The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Harrisburg
|←Harris, William Torrey|| The Encyclopedia Americana
|Edition of 1920. See also Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.|
HARRISBURG, Pa., city of the third class, capital of the State and county-seat of Dauphin County, on the Susquehanna River and the Northern Central, Pennsylvania, Cumberland Valley and Philadelphia and Reading railroads; situated 106 miles northwest of Philadelphia, has been for many years an important railroad, agricultural, industrial and commercial centre. During the decade from 1902 to 1912 its citizens took up in earnest the matters of municipal improvement. The city's rapid strides along every line of activity in this matter were phenomenal and its growth into a model city was so extensive and successful as to attract general attention throughout the country.
History. — The site selected for his future city by the founder, John Harris, was on the Susquehanna River at a point where the river is nearly a mile in width and where the two great trails, the southern and western, intersected each other as they trended from the north and east. The county of which Harrisburg afterward became the county-seat, Dauphin, adopted its name from the title of the eldest son of the King of France (for the time being Louis XVI) and the name of the city in some of its earliest records being called Louisburg; France at that time being uppermost in the affections of the people in consequence of its friendliness and efficient aid rendered to the colonies in the days of their extremity. The original town was laid out in 1785 and was incorporated into a borough in 1791. John Harris, the elder, was an adventurous English trader who built the first house here in 1726 and secured a grant of 800 acres of land. His son John, the founder of the town, established a ferry here in 1753 and the place was known for many years as Harris' Ferry. The town of Harrisburg became the capital of the State in 1812 and was chartered as a city in 1861. The Harrisburg Conference, famous in American political history, was held here in 1788 and Harrison and Tyler were nominated here in 1839.
Topography. — High hills and higher mountain ranges surround the city and the intervening valleys are made up of rich rolling farmlands intersected by many streams of varying width. The Susquehanna river-front is spanned by four attractive bridges, two for railroads and two for vehicles and pedestrians. From various elevated points in the city glimpses can be had of the magnificent stone arch bridge of the Pennsylvania Railroad at Rockville, said to be the longest four-track stone bridge, in the world.
Commerce and Industry. — Harrisburg is a city of first importance in its iron, steel, lumber and railroad interests, the roundhouses and repair shops of the Pennsylvania Railroad are located here and give employment to thousands of workmen. There are extensive manufactories of machinery, malt liquors, boilers, castings, brooms, cars, coaches, tanned leather, lumber, cotton goods, beds, mattresses, coffins, silk goods and a number of rolling-mills, tin mills, blast furnaces, nail-works, typewriter works and boot and shoe factories. The city has one morning and two evening daily newspapers and many weekly and monthly publications.
Public Buildings and Activities. — The State capitol building, erected a few years ago at a cost exceeding $13,000,000, is the chief attraction among the public buildings. The main capitol building is constructed of steel and brick with facings of marble and granite. The style of architecture is composite. It stands upon an elevation and from whichever direction approached presents an imposing appearance. The main entrance to the grounds is from State street, facing due west, and is by way of a wide stone stairway broadening at the top into an esplanade with fountains at either side. In the centre, overlooking the entrance, stands the equestrian statue, in bronze, of Gen. John F. Hartranft, facing the Dauphin County soldiers' monument to the memory of those who fell in the Civil War. On either side of the main entrance to the building, the Barnard groups of statuary complete and harmonize a strong ensemble. The interior of the building is well worth a visit. The decorations are the production of the highest art and are symbolical of the growth of civilization in America and the history of Pennsylvania. The State Library at the capitol, founded in 1790, contains over 100,000 volumes. The park which surrounds the capitol buildings is being enlarged and systematic steps are being taken for its future improvement. Among other places of interest in the city are the State arsenal, the courthouse, the Pennsylvania State lunatic hospital, the executive mansion and the post office. The Penn-Harris Hotel, the new hotel erected by the citizens under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce, was formally opened 1 Jan. 1919. The educational institutions include the central high school, the technical high school, the Harrisburg Academy, Saint Genevieve's Academy and a young ladies' seminary. There are many charitable institutions, among the oldest of which are the Home for the Friendless and the Children's Industrial Home, the Harrisburg and other hospitals. The Chamber of Commerce and Civic Club are virile bodies and in active service.
Transportation. — Harrisburg has long been the centre of the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Reading, Cumberland Valley and Northern Central railroads. It also has in operation one of the most extensive electric street railway systems in the United States. The suburban railway service, both trolley and steam, is excellent, and has greatly aided in building up this outlying residential section of the city.
Churches. — Harrisburg has had for years the reputation of being “a Church-going Community.” There are within the limits of the city 83 churches and permanent church organizations. These are divided among 14 regular sectarian organizations as follows: Presbyterian 11; Methodist Episcopal 11; Lutheran 12; Baptist 8; Roman Catholic 6; Church of God 5; United Brethren in Christ 5; Protestant Episcopal 4; Reformed 4; Jewish 3; Zion Baptist 3; African Methodist Episcopal 3; United Evangelical 2; Brethren in Christ, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Christian Science, Disciples of Christ, Seventh Day Adventists and Salvation Army, each 1. Harrisburg is the seat of a Roman Catholic bishop.
Municipal Administration. — Under the act of assembly, approved Z7 June 1913, in governing cities of the third class in Pennsylvania, the form of the government was changed to the commission form. The legislative, executive and administrative powers are vested in the city council, composed of the mayor and four councilmen, elected at large on a non-partisan ticket, the mayor for four years and the councilmen for two years, with no restriction as to re-election. All legislative powers are exercised by the city council, the mayor, by virtue of his office, being president. The executive and administrative powers and authority are distributed into and among the following five departments: Department of public affairs, department of accounts and finance, department of public safety, department of streets and public improvements, department of parks and public property.
The city council determines the powers and duties to be performed and assigns them to the appropriate department. The mayor is designated as the superintendent of the department of public affairs, and the council at its first regular meeting after its election designates by majority vote one councilman to be superintendent of each of the remaining departments and has the power to change such designation whenever it appears that the public service would be benefited thereby. The councilman chosen as the superintendent of the department of accounts and finance becomes the vice-president of the city council and acting mayor during the absence or inability of the mayor to act, exercising all the rights and powers of the mayor. The council has the power of appointment and dismissal of all the employees and subordinate officers of the city, as well as the fixing of salaries and terms, except those fixed by the act of assembly and those appointments regulated by civil service. The following officers whose terms are fixed by law are elected by a majority vote of the council: City solicitor, city engineer, city treasurer, city clerk and city assessor. In addition to the above officers, the council has the power to create any office, public board or department which they may deem necessary for the good government and interests of the city. The schools are governed by a board of control or directors who are elected by a vote of the citizens.
Banks and Finance. — Harrisburg has four national banks and a dozen other banking institutions, trust companies and building and loan associations. The assessed real estate (1918) is $62,000,000; the tax rate is constantly changing; the municipal income amounts to $675,000. The principal items of expense are: Fire department, $48,500; water department, $108,500; street lighting, $68,800; police department, $105,700; highway department, $172,200.
Municipal Improvements. — As before stated, Harrisburg, through the progressiveness and enterprise of her citizens in the decade from 1902 to 1912, brought about results which won for her the sobriquet of “Model City.” These results are best shown by the following brief survey of the principal of her improvements as they stand at present, and the most particularly striking of these are her parks, briefly described as follows: Total acreage of parks, about 1,000. Paxtang park, 18 acres, an amusement park; Reservoir park, 88 acres, contains the city reservoir, which gives a lake setting to the park. The scenic view from the elevations in this park is the best that can be had from any point; Capitol park, 16 acres, contains the State capitol buildings, the equestrian statue of General and Governor John Frederick Hartranft, and the Mexican monument mentioned elsewhere; Harris park, 4 acres; river front from Paxton street to Mulberry street; Lincoln park, 2¼ acres, river front from Mulberry to Market streets; Promenade park, 3½ acres, river front from Market to State streets; D. W. Gross park 2 acres, river front from water house to Herr street. These four parks extend along the banks of the Susquehanna River for over a mile and are being farther extended at each end. Island park, 18 acres, site of filter plant, and public playground and athletic grounds; 12th street playgrounds, 8 acres, devoted to the use of children; Wildwood park, 666 acres, with large lake, boating in summer and skating in winter; boulevard or parkway, 146 acres, along streams and through beautiful ravines and meadows.
Paved Streets. — Total amount of paving, 1 Jan. 1918, 76.93 miles; total length of macadamized highways, 1 Jan. 1918, 9.06 miles; total length of earth and gravel highways, 1 Jan. 1918, 43.70 miles. It will be understood that this satisfactory result in the matter of street paving received its impetus from the movement in 1902. The city has more than 90 miles of sewers.
Population.— The population of Harrisburg under the census of (1910) was 64,186. The present estimated population is 83,000.
Consult Morgan, ‘Annals of Harrisburg,’ revised by F. M. Black (1906).