History of Ewell Plaza

History of the 100 Block of North Queen Street

By Suzanne Stallings, Historic Preservation Specialist

In the century between 1870 and 1970, the changing face and fortunes of the 100 block of North Queen Street followed Lancaster’s evolution from the Victorian era into the twentieth century, reflecting the mass production of goods consumed by a growing and wealthier urban population, greater separation between manufacturing and retail functions downtown, new modes of transportation, and the emergence of new architectural styles.

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The photos on this page have been generously provided by LancasterHistory.


For most of the late nineteenth century, the 100 block of North Queen Street contained many of the same types of small businesses and services found along the first block off Penn Square, contained within two- or three-story Federal period buildings with upper-level residential space, gradually replaced by larger Victorian commercial buildings that changed the streetscape and skyline. the 100 block contained businesses related to retail, hospitality and entertainment. A concentration of hotels and saloons was based on proximity to the railroad depot, then located at the northeast corner of North Queen and East Chestnut Streets.


After 1900, Victorian structures were replaced by still larger buildings in early twentieth-century architectural styles. Many of the structures that were built on North Queen Street impacted the lifestyle and community of Lancaster City. As the evolution of each decade came, so did the appearance of the North Queen streetscape.

Urban Renewal and the Development of Lancaster Square

In 1959, the City’s Planning Commission released a long-range plan, “Downtown Lancaster – 1980,” that focused on Lancaster’s Central Business District. The vision for the 100 block of North Queen involved removal of all buildings, creating a blank canvas for redevelopment. Construction began in 1970 and Lancaster Square and it’s department store was dedicated on September 25, 1971 – three days after the Park City Mall was opened. However, due to Park City’s popularity, the space was soon forgotten and 18 months later the department store closed. Creating a lost and failed urban renewal.

Lancaster Square enters the Twenty-First Century

While not popular with shoppers nor admired for its architecture, Lancaster Square did function for decades as a community gathering space. It served as the site for concerts, art festivals, and more. Redevelopment of the eastern half of Lancaster Square continued to be a subject of public debate. Throughout the 1990s, proposals were often dependent on concurrent ideas being discussed. The old department store hopped from one owner to another until redeveloped in 2016.

Community-Driven Plan for Transformation

The City launched a new redevelopment effort in 2018, which resulted in a plan to refurbish Lancaster Square and create a new home for the Lancaster Public Library. As plans for a reimagined and reinvigorated square developed, the public was invited in early 2019 to submit ideas for the square’s new name and, on August 14, 2019, City Council voted to rename the space Ewell Plaza, after local Olympic champion Barney Ewell.