Lancaster Square - A Short History
Research for this blog post was taken from David Schuyler’s book, A City Transformed: Redevelopment, Race, and Suburbanization in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1940-1980.
Images used from Schuyler’s page on Franklin & Marshall College website, Urban Renewal and the Changing Face of Lancaster at https://www.fandm.edu/david-schuyler/changing-face-of-lancaster.
In the late 1950s, the 100 block of North Queen Street was the entertainment crossroads of Lancaster and a critically important component of the city’s central business district. The block, which would come to house the area we now call Lancaster Square, included movie houses, historic hotels, and various shops and businesses.
Images of the 100 block of North Queen Street during its period as a thriving entertainment and business area in the 1950s.
By the 1960s, however, the 100 North Queen Street block was becoming outdated and beginning to show symptoms of blight; so in the summer of 1962, to compete with suburban shopping malls, the Development Authority of Lancaster razed these architecturally unique and historic buildings. They were replaced by concrete buildings constructed in the form of a superstructure, considered to be largely bleak and undignified by comparison. One of the most beautiful buildings in the city, the Northern Savings & Trust Company, which donned a classic, Roman-like façade, was demolished. There were 92 businesses, 20 families, and nearly 100 individual residents of the project area who had been affected when the North Queen Street blocks were designated as blighted, and after this demolition, their lives were irrevocably changed.
Images of historic buildings demolished during the city’s urban renewal campaign (left: Northern Savings & Trust Company; center: the Brunswick Hotel; right: the totally demolished 100 block of N. Queen Street).
By 1968, land on both sides of North Queen Street had been completely cleared. In the next three years, the new Statler Hilton Hotel, the Stanley Warner Theater, Duke and Prince Street parking garages, and Hess’s Department Store enclosed the square in a three-story concrete superstructure. The commercial renewal ultimately failed as the superstructure was unable to attract the retail and office development essential to the success of the project. The Redevelopment Authority later demolished the superstructure in order to make room for Armstrong World Industries and National Central Bank.
To see photos of the completed Lancaster Square superstructure before it was demolished, click here.
Taking with us lessons from the past, we move forward in today’s renovation of Lancaster Square, striving to restore the North Queen Street block to its former vibrant and thriving state. This time around we’ve taken a different approach by incorporating city stakeholders inducing residents in the concept development of the plaza. In the beginning planning stages for the plaza design feedback should overwhelming support for public art in the plaza. We are excited for the many opportunities ahead!
Did You Know: The new Imperial Restaurant and Bar at the base of the Holiday Inn is named after The Imperial Bar, one of the buildings destroyed in 1965.
This is only a concept rendering—the design is still underway and subject to change.