Tall Office Building Research Project


Throughout the first two decades of the twentieth century, Lancaster was a period rapid industrial and cultural development and change. The changes are reflected in the multiplicity of different buildings that were constructed during this time period. The over theme of this time period was the huge increase in industrialization and manufacturing.

In 1880 Agriculture was Lancaster’s chief source of wealth, however rapid industrialization was beginning to take place. A key change taking place was the transition from many small retail businesses to larger more versatile department stores. An architectural example of this trend is the Watt and Shand department store. From the blog posting I was able to learn that over time the department store acquired more building space and expanded until it occupied an entire block of retail space. The size of this building also indicated new technologies and materials were discovered that allowed for bigger buildings to be built. This demonstrates how new technology drives and is intertwined with cultural and architectural change. Additionally, the expansion of the department store clearly illustrates the trend of the decreasing presence of small retail stores. A consequence of this change is that some small storeowners may have been forced out of business; however, the thriving economy in Lancaster during this time period provided many additional jobs. Attractive buildings and job opportunities drew many people to the city.

As more and more people came to the city demand for goods and services continued to rise. Schuab’s building is a prime example of the type of building that sprang up in response to the demand for goods. Schuab’s was created knowing that there were many competing shops. The venustas of the building is very unique and invokes beauty and desire to help attract customers. Another example of building springing up to meet the variety of needs of consumers is Keppel’s building, which was a candy factory. With more people flocking to the city community interest in improving Lancaster was very high. An issue was the best way to improve the city. The solution provided was the Lancaster board of trade. One very important building they helped fund was the post office building which is currently municipal building. This government building helped symbolize the democratic ideal and provided a solution for the constant increase mail coming into Lancaster. In parallel with the creation of the post office, the police, fire department, and other government agencies became better funded. An interesting technological development that affected the venustas of buildings was the development of neon signs. However, they became so popular among stores that stopped being unique. Eventually the local government banned them. The sign example demonstrates the effect of new technologies have on every facet of the buildings. From an entertainment perspective, the Fulton Opera House provided residents of the city with a new source leisure.

During this time period, Lancaster became modernized through a series of rapid changes. The retail business was booming, manufacturing took off, and architecture flourished. Despite all of the rapid changes and new revenue it is important note that Lancaster was still very dependent on agriculture for money as well as for the rich inflow of natural materials.


In this project I will examine a variety of Urban’s office buildings. I will consider their utilitas, firmitas, and venustas of these building, and will analyze how these factors were affected by new technologies and cultural change that occurred in the early twentieth century. Additionally, I will look how Lancaster’s rapid industrialization helped contribute to and influence these building. I want to compare the symbolism Urban’s buildings to current American office buildings.



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