Project Detail

 

Museum and Library, Lancaster Campus of History

Lancaster, PA United States

Centerbrook Architects and Planners

 

Project Description

A prominent addition to the Lancaster Historical Society’s Library and Museum, combined with a comprehensive site master plan, have revitalized this campus of history, which also includes Wheatland – the 1828 home of Pennsylvania’s only U.S. President, James L. Buchanan. The client reports that attendance has doubled following the project’s completion last year.

The foremost change to this newly combined heritage destination, now called Lancaster History.org, is the 20,000-square-foot addition that houses a 250-seat multi-use lecture hall, enhanced retail space and lobby, an expanded exhibit gallery, improved curatorial and archival labs, and new offices. The design presents a contemporary face to visitors at a new entry point that serves both historic entities on this shared 10-acre site. The project also entailed renovation to the existing 1955 building.

The three curved, saw-tooth roofs of the addition, each with north-facing glass façades, recall the region’s historic factories, while crisp contours, glassy expanses, and restrained ornamentation differentiate it from its historic neighbor. Zinc-accented brick walls lead to curving glass at a welcoming entrance to the Society’s Library and Museum. Slated for LEED Gold, the addition features an open-loop geothermal well system for heating and cooling, passive solar heating, copious natural light, and porous pavement outdoors to protect the nearby Conestoga River from excess storm water.

The challenge of the master planning effort was to make a coherent experience for visitors to the campus, which also features an arboretum at its heart. The Historical Society and the Wheatland parcels had been separately carved from Buchanan’s estate more than a century ago. The organizations had grown independently with distinct charges: the Society maintained a library, research archives, and education programs that cover all of Lancaster County’s history; while Wheatland’s charge was to preserve the house, focusing strictly on Buchanan and his era. Their new unity will enhance both missions and has increased visitation to each.

The two properties host a mix of visitors, such as history-buffs, scholars, schools, tourists, bus tours, and neighborhood walkers. Because Lancaster was a key starting point for western migration (nearby Conestoga was home to the makers of the “Prairie Schooner”), descendants from all over America visit to trace family histories in the Museum archives – which were featured in an episode of The Learning Channel program “Who Do You Think You Are?” As the home of the fifteenth U.S. President, Wheatland is a national treasure.

Robin Sarratt, the Society’s Vice President, reported in a recent blog post that the now pedestrian friendly campus has enhanced both the visitor experience and the merged nonprofit’s revenues: “I’ve seen the impact the new Campus of History project has had on our bottom line – our visitation has more than doubled this year [2013] and our retail sales have skyrocketed. What has become evident to me again today, as I have greeted more than 60 guests so far, is just how normal it is for us to have scores of visitors come to the Lancaster Campus of History and find everything they were hoping to find, and more. And it is clear that the new normal includes having many of them walk through the door, look up and around at our beautiful new building, and say “Wow.” I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; it’s how I feel every time I come to work.”

 

Project Details

Museum and Library, Lancaster Campus of History
Location:
Shared by:
 
Client/Owner:
Project Team:
    Centerbrook Partner Mark Simon, FAIA, led the design team that included Project Manager Russell Learned, AIA, Peter Cornell, AIA, LEED AP, and Katherine M. Roden, AIA, LEED AP
Consultants:
  • Mechanical Engineer: Altieri Sebor Wieber 
  • Structural Engineer: GNCB Consulting Engineers 
  • Civil Engineer: David Miller/Associates, Inc 
  • Landscape Architect: Created by Design 
  • Code Consultant: Philip R. Sherman, P.E. 
  • Specifications: Kalin Associates 
  • General Contractor: Benchmark Construction 
  • Photographer: Peter Aaron/Esto Photographics 
 
Project Type:
Project Status:
Year Completed:
Project Size:
    20,000 sq ft
Construction Cost:
    $8,500,000
 
 

Specified Products

Armstrong Medintone Vinyl Flooring

The Armstrong Company has a strong history in the community so it was important to incorporate some of their products in the construction of this facility. The Vinyl floor material is a low emitting floor that requires limited maintenance, which reduces the use of chemicals in the building this was important not only to the occupants of the facility but also for the historic artifacts housed in those spaces.

Duratherm Window Corporation Mahogany Curtainwall and Door Systems

Description: It was very important to the client to use wood on the exterior of the building. Duratherm worked closely with the Architect to develop a custom window design, using their company’s expertise to make the system durable and weather tight. The Forest Stewardship Council certified mahogany product combined with a durable finish provided a good solution for the client.

 
 

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