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Harrisburg: The City Beautiful


By 1892, Harrisburg’s Highway Department had recognized a drastic need for improvement to the city's streets.  It stated in its 1892 report that the roads were “the veins and arteries through which flows the product and the commercial supplies of our great manufactories, which are the life blood of our city” (41-42).  The department also argued that the capitol of Pennsylvania should have respectable roads because “at present the streets are no credit to us” (42).  The department went on to detail the particular problems of the streets, such as ruts from wagon wheels.  In order to fix problems like this, the department advocated regulations for the wider, less destructive wheels.  Some streets had been paved prior to 1892 (according to the 1886, 1889, and 1890 reports), but many streets were still made of macadam (layers of crushed stone) that easily sustained ruts and other damage. 

The 1886, 1889, and 1890 reports, as mentioned above, stated that Harrisburg had begun to pave some of its streets, including Third Street and Walnut Street, but as the 1890s progressed, the city's annual reports began to echo the sentiments of that of the 1892 report.  For example, the 1893, 1895, and 1899 reports (the last of which can be viewed at the right), plainly and explicitly stated a need for paved roads due to ruts and potholes.  However, it is not clear how much paving was actually done despite these clear calls.  Harrisburg had identified a need, but as with the lighting situation, other issues (floods, sewage, and as we shall see, health and sanitation) took precedent.