Lukens Main Office Building
The Lukens Executive Office Building was built in 1902-03 under the direction of A.F. Huston to be the Lukens Steel Company headquarters. The original front section was designed in the Georgian Revival style by Philadelphia architects Walter Cope and John Stewardson, whose firm was famous for initiating the Collegiate Gothic idiom in stone and who had designed in 1889 the Gothic mansion of A.F. Huston directly across the street (present-day Coatesville City Hall). One of the last commissions filled by the firm while Cope was a major partner, the original Main Office Building is designed in the mode of a Georgian mansion with brick bearing walls laid up in Flemish bond.
had been used by Cope and Stewardson in their execution of dormitories at
the University of Pennsylvania in 1895, following Stewardsons 1894 trip
to England, where he had become interested in brick for wall treatments in
the place of stone. A.F. Huston, who was then the president of Lukens Iron
and Steel Company and who was familiar with the Penn buildings on Spruce Street
in Philadelphia, personally studied the brickwork and asked that comparable
brick be used on the new Lukens building. Company archives indicate that Mr. A.F. Huston was very particular in the selection of bricks, examining brick types in several Philadelphia buildings before deciding.
The office is finished with limestone trim, slate roof, classical cornices, and copper downspouts. The company planned the office to have a landscaped setting to create the effect of a small park — a setting which is being maintained today.
The interior rooms of the original building are arranged on both sides of a formal entrance lobby which is dominated by a seven-and-one-half-foot-wide monumental staircase centered behind Ionic columns. The entire stairwell is framed by a balcony on the second floor, and the lobby ceiling is paneled in oak. The entrance lobby abounds in Doric and Ionic elements, and major doors are flanked by Ionic pilasters and surmounted by broken pediments.
The lobbys furnishings include a tall case clock made in 1885 by J. C. Jennens & Son of London and given to the company in 1974 by Miss Ruth Huston, a former member of the Board of Directors, as a memorial to her father the late C.L. Huston Sr., a Lukens vice president who was associated with the company for more than 75 years. Seven major rooms on each floor of the original structure repeat the rich academic treatment of the lobby and each contains an elaborate fireplace.
In 1916, the "T" at the rear of the 1902 structure was elongated and a duplicate of the original building was added to the west, creating an "H" shaped building overall. The 1916 addition, designed by the firm of Stewardson and Page, successor to Cope and Stewardson, was built to contain larger offices housing whole departments. The addition sympathizes with the original building, but is more utilitarian. The 1916 addition was so carefully constructed that it takes a practiced eye to realize that the entire structure was not built at one time. The exteriors of both the 1902 building and its 1916 addition exist today largely as they were originally built.
The interiors of the entire structure were redecorated in 1974 by Mary Margaret Moore of Downingtown. In earlier times, Georgian design reflected the aesthetics of a mercantile economy, and the manufacture of iron was important to that way of life. At the turn of the Twentieth Century, the Georgian Revival, as illustrated in the Lukens Main Office Building, was an appropriate architectural expression of a new, more highly developed industrial economy. In the Lukens Main Office Building, the architects created a scholarly structure of reserve elegance, using tested design elements in innovative ways. The building, which houses the major executive offices of Lukens Steel Company, is a modern structure of steel girders and concrete floors, but it effects the quiet sensibility of the Georgian order.
The Lukens Main Office Building is listed in the Register of Historic Sites & Landmarks of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. This building is currently owned and maintained by Huston Properties, Inc.
The Lukens Main Office Building is a textbook example of the Georgian Revival style as applied to a commercial building. It is situated just north of Terracina on the west side of South First Avenue. The 2-1/2-story, H-shaped structure was built in two sections: the front section (129 feet x 44 feet) and approximately two-thirds of the middle "hyphen" were completed in 1902 from the designs of the renowned Philadelphia firm of Cope and Stewardson (1886-1912), and the remaining part of the hyphen and the rear section were completed in 1916 from the designs of Stewardson and Page (1912-1929), the firm that evolved from the original design team. Although Cope and Stewardson is best known as the nation's chief purveyors of the Collegiate Gothic, the Lukens Office Building is a superb example of that firm's adeptness with other styles and building types.
The office building is very well maintained and retains excellent original integrity. It stands on the middle of its lot surrounded by grassy lawns on three sides and a paved parking lot in the rear. Four original brick piers and a pair of cast-iron gates allow access from the street and sidewalk to the main central entrance.
Viewed from the front, the building gives the impression of an oversized English Georgian mansion, despite the fact that it was designed as a well-functioning office whose framework consists of the then-latest technology of steel and concrete. Throughout, the exterior walls are of Flemish-bond brickwork with glazed-black headers, the hipped roofs are slate, and limestone is used for the beltcourses, watertables, window heads, and entrance portico. All outside corners are embellished with brick quoins, and a wooden cornice composed of block modillions over dentil runs continuously around the building. The window fenestration is symmetrical on all elevations, and the windows themselves consist of twelve-over-twelve wooden sash set under flat splayed limestone lintels with central keystones. The window openings on the second floor are slightly shorter than those on the first.
The main façade consists of a seven-bay central core flanked by three-bay wings which are slightly recessed. Three symmetrically placed gabled dormers with round-headed windows project from the central roof. A flat-roofed portico supported on Doric columns and pilasters covers the main entrance which consists of paired oak doors under an arched fanlight.
Pairs of tall brick chimneys rise from each end of the central core at the juncture of the side wings, and additional single brick chimneys rise from the ends of both wings. The 1902 construction date of this section is commemorated in datestones at the ends of both wings, as well as inscribed in the metal scupper boxes throughout.
The 1916 construction date is similarly commemorated on the rear section. This section is identical to the front section in virtually all respects – materials, massing, fenestration, details – with a few exceptions: instead of a center door, there is a window, and, because of lower grade level, the basement wall is exposed and fenestrated with short sash windows.
The connecting "hyphen" section of the H-shaped building also exhibits the same materials, details, and symmetrical fenestration. On the north, at the juncture of the hyphen and the front section, is a circa 1988 glass-panel-enclosed porch and side entrance.
The interior is a successful blend of the functional and the aesthetic. Although some of the lesser spaces now have dropped ceilings, and some interior doors – originally glass paneled – have been replaced with solid oak paneled doors, to a large degree the interior has retained most of its original plan configurations and Georgian architectural details.
The showplace of the interior is an impressive, finely-detailed lobby which occupies most of the first floor of the central core of the front section. Rising from the center of the lobby is a grand staircase consisting of a wide flight of stairs rising to a mid-level landing off of which flanking flights of stairs continue to the second floor. Both the lobby and staircase are detailed with well-crafted oak in a natural finish.
The lobby has a coffered oak-beam ceiling embellished with block modillions and dentils. The walls have raised-paneled wainscots and fluted Ionic-order pilasters which beak up the plaster walls above. Three doorways in the lobby have substantial Georgian-styled surrounds capped by broken-gable pediments. Other notable lobby elements are two fluted Ionic-order columns that anchor the bottom of the stair balustrades, and the balusters themselves, which are turned and stand three per tread.
Off each side of the lobby, and located on both floors in the wings, are twelve office rooms outfitted, to varying degrees, with encased beam ceilings, oak chair rails, and (originally) working fireplaces all of which add to their "parlor" personalities. Most notable are the mantelpieces, all of which are oak, utilize variations of classical pilaster-and-entablature configurations, and contain such detailing as triglyphs and metopes in the frieze, and egg-and-dart, Greek-key, dentil, or bead-and-reel moldings.
The hyphen section contains hallways, a rear stairway, and secondary offices. The rear section did not have executive offices originally; not until circa 1985 were spaces converted to such purposes. Nonetheless, the oak fireplaces, oak trim, and beamed ceilings are similar to those in the 1902 section.
On the first floor, on the south side of the staircase, is a portrait of A.F. Huston, a grandson of Rebecca Lukens, and president of the company at the time the office was planned and built. The portrait was done by Philadelphia artist Emile Raditz, and was owned by Mr. Huston's daughter Alice and her husband, Robert W. Wolcott. Mr. Wolcott succeeded his father-in-law as president, serving in that capacity from 1925 until 1949. Their son, Mr. Robert W. Wolcott, Jr., presented the portrait to Lukens with the understanding that it be placed in the main office — an appropriate setting, inasmuch as A.F. Huston was president at the time of its construction. A portrait of A.F. Huston's younger brother, Charles Lukens Huston, graces the north side of the lobby. Mr. Charles Lukens Huston was senior vice president and works manager at Lukens, responsible for may technical advances during his long service to the company.
Placed at the head of the staircase is a large picture of the Lukens mills as they appeared in 1919. The picture was created by the Moyer Art Company of Philadelphia and provides a panorama of the company's open hearths, plate mills, the Brandywine, the Wilmington and Northern Railroad, and the newly constructed stone arch bridge of the Pennsylvania Railroad in the background. This office building is shown in the lower right section of the drawing. On loan to the office from the Graystone Society, the drawing provides a dramatic view of an American steel industry in full operation.