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Harrisburg: The City Beautiful


One of the issues that Harrisburg faced in the late 1800s was lighting the city. This responsibility fell to the Water and Lighting Department. In 1888, the Department, who was made up of newly elected members, promptly decided to conduct inspections in several municipal areas, including that of lighting, to determine what steps they needed to take first. The inspection of the city’s street lamps revealed quite a few that were, according to the City of Harrisburg 1888 Report, “broken and in bad condition” (21). They had them taken down and left the functional street lamps in place. Unsure of what to do next, since they had only recently been elected to the department, they wrote to the City Solicitor and several councils to obtain a more concise description of their repsonsiblities in the area of lighting. By the time the 1888 report was written and published, they were still awaiting an answer. Department officials recognized the need to care for the city’s lights but were reluctant to move forward without the sanction of other city officials.

Although information is scant on the actions that Harrisburg's officials took to maintain its streetlights in the late nineteenth century, the commission was still inspecting and removing broken lamps in the 1890s. The limited amount of information suggests that although lighting was not a priority in the late 1800s compared to other municipal issues (like floods and sewage), it was still given some attention.