Research Proposal


My proposed research project will focus on the relationship between C. Emlen Urban’s original designs for the Harold’s Furniture Company building and Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth Building in New York.  Specifically, the utilitas, firmitas, and venustas will be analyzed in detail and the façade of both buildings will be compared.  The topic goes further in looking at C. Emlen Urban’s architectural style towards the latter part of his career.  There will also be a comparison between the buildings he designed earlier in his career and Harold’s, which was constructed in 1921, eighteen years before he died.  Furthermore, the gothic design will branch off of the classical designs that were covered in the seminar.

Research Question(s): Did Gilbert Woolworth’s gothic style skyscraper, the Woolworth Building, provide inspiration for C. Emlen Urban in designing the building for Harold’s Furniture?  If so, what specific features resemble these similarities?  Could the Gothic Revival style reflected in Harold’s also have other sources of inspiration?  How does this building differ from the other buildings Urban designed?

Annotated Bibliography 

Boyce, William. To Build Strong and Substantial: The Career of Architect C. Emlen Urban. [Lancaster, Pa.]: City of Lancaster, Pa., 2009. Print.

This book covers in detail all of C. Emlen Urban’s buildings that he designed.  It specifically mentions Harold’s, the style used (Gothic Revival), the structure of the building (firmitas), materials used, the utilitas of the building, other relevant information on Urban and his architecture.

Fenske, Gail. The Skyscraper and the City: The Woolworth Building and the Making of Modern New York. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2008. Print.

This book will give a background for the Woolworth Building, as well as go into detail about its architectural design and aesthetics.  This will help me gain a better understanding about the building itself and the different features that make it what it is.

Gilbert, Cass, Barbara S. Christen, and Steven Flanders. Cass Gilbert, Life and Work: Architect of the Public Domain. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2001. Print.

This book will give me background on the architect that designed the Woolworth Building, Cass Gilbert.  It will help in my research as it will provide information about the different styles he implemented in his architecture as well as what influenced him.

O’Gorman, James F. ABC of Architecture. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania, 1998. Print.

The book used in class will provide information regarding a structure’s utilitas, firmitas, and venustas. These principals will be applied to both the Harold’s Furniture building as well as the Woolworth Building in order to determine any similarities.

Primary Sources

  1. Photos of C. Emlen Urban buildings found at the Lancaster Historical Society
  2. Potential sources that may have influence C. Emlen Urban (such as books, designs, etc.) found at the Lancaster Historical Society
  3. Images / blueprints / layout plans of the Woolworth Building found, online, in books found at Shadek-Fackental Library, and other sources.
  4. Sanborn maps of Lancaster, found at the Archives section of Martin Library
  5. Google Earth images of the Woolworth Building.

Action Plan

Week 7

In week 7, I will analyze the Sanborn maps in Martin Library, as well as conduct various research online.

Week 8

(Spring Break)

In week 8, I will read and re-read the books used in my bibliography in order to gain a firm grasp on the material used in the comparison of the project.

Week 9

In week 9, I will visit the building that used to be Harold’s Furniture Store, and take notes that would be relevant in producing a basis of comparison (Vitruvius’ ideologies).

Week 10

I will continue to read the books listed in the bibliography in Week 10.

Week 11

In week 11, I will visit the Lancaster Historical Society so that I may hopefully come across pictures of Harold’s Furniture store.  Also I will be looking for any relevant material, such as documents or newspaper articles that shed light on the Gothic Revival in Lancaster.

Week 12

In week 12, I will begin to formulate a cohesive argument bridging the architectural ideas between Urban and Gilbert.  In this process, I will begin writing a paper.

Week 13

In week 13, I will continue to write the research paper, as well as construct a model of Harold’s Furniture Store in Google SketchUp.  This model will be compared to a Google Earth model of the Woolworth Building.

Week 14

Final touches will be done to the paper and presentation in week 14.



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