Expanded Campus of History to Celebrate

Published on March 26th, 2013

A gala celebration is scheduled for April 27 to mark the expanded and renovated LanchesterHistory.org in Pennsylvania, a campus of history that encompasses a research library – which houses archives, an auditorium, and exhibition spaces – as well as Wheatland, the 1828 home of U.S. President James L. Buchanan.

Centerbrook designed the 20,000-square-foot addition to the Historical Society Library that accommodates its growing use. It houses a 250-seat, multi-use lecture hall, enhanced retail space and lobby with views of Wheatland, a larger gallery, improved curatorial and archival labs, and new offices.

Initially Centerbrook developed and implemented a Master Plan for the merger of the Presidential home and the Lancaster Historical Society on the site they share with the Tanger Arboretum. The enlarged library, along with the reorganized campus, opened earlier this year and presents its first exhibit in the new gallery in April. The two properties host history-buffs, scholars, school classes, tourists, bus tours, and neighborhood walkers.

“From the outset it was clear that Centerbrook understood our vision,” said Robin Sarratt, LancasterHistory.org Vice President for Development. “The building Centerbrook designed has helped to transform us into a destination for critically evaluating the role local history plays in each of our lives and in our understanding of ourselves. I can’t count how many of our members and visitors have walked through the door since we reopened and simply said, “Wow.”

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 Historical Society maintained the library and education programs that cover all of Lancaster County’s history; while Wheatland’s mission was to preserve the house, focusing strictly on Buchanan and his era. Their joining of forces enhances both missions.

A new entry to the site, now around the corner from Wheatland’s historic driveway, gives each campus element its own street front, with parking now at the property’s edge to improve its arboretum setting. The modern design of the addition presents a contemporary face to this new entry. Three curved saw-tooth roofs, each with north-facing glass façades, recall the region’s historic factories while differentiating the contemporary building from its historical neighbors. Zinc-accented brick walls lead to curving glass at a lobby entrance.

Slated for LEED Gold (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), the addition features an open-loop geothermal well system for heating and cooling, passive solar heating, copious natural day-lighting, and porous pavement outdoors to protect the nearby Conestoga River from excess storm water. Centerbrook Partner Mark Simon, FAIA, led the design team that included Project Manager Russell Learned, AIA, and Peter Cornell, AIA, LEED AP.