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Harrisburg: The City Beautiful

Reservoir Park

Although issues like health seemed to plague Harrisburg in the 1890s, one area thrived - the establishment of Reservoir Park.  As early as 1883, city officials expressed a desire for the lands surrounding the reservoir to be made into "beautiful pleasure grounds, a pride of and credit to the city, instead of the unsightly wilderness it now is" (6).  Although this idea is absent in the reports from the years immediately following 1883, this idea evidently did not die, for in 1890, Reservoir Park was established.

The new park was under the Park Commission, who took care of creating an entrance to the park on Walnut Street, painted buildings located in the park, and maintained the grounds as a whole (56).  Under the commission's careful guidance throughout the 1890s, the park soon thrived, meeting and even surpassing the visions of the city officials in 1883. 

Festivities at Reservoir Park in 1894

1894 report, describing the success of Reservoir Park

For example, continued improvements to the park throughout the early 1890s had made the green space quite popular with city citizens by 1894.  The city's Arbor Day celebration, complete with speeches and music, was a hit with the town, and someone donated a flag to the park during the year's Independence Day festivities.  Neighbors from the park as well as visitors from further afield would regularly come to visit and relax (53).

Pictures of Reservoir Park from 1897

Reservoir Park in 1897, from page 73 in the 1897 report

Reservoir Park continued to prosper and grow.  In 1897, there were so many visitors to the park that suggestions were made to enlarge it (1897 report, 73).  1899 continued to see an influx of visitors to the park, and concerts began to be held there (1899 report, 71-76).  By 1900, right around the time of the emergence of Harrisburg's City Beautiful movement, Reservoir Park had become "the principal outing place for the people of Harrisburg and the surrounding towns" (1900 report, 84).  There were more calls to enlarge the park, and the Park Commission continued to make maintenance of the park a priority (85-86).  Although Harrisburg had faced many municipal challenges in the 1890s, oftentimes unsuccessfully, the Reservoir Park proved to be a bright spot in the city's municipal affairs and perhaps was indicative to the people of Harrisburg of what the impending City Beautiful movement could accomplish.