Browse Exhibits (14 total)

The Improvements

During the early twentieth century, the city of Harrisburg had poorly paved streets, buildings that lacked proper foundation, and a lack of parks. Additionally, the Susquehanna River had faulty sanitation supplies, and the river steps leading to the entrance of Harrisburg was demolished. As a result of these deficiencies, the city Beautiful Movement promoted the improvement and beautification of these areas. During the implantation of these improvements, Harrisburg's new landscape emerged with the help of J Horace McFarland, Mira Lloyd Dock, and Warren Manning. Capitol Park was expanded, concrete steps by a walkway defined the riverfront park, and sanitation levels improved. Additionally, streets were paved and installed with sidewalks, playgrounds were implemented, forests were grown, and historical buildings and landmarks were preserved.

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The Kipona Festival and City Beautiful

One of the essential parts to Harrisburg is the Kipona Fest every Labor Day weekend. Few know how it began. In 1916, the Kipona Club, an organization of boatsmen, decided to put on some outdoor events for the local people to showcase the river culture of the city. Their president was Edward James Stackpole, editor and publisher of The Harrisburg Telegraph. The weekend included baseball games, boat races, and parades. It continued until 1921. The Kipona Club then worked for three months to revive their festival in 1936 for it to return that Labor Day weekend.

The festival was an effect of the City Beautiful movement, trying to build revenue and pride in the citizens of Harrisburg. The Kipona Club emphasizes the history of Harrisburg as a city that mainly exists because of the Susquehanna. Kipona makes Harrisburg a more attractive city to visitors and its own citizens. It helps to demonstrate the true beauty of the capital city of Pennsylvania.

            I have split this exhibit into three sections: The Purpose of Kipona, the Events of Kipona, and the Revival. They contain newspapers as well as documents from the Kipona Club. I hope to explain the importance of this festival that still brings patrons to Harrisburg today.

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The Visionaries

The City Beautiful Movement needed help from people with a vision to pioneer the project. City elites such as Mira Lloyd Dock, J. Horace McFarland, and members of the city’s Civic Club were key players in the initiation and implementation of city reforms. Mira Lloyd Dock, a prominient city member, travelled to Europe in 1899. There, she was inspired to make improvements to her own city. In December of 1900, Dock gave a speech that would help bring City Beautiful into existence. Dock then founded the Civic Club, an organization dedicated to improving and beautifying Harrisburg. Dock’s friend and colleague, J. Horace McFarland, was secretary of the Municipal League and resided as President over the American Civic Association. His interest in plants and nature helped lead him to urban reform. The contributions of Mira Lloyd Dock, the Civic Club, and J. Horace McFarland were vital to the City Beautiful Movement. 

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Vance McCormick

Mayor-Elect Vance C. McCormick.JPG

The City Beautiful Movement, while it had broad public support, was at its heart driven by the wealthy and educated elites who wanted to build a city they could take pride in. Vance McCormick was a prominent member of this group of leaders, his family wealth and Yale University degree putting him in a prime position to push the city forward. After years as an entrepreneur and owner of a number of newspapers, along with a membership in the reform-minded Municipal League, McCormick took up candidacy for Mayor as a Democrat, embracing the reform platform in a way his opponent never did.

McCormick’s role in the movement is easy to overlook in favor of other leaders like Mira Lloyd Dock and J. Horace McFarland. He was, after all, only mayor for 3 years, and soon took up a role in the statewide and national democratic party. But Vance McCormick’s steady leadership from a place of public authority granted a good deal of credence to the City Beautiful movement, and his support of the movement through both his wealth and media outlets was an important factor in its acceptance by the public. Without a man like McCormick in office, the City Beautiful Movement may never have moved past its early years to influence real policy, as it eventually would under McCormick.  

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