The Cost of a Beautiful City: Harrisburg's Old Eighth Ward

After the Capitol fire in 1897, a new Capitol arose by 1906, and Harrisburg was transformed. George Donehoo, a contemporary of the City Beautiful Movement, stated that the new Capitol was "a symbol of 'what Pennsylvania meant to me,'" in strength and spirit (1927). Therefore, with such a large and magnificent new building representing Harrisburg, the rest of the industrialized city exhibited a need for reform. By the early 1910s, the decision was made expand the Capitol grounds. The only problem: the houses, businesses, industries, churches, and everyone in the southern portion of the 8th Ward.

Here, the favorable narrative of the City Beautiful proposed by William Wilson in his "Harrisburg Successful City Beautiful Movement" begins to crack (1980).

Using a variety of datasets, this exhibit will demonstrate the negative effects of a highly beneficial urban project.

A glimpse into the topic:

"The rest of the Eighth Ward was born again in 1912, when the plans for the Capitol Park Extension were completed. Demolition was vigorous until 1919, then measured until the project was finished in 1940...Between Walnut and North streets and Fourth Street and the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks, the wreckers removed 527 buildings, including hundreds of residences, a brewery, market house, shoe company, coach works, iron foundry, several hotels, fire houses, churches, and schools" (Barton 1998).