” Classic Greek and Roman buildings are taken as prime examples of a standard for quality and beauty that successfully resisted thousands of years that changed our society in many different ways. Thus, a bank like Farmers Trust Company probably wanted to make their clients believe, by associating their building with those of Ancient Greeks, that this bank is equally strong and esteemed to resist the time. The client is thus stimulated to entrust his money to this bank because he can be sure that his money will be forever safe within it. Such message that architect Evans had to communicate through his building was particularly important for this early 20th century time when most people would have rather kept their money under pillow than entrust it to a bank. In order for banks to stay in business, they needed to change this general opinion and install trust among their potential clients.  Architecture, as a social art, seems to have played an important role in this process.


Although I have already (having in mind the most general division of western architectural styles on classical and gothic) characterized this building as classical, it is obvious that it includes some elements unknown to classical ancient architects. Thus, if we seek to be precise, it is more accurate to say that this building is actually a reflection of a Georgian revival, a style that is characteristic for many American buildings of late 19th and early 20th century. This movement sought to revive memories of an English colonial history that Americans started to cherish and is therefore a key to understanding another important message that this building conveys. This was a message of importance to preserve and accentuate colonial past of the United States that unites all Americans, and as such – citizens of Lancaster, in their common history that is irreplaceable part of their national identity. The client is encouraged to entrust his money to a bank officer because he is entrusting it to one of his own. For this reason, Farmers Trust Building (just like many other Lancaster downtown buildings) resembles the Georgian style of 18th century British architecture. The most obvious characteristic is use of bricks and some other elements (like the elaborate front door with decorative pediment) that I already mentioned.


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