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Steinman Park an Oasis in Lancaster

By Jane Deel, Derck and Edson

The third area of Steinman Park is the three-level inner park, terminated by this 20-foot waterfall, a water column and pools. Water flows at 1,200 gpm over the waterfall and 890 gpm at the fountain.

Located on busy West King Street in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Steinman Park is referred to as an oasis of tranquility in the bustling center of Lancaster. The park provides open space in the heart of the city, inviting users inward to peaceful, interior spaces.

The Design

The entire park is comprised of three individual areas on differing levels that flow seamlessly from one to the other and span the width of the city block. Each section of the park is unified with the overall design through the use of common elements such as brick paving, curbing, seatwalls, lighting, and plant materials.

The first area, the entrance promenade, opens to the street and is furnished with benches, lanterns, and columnar trees. Here there are wrought iron gates and a one-of-a-kind bronze sculpture by J. Seward Johnson, Jr. The sculpture depicts a man reading a copy of the Lancaster Sunday News as copies of the New Era and Intelligencer Journal wait by his side. He invites passersby to follow his example, enter the park, and rest for a while. The headlines on the papers add to the unique character of the space as they memorialize events that truly shaped our time, Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon, the disaster at Three Mile Island, and the first issue of the Lancaster Sunday News that reports registration figures as the highest ever.

At night, the park glows in soft, warm, light from lanterns and ground lights. Additional illumination of the waterfalls, water column and pools offer a spectacular show.

The second area in the park is the flagpole court. This area serves as a gathering space as well as a central plaza which is surrounded by entrances to the adjacent buildings. The edges of this area are softened by plantings and benches.

The third and most important area is the three-level inner park which is terminated by a 20-foot waterfall, a water column, and pools. The area is enclosed by buildings and plantings all around and overhead by a tree canopy. This portion of the park is furnished with tables and chairs which can easily be removed when using the space as an amphitheater or for any large-scale events.

Design Elements

Many elements are employed in the park to create a truly timeless design. Quality was the focus when selecting materials for the hardscape, plant materials, site furnishings, and signage. Brick was used throughout the park because it's a very warm material, it fits well with the existing buildings, and it carries on the character of the urban atmosphere.

Original plant material selection included Armstrong red maples to line the entrance promenade, green lustre hollies, 'Mohave' fire thorns, and rosebud azaleas in the flagpole court, Japanese scholartrees to provide a canopy over the benches along the building walls, and a second canopy of Halka honey locusts to enclose the inner park area. Seasonal color is introduced into the space with daffodils, narcissi, muscari, crocus, impatiens, and begonias.

Through careful selection of these plant materials, the hard surfaces of the surrounding buildings were softened. The flowering plants add interesting color to the urban scene. The trees provide shade and cooler temperatures during the summer and subdue adjacent street noise.

Brick was used throughout the park for its warmth, its fit with the existing buildings and in keeping with the character of the urban atmosphere.

At night, the park is bathed in soft, warm, light from lanterns and ground lights. The waterfalls, water column, and pools are also lighted and provide a spectacular show.

The park itself is located between two turn-of-the-century buildings that were restored and renovated and have become prestigious addresses for downtown businesses. As open space in the business district, Steinman Park is a quiet setting removed from the traffic and noise of the city streets. Shoppers and workers also take advantage of this mid-block short-cut from the Central Parking Garage to the farmer's market and downtown businesses.

The Beginning

In 1978, the Steinman family, owners of Lancaster Newspapers Inc. and a number of Colonial and Victorian style commercial buildings in the vicinity of the Steinman Park site, decided to restore these properties and have plans prepared for the park site. The firm of McCloud, Scatchard, Derck, and Edson (the firm that survives today as Derck & Edson Associates) prepared the park sketches, drawings, specifications, and directed the project's construction through completion. Root's Nurseries was the landscape contractor.

Design commenced in the early 1980s. The vision for the park included creating a living tribute to John Frederick Steinman and James Hale Steinman that would survive the tests of time and heavy usage. The park design was also a response to the renewed vitality of downtown Lancaster for the enjoyment of the people of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The Park Today

The flexibility of the space makes the park an excellent spot for recitals and other types of artistic events. Chamber music is often heard coming from the park, most notably during the Lancaster Summer Arts Festival. During the holiday season, the park sparkles with lights that decorate the trees, creating an impressive holiday attraction.

Shoppers and workers enjoy the park as a refuge from the bustle of downtown Lancaster. The plantings, tree canopy of Halka honeylocusts, and the tables and chairs make the park a popular lunchtime destination. With the chairs and tables removed, the amphitheater-like space is perfect for large-scale events.

Most of all, the park has become a mecca for alfresco brown bag lunchers and for simple relaxation for tired shoppers. The adjacent Pressroom Restaurant also utilizes the inner park for dining from mid-May through mid-September. Steinman Park is a fitting memorial to James Hale Steinman and John Frederick Steinman and gives the public a beautiful park for their enjoyment.

Beyond the embrace of the local community, the park has also received national attention. In May of 1984, Steinman Park received recognition at a White House ceremony for outstanding landscape design in an urban setting. The National Landscape Award was presented by First Lady Nancy Reagan to Caroline Steinman Nunan and Beverly (Peggy) Randolph Steinman of Lancaster Newspapers, Charles E. Edson and Robert I. Derck of McCloud, Scatchard, Derck, and Edson, and J. Clyde Root of Root's Nurseries. The park was selected for its design that provides ample seating for cultural events and includes special features such as lighted waterfalls, a water column, and pools surrounded by beautiful plantings.

A recipient of the National Landscape Award sponsored by the American Association of Nurserymen, Steinman Park has matured gracefully while maintaining its unique character.

Steinman Park was also honored by the American Society of Landscape Architects with the 1999 Medallion Award for making a significant contribution of the quality of life in Lancaster and for standing as a notable example of American landscape architecture.

The popularity and use of this site is a true testament to its timeless quality. It is, in all respects, the people's park.


Derck and Edson Associates

Derck and Edson Associates has a long and storied history. The firm was founded on January 1, 1940 by Paul McCloud and William Scatchard Jr., as McCloud and Scatchard, Landscape Architects. The practice originated at Market Square in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, focusing mainly on residential, park and housing projects.

Paul McCloud is a 1937 graduate of Penn State and a 1938 graduate of Cornell University. William Scatchard graduated from Penn State in 1934. Before starting the firm, they both worked through the end of the Depression years with Carl Wild, a professor at Penn State and private practitioner.

In 1944, both principals accepted U.S. Navy Reserve assignments and served on active duty until 1946, when they activated their practice at 33 South Broad Street, Lititz, Pennsylvania, which remains the firm's location to this day. The firm remained small through the late 1940s and into the late 1950s, focusing on traditional landscape architectural projects.

As the firm's reputation grew and they became renowned for quality design and thorough execution, the staff began to grow. In 1957, Robert Derck joined the firm; Charles Edson joined the staff in 1960. By the mid-1960s the staff had grown to approximately eight.

In 1967, Robert Derck and Charles Edson were named to the leadership team and the firm became McCloud, Scatchard, Derck and Edson. In late 1967, Wil Burkhart joined the firm as a staff landscape architect and in 1972 was named an associate. The firm grew throughout the remainder of the 1970s and the range and scope of projects undertaken by the firm also expanded.

In 1978, Grant Smith joined the firm as a staff landscape architect and was named an associate in 1983. William Scatchard Jr., retired in 1980, and Paul McCloud retired in 1983. By the mid 1980s, the staff had grown to 12.

In 1984, Robert Kornman joined the firm and Jim Wenger was hired in 1985. Steve Sproles was hired in 1987. Kornman and Wenger became associates in 1985, and Sproles was named an associate in 1990.

On January 1, 1985, the firm's name became Derck and Edson Associates, with Wil Burkhart and Grant Smith named to the leadership team.

By 1990, the 50th anniversary of the firm, 25 people were on staff, with the office serving a wide range of clients in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.

Charles Edson retired at the end of 1992, and Robert Derck in 1993. Robert Kornman and James Wenger were named to the leadership team in 1993. The firm grew to 40 people, and in 1997, Steve Sproles joined the leadership team.

Today, Derck and Edson Associates, LLP, has 60 years of service and continues to build on its heritage of creative design and strong execution.

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June 17, 2019, 8:41 am PDT

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