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August 18, 2023
Read the forward of Urban Legend, the long-awaited book about architect C. Emlen Urban, coming this fall
In each century, there are a handful of individuals who define a city and make their mark on history. Written by architect Gregory J. Scott, FAIA, Urban Legend is a book about C. Emlen Urban and 25 of the architectural masterpieces which left an indelible mark on the City of Lancaster.
Buy the book at egganddartsbook.com before the November 14 release and receive:
- A “making history” discount of $25
- A limited edition book signed by Author Gregg Scott
- A personal invitation to the private Appreciation Party on November 14
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The Life and Legacy of C. Emlen Urban
Lancaster’s most Prolific Architect
I was standing in Penn Square on a crisp fall afternoon in 2016 taking note of the beautiful and diverse styles of architecture available within arm’s reach of where I stood. Many of the buildings were the work of Lancaster’s renowned native son architect C. Emlen Urban. Curiosity about who he was, where he was born, raised, and educated piqued my interest. I quickly learned that the only publications written about him were paperbacks published in 2009 and 2010. The first, produced by the City of Lancaster, “To Build Strong and Substantial: The Career of Architect C. Emlen Urban,” and the second, “Lancaster City Architecture by C. Emlen Urban,” produced by the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County for an architectural history tour. The tour guide listed 94 documented commissions to his name.
The chronological record of these commissions served as the chassis for what would become a passion, an obsession, and a journey into the professional and private life of Lancaster’s most prolific architect from 1885 to 1937. The three years between 2016 and 2019 were spent reading, researching, documenting, and presenting the 94 commissions to the public through a monthly newspaper column and countywide speaking engagements. Astoundingly, we learned that Urban had mastered 21 architectural design styles and applied them to 45 different building types. Realizing that he accomplished these commissions with a high school diploma and no formal education beyond the age of 17 elevated my interest and curiosity to another level.
June 19, 2019 was a watershed moment in the quest for more information about our hometown prodigy. It was in 2019 that Lancaster Newspapers added their archives to Newspapers.com allowing searchable online access to LNP as well as 11,900 other newspapers. Through endless word queries, research historian Deb Oesch uncovered an additional 653 Urban commissions spanning a 54-year career bringing the total to an incomprehensible 747 commissions in six states!
Good fortune led to securing Urban’s personal travel diaries from his 1911 & 1923 European excursions, two of his personal sketch books from the 1890s, over 30 reference books from his personal library as well as numerous original ink on linen drawings of some of his most beautiful buildings including those for Milton S. Hershey. Perhaps fate or divine intervention tipped the scales toward urgency to write this book when on November 4, 2022, I received an email from Ms. Meretta Marks announcing that her daughter had purchased Urban’s 1911 formal black wool tailcoat at a thrift shop in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.
The more I researched his personal life, the more I realized our lives are tightly intertwined with many curious parallels and intersections beginning with our adolescent years, our aptitude, our family life, and our professional standing in the community. Lastly, unbeknownst to me at the time, as president of Lancaster City Council in 1986, I cast the deciding vote to close the Southern Farmer’s Market: Urban’s first ‘flagship’ civic commission in his illustrious career!
This book is as much about the people and their relationship to C. Emlen Urban as it is about the architecture of the 25 buildings featured. Presented in chronological order, the intent is to allow the reader to track Mr. Urban’s progression and maturity through 17 different design styles and 11 building types. Included is an illustrated directory of terms that describe architectural words that may not be familiar. We hope you enjoy the ‘Life & Legacy of C. Emlen Urban: Lancaster’s Most Prolific Architect’!
• • •
Pictured here, Gregory J. Scott, FAIA, co-founder of RLPS architectural firm in Lancaster, has been researching and teaching the community about C. Emlen Urban’s life and architectural legacy for over 20 years.
Architectural photography: Matthew Tennison
Book design and production: Fig Industries
Urban Legend is the first book from Egg and Dart Books, which was born out of a sense of awe and appreciation for the structures that have shaped the built environment, defined cities, and provided people with refuge. They celebrate architectural artisans with the hope that these stories will inspire the preservation of beloved cities for generations to come.
Developed by the ancient Greeks and refined by the Romans, egg & dart is a decoration applied to flat or curved veneers to add visual interest to an otherwise plain surface.