HG Architecture j12 15 Watt & Shand .jpg

Leaf-and-dart decoration frames a Roman arch window at the Watt & Shand building on Penn Square. The building was designed by C. Emlen Urban.


The Architects’ Alphabet is a 26-part series describing design elements featured in Gregory J. Scott’s new book, “Urban Legend, The Life & Legacy of C. Emlen Urban,” Lancaster’s most renowned architect. Photos for the book, which is now available at egganddartbooks.com, are by Matthew Tennison.

The “dart,” or “arrowhead,” is the common link between two ancient Greek and Roman ornamental moldings: egg and dart and leaf and dart.


Egg and dart, the more striking of the two moldings (see my Design Intervention column from June 9, 2023, at lanc.news/EggAndDart) is often accompanied by the companion — and more understated — leaf-and-dart motif. Referred to as running trim, the carved or plaster cast molding was used as a “framing” or trim device that provides a border to emphasize a larger design element such as a door, window, medallion or sculpture.

Leaf and dart consists of alternating patterns of heart-shaped leaves and downward-directed darts. The leaves are typically “water leaves,” a smooth, simplified broad leaf without ribs. The variations of the leaf design are seemingly endless; however, the inclusion of the dart is consistent.

The Acropolis of Athens, 495 B.C.-425 B.C., is the earliest discovered use of the leaf-and-dart and egg-and-dart motif. It reemerged during the Renaissance period and again in the 18th century under King Louis XVI. The King’s interest lead to the Neoclassicism movement, remaining popular into the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

C. Emlen Urban subscribed to the principles of the Neoclassicism movement as evidenced in his abundant use of leaf-and-dart molding as a companion to egg and dart in his commissions.

Urban picture-framed the 1898 Watt & Shand Department Store entry on East King Street with distinctive carved-stone leaf-and-dart trim. He employed the same leaf design on his 1912 Murray Building facade.

For his 1911 Kirk Johnson Building and the 1910 Beyer Building, he specified the leaf-and-dart design in white glazed terra cotta tile. While often taking a second seat to egg and dart, leaf and dart plays an important role in the classical compositions.

Are there other variations that look similar to leaf and dart?

Tongue and dart and heart and dart are very similar and difficult to differentiate.

Is there another name for leaf and dart?

The French refer to the motif as “rais-de-coeur,” with a rough translation of “rays from heart.”

In addition to stone, what other materials were used to create leaf-and-dart molding?

The use of woodcarving was replaced by plaster casting in the 18th century leading to mass production and a lower cost point.

This column is contributed by Gregory J. Scott, FAIA, a local architect with 50 years of national experience in innovation and design. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows. Email GScott@rlps.com.

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