Architecturally, Colonial Lancaster was a town typified by small scale residences. The core of the city contained the important public buildings - a courthouse, a jail, a market, etc. - many of which were, architecturally, rather refined buildings exhibiting English designs, popular before the Revolution, and Federal designs thereafter. In addition to the public buildings, elegant Georgian and later Federal, town houses were scattered around the town, mostly close to Penn Square. Among the more notable of these houses still surviving are Jasper Yeate's house on South Queen Street and Gottlieb Sehner's house on North Prince Street (now referred to as the Sehner-Ellicott-von Hess House).
The Gundaker House was built around 1798 as a barn and converted to a double house in 1838. (MWS)
While these high style buildings of central Lancaster are what people of today often think of when they think of Colonial Lancaster, the predominant building style of the period was decidedly Germanic and of a more vernacular character. The typical house found in Lancaster, at least prior to the mid-1800s, was a one story house with a three-room, central chimney plan. These houses, of which relatively few remain today, numerically dominated the town. Of the 709 primary dwellings listed in the 1798 direct tax of Lancaster City, more than 72% were houses of this type. Only nineteen houses were listed as being three stories tall; the remainder were two stories. The predominant building materials for the smaller houses were log, half-timber and frame. By 1815, this style house was still common, accounting for 66% of all residences.
The mid to late 1800s were a period of rapid growth and expansion within Lancaster. The city's population grew by a mere 8% between 1830 and 1840. Population growth reached 30% in the two subsequent decades. The 1864 atlas indicates that development within the four square mile city was intense in the vicinity of Center Square and along major streets. The remainder was relatively open and sparsely settled.