Watt & Shand Displays Reality Behind Windows


Over the past week I was able to get some more extensive pictures of the Watt & Shand Building. I discovered the realistic displays of the windows, how they differ and relate to the inner design of the store, and how people react to the windows themselves.

Before I offer the pictures and a little interpretation of each I want to share some background information about the Watt & Shand department store that I was able to discover in the Watt & Shand Collection at the Lancaster Historical Society.


Peter T. Watt, Gilbert Thompson, and James Shand were merchantile apprentices who were looking to build a store in a wealthier area where they would not face great competition. February 22, 1878 was the first announcement that this very “New York” store was coming to 20-22 East King Street, Lancaster, PA. Its new and exciting nature was reflected in its name.

This new store would be the first department store to sell a variety of foreign and domestic dry goods. Its space, however, was limited and their stock was not extensive.

On March 9, 1878 the store made its first sale that pushed the store to great success. Over the next thirty years the store expanded and sought to serve the best interest of the customers. The store encouraged shoppers to stay longer than posted hours to create a true welcoming atmosphere.

As demand increased, the store moved to 8-10 East King Street and officially became the Watt & Shand Company. In 1885 the company bought the building next door and occupied 6-10 East King. On this site the name was shortened to Watt & Shand as it stayed for the remainder of its existence.

At this point, the store had expanded its merchandising and now sold ladies clothing. This addition of fashion, drove Lancaster into a new era. In 1896 the corner of Penn Square were bought and the store added shoe, millinery, and carpet departments.

To emphasize the great success, the filing received a new facade in 1898. The facade of terra cotta, light grey brick and marble was designed by Lancaster’s architect, C. Emlen Urban and still exists at the south east corner of Penn Square.

By the 20th century Watt & Shand had become part of Lancaster’s entertainment. Its central locale became the place to hang out as trolley cars and elevators made it easier to move around and soda fountains offered a place to get a refreshment.

During the 50’s and 60’s the store had bought out neighboring Appel and Weber finest jewelry store and Hager’s Department store.

The success of this store was made possible by their desire to serve the whole community of Lancaster. Through their displays and friendly environment, Watt & Shand was one of the first and most influential department stores.



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