Proceeds help make Downtown Lancaster streets sparkle during the holidays
LANCASTER, Pa. – Since 1875, the one-time Hamilton Watch Co. factory has stood the test of time along Columbia Avenue. Today the elaborate buildings are home to residents, a school and other businesses. And to commemorate its place in history, the iconic structure has been chosen as the 11th Lancaster Landmark Ornament, an annual fundraiser for LEADS, the all-volunteer group that provides all city holiday decorations – including the Penn Square Christmas tree – and summertime hanging flower baskets in downtown Lancaster.
LEADS (Lancaster’s Economic Action for Downtown’s Success) selected the 143-year-old Hamilton Watch complex as this year’s honored landmark. Previous years included Central Market, Fulton Theatre, Watt & Shand, J.P. McCaskey High School, Lancaster Train Station, among others.
The first phase of the Hamilton Watch complex, located on the west end of Lancaster City, was designed by architect Clarence Luther Stiles and was completed in 1875. It was the Hamilton Watch Co.’s headquarters from the company’s founding in 1892 until 1980. Twin 90-foot clock towers — the second added in 1916 — are the most dominant feature of the building. Each tower is topped with a mansard roof trimmed with copper and a clock with four faces. The four-story complex was built with brick and is shaped roughly like an ”E” with the main portion of building situated east-west, paralleling Columbia Avenue, and three wings extend north. An unconnected, four-story, Art Deco-style office building stands south of the main building located between the two clock towers. The westernmost wing of the complex was designed in a ”restrained” International style. The complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The main building, designed in Second Empire style, was converted into luxury apartments and condominiums between 1983 and 2000.
”We have been providing every wreath, bow, garland and twinkling light for downtown’s streets since 2006,” said Marty Hulse, board president. ”The landmark ornament has become a popular and successful fundraiser to help make downtown streets festive for the holidays.”
The three-dimensional ornaments are renditions of structures that have played a meaningful role in Lancaster’s historic and cultural life, crafted of solid brass plated in 24-karat gold, he said. The ornament can be used as a tree or window ornament or displayed in the gold foil box it comes in along with a card telling its history.
Since 2012, LEADS has invested more than $40,000 to improve the city’s holiday decorations, Hulse said. Proceeds from the ornament go toward paying for that investment, he said.
Ornaments can be purchased at Lancaster Galleries, 34 N. Water St.; BUiLDiNG CHARACTER, 342 N. Queen St., rear warehouses; Festoon at the Firehouse, 202 N. Duke St.; the Turkey Lady at Central Market; and the city Visitors Center on Penn Square. The ornaments also are available at Lancaster Central Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 1, 8 and 15. Each ornament is $20 and can be ordered online at http://www.LancasterLeads.org or by calling Building Character at 717-394-7201 to purchase with a major credit card. Shipping is $4.95 for the first ornament and $.95 for each additional ornament.
LEADS began in 2000 when a group of volunteers created a grassroots effort to beautify downtown Lancaster. The goal has always been: make the city a more attractive place to visit, shop and live. Then, as now, LEADS is a completely volunteer organizations that operates solely from donations.