Harrisburg's City Beautiful Movement began in 1900 and lasted until about 1930. It was one of the earliest movements of urban improvement across the United States which, as William Wilson has noted (1989, 128), "the first to use the inspiring, vivifying, phrase City Beautiful." The movement was exceptional also for its rapid program of modernization, its broad civic support, and uniting of programs of utility with those of beautification (Wilson 1989). Mira Lloyd Dock's 1900 speech, J. Horace McFarland's propaganda, and Mayor Vance McCormick's leadership spurred the city's residents to take up the task of improving Pennsylvania's capital. They fixed roads, created parks, enhanced sanitation, reduced the risk of floods, and generally upgraded Harrisburg's facilities and aesthetics, starting with a new Capitol Building. But the improvement movement significantly affected ordinary residents in profound, sometimes even detrimental ways.

Explore the exhibits on this website, based on original research at state and county archives, and generated by Messiah College's history students. 

Recently Added Items

McFarland to Dock - reflection on CBM (Feb. 18, 1942)


Response to Dock reflecting on caring for improvement in old age and in a state of turbulence in the world.

Dock to McFarland - reflection on projects (Feb. 12, 1942)


Responds to McFarland's letter. Downhearted about the state of improvements. Note mentions Municipal League Staff, Ricketts Glen, Cook Forest…

McFarland to Dock - reflection on projects (Feb. 6, 1942)


Responds to Dock's request for address of the treasurer of the Municipal League. An interesting letter reflecting on the work of civic improvement,…