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Friday, July 1, 2016

The "If Only Their Footsteps Could Communicate" Story

A partial view of the ceiling of the Masonic Lodge
It was an ordinary day.  Laying on the floor of the second story of the old City Hall in Lancaster, Pennsyl- vania, taking photos of the magnificent ceiling that was painted by a couple of Philadelphia artists in the 1930s.  
Original building as seen from the south-east
The building is the sole Georgian style government structure from the eighteenth century that still remains in Lancaster City or County.  It stands on property that at one time was the first public open-air market in downtown Lancaster.  City Hall was built in 1795-1798 and illustrated the impact that old  Philadelphia architecture had on the architecture of Lancaster.
Different view of the front of the building.
Remember to click on photos to enlarge.
It actually showed a transition in architecture from the Georgian style to the newer Federal style.  The overall form and character reflects the symmetrical exterior appearance while the entrance door which faces the downtown square has the pedimented doorway which reflects the Federal style in its delicate moldings, thin pilasters and use of oval and semicircular shapes.  Old City Hall actually bears addresses on West King Street from 1-23, but it wasn't that large when it was first built.  
Building as it appears today. On the left side of the building
can be seen retail stores while Lancaster's historic
Central Market can be seen behind the building to the right.
Originally when John Lind and 
Jacob Flubacher built the great building that served as the state and local government for almost 200 years, it was listed as 1-3 West King St. This building served as the State Capital from 1799 to 1812 until being moved to Harrisburg.  It also served as the courthouse until Lancaster build a new courthouse in 1854.
Neat aerial photo taken from across the street
showing Lancaster's Griest Building to the right
and the minute old City Hall to the left of it
with Central Market behind both buildings.
1-3 West King was also used for the mayor's office and city post office into the 1960s. The original building was modified when a third story was added some time after 1809 which helped accommodate the Pennsylvania Legislature.  In 1973 the Heritage Center of Lancaster County moved into the end of the building facing the square.  Lancaster Lodge Number 43, Free and Accepted Masons, used the building from 1799 to 1973 and in 1883-1884 made some changes to the building.  Enlargements were made to the building and the original entry staircase was changed to a Romanesque Revival arched entrance on the south side of the building.  
A more direct photo from under the ceiling.
Also, at this time the building gained size to take it to 23 West King Street.  The Masonic Lodge purchased an alley that ran north to south to the rear of the building and installed a door at the western end of their Masonic Hall.  This connected the original building to the building to the west which was commercial.  Then in 1930, C. Emlen Urban, noted Lancaster architect, combined the architecture of the two buildings into one which is what we see today. It was during this time frame that G.L. Zambone and his helpers of Philadelphia painted the ceiling murals for the Lodge.  
Even my phone captured a shot in the pano mode.
The history of the building is amazing and just laying in the middle of the wide-planked floor by myself in this huge room, with all the natural light surrounding me, made me realize that maybe Bejamin Franklin, founder of the lodge, as well as 
Master of the Lodge James Buchanan along with  Marquis de Lafayette and President William Howard Taft, all visitors to the lodge, and perhaps many famous patriots and citizens of Lancaster, might have stepped on the same planks that I am laying on at present.  If only their footsteps could communicate with me!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - click on photos to enlarge.

And, one last photo as I laid on the floor looking skyward while thinking about all the historic people who perhaps walked on the same planks where I lay.
As seen on the wall.
Another interior shot of the lodge 
Original floor that carries the footsteps of many famous people including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
Beautiful gilded moldings.
Examine the detail in the painting.  This has lasted almost 100 years. 
Exiting the Lodge.
The exterior entrance that was added in the 1880s by the Masonic Lodge.
One final view of Lancaster's Square with the Sailors and Soldiers Statue, Greist Building and Central Market framing old City Hall.

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