The deliberations during the first decade of the 19th Century through which Harrisburg prevailed in achieving State Capital status were in part spawned by the donation by John Harris, Jr., in 1785, of four acres of the oldest portion of Capitol Park to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania when the plan for Harrisburg was laid out that year. Topographically, Capitol Park is still reminiscent of its early days as a knoll which at that time rose from the wheat fields and swampland of the Susquehanna lowlands later filled and graded for the development of the emerging borough. Over time, the Park was expanded northward to join the lands of William Maclay, Pennsylvania's first U.S. Senator, to assemble the larger Capitol Hill upon which both the old and present Capitols would rest. The Park was the site of the town's original armory, removed in 1873, around which Union Troops were camped during the Civil War when General Robert E. Lee's army threatened the invasion of Harrisburg in the summer of 1863. Later built was a magnificent glass arboretum that existed until 1918 when the Park was enlarged to the east as part of the expansion of the Capitol Complex under the plan of Arnold Brunner. The 105 foot-tall Mexican War Monument, presently the Park's centerpiece structure, was erected in 1868 to honor those Pennsylvanians who died in the Mexican War (1846-48) and was originally located on the site of the Old Executive, Library and Museum Building, now the Matthew Ryan Legislative Office Building. The monument was relocated to its present location in 1893 and in 2002 underwent a thorough restoration. The subsequent high-rise development of downtown Harrisburg facing Capitol Park gives further meaning to this historic land as a place of enduring tranquility.
1855 depiction of the old Capitol and Capitol Park showing the armory and surrounding grounds.
1912 view of Capitol Park with formal gardens and arboretum.
Circa 1935 view of Capitol Park from Third and Walnut Streets.
Comments 0 comments