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Background to City Beautiful

In the late 1800s, Harrisburg was a rapidly growing city, and it faced some extreme challenges in the last decade of the century. The previous two decades, the 1870s and 1880s, had seen the thriving, health, and growth of the city, but in the 1890s, the city’s situation began to speedily go downhill. There were floods and leaky water pipes, and raw sewage seemed to be omnipresent.  Roads needed to be paved, and the threat of disease was constantly lurking in the background. The capitol building burned, and Harrisburgers had to fight to keep Pennsylvania’s capital from moving to Philadelphia. However, though luck did not seem to be with Harrisburg at the close of the nineteenth century, its citizens were aware of their city’s municipal and political challenges, and they had a desire to see their city thrive again. The 1890s were the prelude to the City Beautiful Movement, and at the dawn of the twentieth century, the citizens of Harrisburg, following the lead of other cities across the country, decided it was their turn to beautify their town.

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