Name: R.L. Gerhart & Co, aka El Capitan

Address: 341 East Liberty Street

Built: c.1910

Architect: Unknown

Gerhart Building in 1926.  Photo courtesy of

Except for rowhouses, there are probably more warehouses in Lancaster than any other type of building.  Most are straightforward brick boxes, handsome but not particularly distinctive.  The R.L. Gerhart & Company Building is an exception.  In addition to some fancy brickwork and monumental stone detailing, the building’s original contents were literally carved in stone: TEA, COFFEE and RICE,  as if the building would never have any other purpose.
The Gerhart Coffee Company still exists– its roasts are delicious, and can be purchased, among other places, at the new Expressly Local grocery store downtown.  But the company moved out a long time ago, also abandoning the “El Capitan” moniker they adopted mid-century to give their products an exotic, Juan Valdez-ish kind of flair.
But while the building’s stoic visage might now be tomb-like, there is life inside.  It is partially occupied by a cleaning supply company run, fittingly, by Peruvian immigrants.  The sign for their products, however, is a more ephemeral sheet metal.