The centerpiece of improvements to Harrisburg's marvelous park system, launched in 1902, was the "Crown Jewel" of Reservoir Park situated at the city's summit. Adjacent to this summit, flowing to the south, were the open fields of an old farm named Belle Vue, acquired by German-born Christian Haehnlen in 1856, and later bequeathed to his son, Jacob, who built there a summer retreat in 1876. The home was in turn inherited by Jacob's son, Louis, who established a well-known grapery and wine vineyard on its grounds. Fortuitously, the property became the residence in 1909 of noted environmentalist and civic leader J. Horace McFarland(1859-1948), and was named "Breeze hill." McFarland's work as a national leader in the cause of scenic preservation helped to mold the plans of the Union Real Estate Investment Company, which in 1907 acquired the old Haehnlen farm for the development of Pennsylvania's first planned residential community. As secretary of the Company, headed by Harrisburg realtor Herman P. Miller, McFarland procured the services of the nationally known landscape architect Warren Manning (1860-1938), who was already involved in designing the City's park system, to execute a plan which embodied McFarland's philosophy: respect for the earth through which urban growth would harmonize with nature. The original contours of the land were maintained with the utilities located underground, the house plans were to achieve architectural distinction, and the streetlights were themed to enhance the Park's style and character. Opened in 1910, Bellevue Park's meadows and grape-laden vineyards had evolved into a splendid forested community and sanctuary to the spirit of the City Beautiful Movement of the early 20th Century and the City's present-day renewal efforts.
Circa 1907 view, looking south from Reservoir Park, of the meadowland that would become Bellevue Park.
Circa 1910 view looking south from Market Street, toward recently opened 21st Street showing new sidewalks and streetlights.