|City of Harrisburg|
"Pennsylvania's Capital City"
"En la rou Justita"
Location of Harrisburg in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.
|European settlement||About 1719|
|March 19, 1860|
| • |
| • ||Charlie DeBrunner (D)|
| • |
| • |
| • |
|• City||11.86 sq mi (30.73 km2)|
|• Land||8.12 sq mi (21.03 km2)|
|• Water||3.75 sq mi (9.70 km2)|
|• Urban||335.4 sq mi (539.7 km2)|
|Elevation||320 ft (98 m)|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||6,058.87/sq mi (2,339.39/km2)|
| • ||444,474 (86th)|
| • ||574,659 (|
| • ||1,267,057(|
| • Summer (|
17101-17113, 17120-17130, 17140, 17177
|Designated||September 23, 1946|
Harrisburg played a notable role in American history during the
Harrisburg's site along the
Before Harrisburg gained its first industries, it was a scenic, pastoral town, typical of most of the day: compact and surrounded by farmland. In 1822, the impressive brick capitol was completed for $200,000.
It was Harrisburg's strategic location which gave it an advantage over many other towns. It was settled as a trading post in 1719 at a location important to Westward expansion. The importance of the location was that it was at a pass in a mountain ridge. The Susquehanna River flowed generally west to east at this location, providing a route for boat traffic from the east. The head of navigation was a short distance northwest of the town, where the river flowed through the pass. Persons arriving from the east by boat had to exit at Harrisburg and prepare for an overland journey westward through the mountain pass. Harrisburg assumed importance as a provisioning stop at this point where westward bound pioneers transitioned from river travel to overland travel. It was partly because of its strategic location that the state legislature selected the small town of Harrisburg to become the state capital in 1812.
The grandeur of the Colonial Revival capitol dominated the quaint town. The streets were dirt, but orderly and platted in grid pattern. The Pennsylvania Canal was built in 1834 and coursed the length of the town. The residential houses were situated on only a few city blocks stretching southward from the capitol. They were mostly one story. No factories were present but there were blacksmith shops and other businesses.
During the first part of the 19th century, Harrisburg was a notable stopping place along the
Harrisburg's importance in the latter half of the 19th century was in the steel industry. It was an important railroad center as well.
Its first large scale iron foundries were put into operation shortly after 1850. As industries nationwide entered a phase of great expansion and technological improvement, so did industries – and in particular the steel industry – in Harrisburg. This can be attributed to a combination of factors that were typical of what existed in other successful industrial cities: rapid rail expansion; nearby markets for goods; and nearby sources for raw product. With Harrisburg poised for growth in steel production, the Borough of Steelton became the ideal location for this type of industry. It was a wide swath of flat land located south of the city, with rail and canal access running its entire 4 mile length. There was plenty of room for houses and its own downtown section. Steelton was a company town, opened in 1866 by the Pennsylvania Steel Company. Highly innovative in its steel making process, it became the first mill in the United States to make steel railroad rails by contract. In its heyday Steelton was home to more than 16,000 residents from 33 different ethnic groups. All were employed in the steel industry, or had employment in services that supported it. In the late 19th century, no less than five major steel mills and foundries were located in Steelton. Each contained a maze of buildings; conveyances for moving the products; large yards for laying down equipment; and facilities for loading their product on trains. Stacks from these factories constantly belched smoke. With housing and a small downtown area within walking distance, these were the sights and smells that most Steelton residents saw every day.
The rail yard was another area of Harrisburg that saw rapid and thorough change during the years of industrialization. This was a wide expanse of about two dozen railroad tracks that grew from the single track of the early 1850s. By the late 19th century, this area was the width of about two city blocks and formed what amounted to a barrier along the eastern edge of the city: passable only by bridge. Three large and ornately embellished passenger depots were built by as many rail lines. Pennsylvania Railroad was the largest rail line in Harrisburg. It built huge repair facilities and two large roundhouses in the 1860s and 1870s to handle its enormous freight and passenger traffic and to maintain its colossal infrastructure. Its rails ran the length of Harrisburg, along its eastern border. It had a succession of three passenger depots, each built on the site of the predecessor, and each of high style architecture, including a train shed to protect passengers from inclement weather. At its peak in 1904, it made 100 passenger stops per day. It extended westward to Pittsburgh; across the entire state. It also went eastward to Philadelphia, serving Steelton en route. The vital anthracite coal mines in the Allegheny Mountains were reached by the Northern Central Railroad. The Lebanon Valley Railroad extended eastward to Philadelphia with spurs to New York City. Another rail line was the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad which provided service to Philadelphia and other points east.
The decades between 1920 and 1970 were characterized by
After being held in place for about 5 years by WWII armament production, the population peaked shortly after the war, but then took a long-overdue dive as people fled from the city. Hastening the flight to the suburbs were the cheap and available houses being built away from the crime and deteriorating situation of the city. The reduction in city population coincided with the rise in population of the Metropolitan Statistical Area. The trend continued until the 1990s.
The gradual loss of industry, especially after WWII, coupled with the proliferation of the street car and later the automobile, led to urban flight to the suburbs. Allison Hill was Harrisburg's first suburb. It was located east of the city on a prominent bluff, accessed by bridges across a wide swath of train tracks. It was developed in the late 19th century and offered affluent Harrisburgers the opportunity to live in the suburbs only a few hundred yards from their jobs in the City. Easy access was achieved via the State Street Bridge leading east from the Capitol complex and the Market Street Bridge leading from the City's prominent business district. In 1886 a single horse trolley line was established from the city to Allison Hill. The most desirable section of Allison Hill was Mount Pleasant, which was characterized by large Colonial Revival style houses with yards for the very wealthy and smaller but still well-built row houses lining the main street for the moderately wealthy. State Street, leading from the Capitol directly toward Allison Hill, was planned to provide a grand view of the Capitol dome for those approaching the City from Allison Hill. This trend towards outlying residential areas began slowly in the late 19th century and was largely confined to the trolley line, but the growth of automobile ownership quickened the trend and spread out the population.
In the early 20th century, the city of Harrisburg was in need of change. Without proper sanitation, diseases such as
In June 1972, Harrisburg was hit by a major flood from the remnants of hurricane
On March 28, 1979, the
During the nearly 30-year tenure of former Mayor
Missing audits and convoluted transactions, including swap agreements, make it difficult to state how much debt the city owes. Some estimates put total debt over $1.5 billion, which would mean that every resident would owe $30,285. These numbers do not reflect the school system deficit, the school district's $437 million long-term debt, nor unfunded pension and healthcare obligations.
Harrisburg was the first municipality ever in the history of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to be charged with securities fraud, for misleading statements about its financial health. The city agreed to a plea bargain to settle the case.
In October 2011, Harrisburg filed for
Instead, a state-appointed receiver took charge of the city's finances. Governor
As creditors began to file lawsuits to seize and sell off city assets, a new receiver,
After two years of negotiations, in August 2013 Receiver Lynch revealed his comprehensive voluntary plan for resolving Harrisburg's fiscal problems. The complex plan calls for creditors to write down or postpone some debt. To pay the remainder, Harrisburg will sell the troubled incinerator, lease for forty years its parking garages, and go further into debt by issuing new bonds. Receiver Lynch has also called for setting up nonprofit investment corporations to oversee infrastructure improvement (repairing the city's crumbling roads and water and sewer lines), pensions, and economic development. These are intended to allow nonprofit fundraising and to reduce the likelihood of mismanagement by the dysfunctional city government.