COATESVILLE >> The iconic Lipkin’s, building built in 1897 and its facade designed by an apprentice of one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, Frank Lloyd Wright, was demolished late last week to make room for a revitalization project in Coatesville.
“When it was built, it was the most modern building in Chester County, maybe the most modern building in the entire state,” said Jeff Deacon, a Coatesville architect. “The entire façade was all glass and steel, which today we associate with skyscrapers. But that was one of the very first glass and steel buildings. It was revolutionary.”
The store opened in 1897, a time when furniture was delivered by horse and wagon.
The 35,000-square-foot Lipkin store demolition is one of five buildings being razed on the north side of the 100 block of East Lincoln Highway to make way for a $21 million revitalization project.
The project is anticipated to create 90 permanent jobs and 200 construction jobs with much of the workforce coming from Coatesville residents, according to James DePetris, developer.
The new buildings will have 17,000 square feet of retail space and an equal amount of office space on the second floor. Kangaroo Land Childcare Center has signed a lease to move into the new development.
Two restaurant pads will be prepared on the site. The Coatesville National Bank, which was built in 1857 will house a restaurant. A 6,000-square-foot sports bar will move into the Coatesville Cultural Center. The project is expected to finish in the fourth quarter of 2018, DePetris said.
Designed by Robert Bishop, who later went on to become president of the American Institute of Architects, the façade was built with serpentine stone, quarried locally. When it was built, Lukens Steel was in its heyday, and Coatesville was the pride of Chester County. The Lipkin sign was a landmark.
“The city’s business district at the time was the biggest district in the county,” Deacon said. “It was much bigger than West Chester or Kennett. Exton was just a cow field.”
Lipkin’s was more than a furniture store when it was launched. It was a department store and other locations were built in Oxford and in West Chester. Lipkin’s in Oxford was destroyed by fire more than 25 years ago and a store in West Chester, the only store that was leased, closed more than a decade ago when the landlord increased the rent significantly, Bernstein said. The store in Coatesville was wildly popular in the 1950s.
“That building was really a big deal back then,” Deacon said.
The state has supported the project with more than $5 million in grants and loans. And the project has the backing of the county commissioners.
“If Coatesville comes up in any conversation, say, ‘I hear great things are happening, they are turning it around and check it out for yourself.’” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chairwoman Michelle Kichline.
The Lipkin sign and the stairwell are being kept in permanent storage at the Coatesville Iron and Steel Museuem.