Explore Ephrata’s Historic Architecture

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Explore Ephrata’s Historic Architecture

Posted on March 17, 2021 by Lisa Willwerth

Learn more about the beautiful, historic architecture that can be found right here in Ephrata Borough!

Appreciated by generations of local residents and tourists, Ephrata’s unique architecture has always been a focal point of our town’s historic charm! Throughout the Borough, you’ll find a variety of design styles ranging from modest Colonial homes to European-inspired structures.

In this blog, we’ve highlighted four of the finest historical buildings in the area. Keep reading for a brief description of each building and its history!

Image courtesy of The Ephrata Cloister.
The Ephrata Cloister

Arguably the most well-known attraction in Ephrata, The Ephrata Cloister was founded in 1732 as a safe haven for men and women seeking a spiritual union with God. Members continued to live and worship on the grounds until the church officially closed in 1934.

The Cloister buildings were built in German Medieval style, commonly referred to as Romanesque. Common features of Romanesque architecture include semi-circular arches, fewer and smaller windows, and large, towering walls. The Cloister buildings were constructed with sturdy logs and stone, which is why visitors can still admire the original handiwork today.

Image courtesy of Ephrata National Bank.
Ephrata National Bank

Designed by Lancaster County native and renowned architect, C. Emlen Urban, the Ephrata National Bank is lovingly referred to as “The Grand Old Lady of Main Street.” The building’s magnificent presence has graced downtown Ephrata since 1925. Still in operation today, the bank continues to help members of the community with their financial needs.

C. Emlen Urban designed the Ephrata National Bank building to reflect Beaux-Arts style, which was especially popular in Paris during the late 19th century. Sparing no expense, he used luxury materials such as Vermont marble, English bond brick, and walnut hardwood. To further elevate the interior design, Mr. Urban incorporated ornate details like stained glass ceilings and awe-inspiring chandeliers. All in all, the project’s total cost was $240,000 in 1925, which equates to well over $3 million today.

Image courtesy of The Historic Smithton Inn.
The Historic Smithton Inn

Built in the mid-1700s, The Historic Smithton Inn is a quaint bed and breakfast that has been beautifully restored over the years.

The property was originally owned by Henry Miller, a prominent member of the Ephrata community and associate of the Ephrata Cloister. Henry passed the building down to his son, Henry Miller II, who upgraded the original structure to the charming stone building we see today.

The inn was originally built with the influence of both Colonial-era, American architecture and the German style of the Ephrata Cloister. Over the years, though, many changes were made to the interior and exterior of the estate. In 1979, Allen Smith bought the property with the intention of restoring its original character. He used traditional construction methods and materials to complete the renovation.

Image courtesy of Lancaster Online.
The Royer Building

Although Royer Pharmacy opened in 1879, its building at the corner of State and Main street was commissioned in the 1930s by Irene Weidman, wife of Ephrata National Bank president Martin Weidman. Irene was charged with taking over the pharmacy after her father, George Royer, died. She named the building after him to honor his legacy.

Unfortunately, Royer Pharmacy is no longer in business. Before it closed its doors, it was one of the oldest continuously operating independent pharmacies in the United States—another one of Ephrata’s claims to fame!

The Royer Building boasts a style not otherwise seen in Ephrata—Art Moderne, which is a variation of Art Deco. This unique style is characterized by curved structures, smooth exterior walls, and long horizontal lines. One of the most notable features of the building design is the marquee sign, a popular detail added to classic Art Moderne buildings.

Image courtesy of Ephrata National Bank.

From residential to commercial, there truly is no shortage of stunning architecture to admire in Ephrata! With the weather warming up, now is a great time to get out and explore the area. We highly recommend using this blog as a starting point for your own self-guided walking tour.

If you’re interested in learning more about our town’s rich history, check our History and Heritage page.