About the Montgomery House
Incorporated into the 21st-Century architecture of the Lancaster County Convention Center and Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square on South Queen Street in Lancaster, the historically important William Montgomery House is one of its most remarkable features. It has been referred to by many historians as one of Lancaster’s great Federal-Period mansions.
Part of a dramatic block-long interior street that incorporates historic 19th-Century structures into the new center, the circa-1804 mansion was built for prominent local attorney William Montgomery. The structure remains the only documented local work by architect Stephen Hills, who also designed the first Capitol building in Harrisburg.
The year and circumstances of construction are documented by an inscription on the back of a baseboard now in the collection of the Lancaster County Historical Society:
Built by William Montgomery the year of our Lord 1804 Stephen Hills house carpenter in the 4th year of the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson Esq. and 29th year of the Independence of the United States of America.
Following its construction in 1804, the Montgomery House served as a residence for several generations of the Montgomery family and then several other local families. Toward the end of the 19th Century and into the 20th it housed the first Lancaster YWCA, including a gymnasium in the attic, and later a hardware store, a barbershop, and rental units on the upper floors.
Acquired by the Watt & Shand Department Store in 1960 and later the Bon-Ton, the building stood vacant after 1995 when the department store closed. The exterior of the Montgomery House was returned to its former elegance during the construction of the hotel and convention center facility from 2006 to 2009, including the rehabilitation of the original brick walls and stately marble window sills. The interior rehabilitation of the Montgomery House was completed in 2013 so that the structure could begin its next chapter serving as special event and entertaining space.
Federal-style architecture is the name for neoclassical architecture built in North American particularly between 1785 and 1815 during the historical era we refer to as the Federal Period. In the early years of the United States of America, founders associated the new nation with the ancient democracies of Greece and republican values of Rome. According to John J. Snyder Jr. in his 1998 report on the Montgomery House:
“The Federal style favored ornament derived from ancient Roman architecture, including classical figures, delicate leafage, swags, garlands, beaded borders, and friezes of reeding. Notably, there was a preference for circular, oval, and elliptical forms. These forms found numerous and diverse expressions: fanlights over doorways or as separate windows; dramatic, curving stairways with continuous handrails; rooms of oval or apsidal-ended form; and oval or fan-shaped decorative devices.”
These glorious characteristics can be seen in many of the features of the Montgomery House that have been restored or reproduced within the structure, such as the two dormers on the exterior front. These dormers are precise reproductions based on the sole surviving dormer, one of four originals, now in the collection of LancasterHistory.org.