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Sunday, August 21, 2016

The "Lancaster's Premier Skyscraper" Story

The entrance into the Griest Building. Click on photos to enlarge.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing in front of the old Watt & Shand Department Store in downtown Lancaster, Pennsyl- vania taking a photograph of Lancaster's first skyscraper on the other side of Penn Square.  Not the type of skyscraper like The Empire State Building in New York with its 102 stories, but the Lancaster type which was 210 feet tall with 14 stories.
The Griest building in the background.
Officially known as the W.W. Griest Building, but also known as the Lancaster Federal Building and PP&L Building due to these two businesses having offices in the building, it was designed by famous Lancaster architect C. Emlen Urban and built in 1924-1925.  It was named after William Walton Griest, an elected Republican Congressman who also served as a member of the Lancaster County School Board, chief clerk in the county's commissioner's office and as a member of the State Tax Commission.  Mr. Griest was a supporter of and endorser of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922.  The Italian Renaissance Revival style building had a steel frame faced with granite, limestone and terra cotta.  The 66 foot by 55 foot building has 3,600 square feet per floor with a 12th floor that once housed a 300-seat auditorium with a green and gold fresco ceiling.  
This is the Marriott taken from in
front of the Griest Building.  I tried to
make it look as small as I could!
Wish I had been able to find photos of the auditorium, but I was unsuccessful.  40 years ago a 53 foot tall tower was added to the top of the building.  In 1999 the building was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.  But, with those dimensions, the W.W. Griest Building is no longer the tallest skyscraper in Lancaster.  Our only other skyscraper, the building I am standing in front of to take my photo, now known as the Lancaster Marriott, which was renovated as a hotel and convention center and enlarged to 19 stories in 2009, holds that title.  The facade for the Watt & Shand building was also designed by Mr. Urban with the new Marriott addition blending nicely with the original architecture.  Being that I have lived in Lancaster all my life, and no matter how tall any new building may be, the Griest Building is still Lancaster's premier skyscraper and will always be just that.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.



This photo of the Griest Building also shows Lancaster's famous Central Market tower in the center behind the Greist Building, Lancaster first City Hall next to the market tower and Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the center of the square.
This photograph shows the framework for the Griest Building.
An old postcard of the Greist Building.
Photo taken from the Marriott.
And, a second photo of the Griest Building taken from the 19th floor of the Marriott in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
    

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