Throughout the 19th Century, lumbering on the Susquehanna River was a major industry. Logs were cut from the forests in the northern part of the state and floated down river to sawmills at Harrisburg and points further south. a popular place where the loggers stopped to recreate was the "Hardscrabble" neighborhood, located between Herr and Calder Streets on the west side of Front Street. Here thrived boat liveries and related businesses catering to the river trade. However, with the decline of logging by the turn of the Century, and the subsequent public outcry that worsening sanitary conditions along the riverfront be addressed, Hardscrabble's days were numbered. The resulting plan developed by the Harrisburg League of municipal Improvements, one of the first and most comprehensive civic-improvement initiatives in the United States, involved the northward expansion of Riverfront Park, the construction of the famous river steps and as one of the last components of this initiative, the demolition of old Hardscrabble in 1924 for the development of the beautiful Sunken Gardens. Although incorporated into the park, some of the basement grade levels of the old houses were retained and not filled to provide for a unique garden plan, formal and symmetrical in design, which has since offered a stunning and unparalleled vantage point to view the Susquehanna River, its islands and mountains beyond.
1915 view looking north on Front Street from Cumberland Street toward Hardscrabble, at left, where the Sunken Gardens now exist.
View of the Sunken Gardens looking south in 1930.
1940 postcard view of the Sunken Gardens prior to the Construction of the M. Harvey Taylor Bridge.