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Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Harrisburg is the capital of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a state of the United States of America. As of the 2000 census, the city had a population of 48,950. The Harrisburg area population was estimated in 2006 at 652,263, making it the fourth most populous metropolitan area in Pennsylvania, after Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton (The Lehigh Valley). Harrisburg is the county seat of Dauphin County and lies on the east bank of the Susquehanna River, 105 miles (169 km) west-northwest of Philadelphia.

Harrisburg has played a critical role in American history during the Westward Migration, the American Civil War, and the Industrial Revolution. During part of the 19th century, the building of the Pennsylvania Canal and later the Pennsylvania Railroad, allowed Harrisburg to become one of the most industrialized cities in the Northeastern United States.

Contrasted with its 1981 status as the second most distressed city in the nation, Harrisburg has undergone a dramatic economic change, with nearly $3 billion in new investment now realized. The U.S. Navy ship USS Harrisburg, which served from 1918-19 at the end of World War I, is named in honor of the city.

The Pennsylvania Farm Show, the largest indoor agriculture exposition in the United States, was first held in Harrisburg in 1917 and has been held there every January since then. Harrisburg also hosts the annual "Auto Show," a large static display of new as well as classic cars, which is renowned nation-wide. Harrisburg is also known for the infamous Three Mile Island incident, which occurred in nearby Middletown.The site along the Susquehanna River where Harrisburg is located is thought to have been inhabited by Native Americans as early as 3000 BC. Known to the Native Americans as "Peixtin," or "Paxtang," the area was an important resting place and crossroads for Native American traders, as the trails leading from the Delaware to the Ohio rivers, and from the Potomac to the Upper Susquehanna intersected there. The first European contact with Native Americans in Pennsylvania was made by the Englishman, Captain John Smith, who journeyed from Virginia up the Susquehanna River in 1608 and visited with the Susquehanna tribe. In 1719, John Harris, Sr., an English trader, settled here and 14 years later secured grants of 800 acres (3.2 km²) in this vicinity. In 1785, John Harris, Jr. made plans to lay out a town on his father's land, which he named Harrisburg. In the spring of 1785, the town was formally surveyed by William Maclay, who was a son-in-law of John Harris, Sr. In 1791, Harrisburg became incorporated and was named the Pennsylvania state capital in October 1812.During the first part of the 19th century, Harrisburg was a notable stopping place along the Underground Railroad, as escaped slaves would be transported across the Susquehanna River and were often fed and given supplies before heading north towards Canada. The assembling here of the Harrisburg Convention in 1827 led to the passage of the high protective-tariff bill of 1828. In 1839, Harrison and Tyler were nominated for President of the United States at Harrisburg. By the 1830s Harrisburg was part of the Pennsylvania canal system and an important railroad center as well. Steel and iron became dominant industries. Steel and other industries continued to play a major role in the local economy throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century. The city was the center of enormous railroad traffic and supported large furnaces, rolling mills, and machine shops. The Pennsylvania Steel Company plant, which opened in nearby Steelton in 1866, was the first in the country; later operated by Bethlehem Steel.

During the American Civil War, Harrisburg was a significant training center for the Union Army, with tens of thousands of troops passing through Camp Curtin. It was also a major rail center for the Union and a vital link between the Atlantic coast and the Midwest, with several railroads running through the city and spanning the Susquehanna River. As a result of this importance, it was a target of General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia during its two invasions. The first time during the 1862 Maryland Campaign, when Lee planned to capture the city after taking Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, but was prevented from doing so by the Battle of Antietam and his subsequent retreat back into Virginia. The second attempt was made during the Gettysburg Campaign in 1863 and was more substantial. A short skirmish took place in June 1863 at Sporting Hill, just 2 miles west of Harrisburg. This is considered by many to be the northern-most battle of the Civil War.

Many important events have helped to shape Harrisburg over the years. The Pennsylvania Farm Show, a the largest indoor agriculture exposition in the United States, was first held in 1917 and has been held every January since then. The present location of the Show is the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Arena, located at the corner of Maclay and Cameron streets. In June 1972, Harrisburg was hit by a major flood from the remnants of hurricane Agnes. On March 28, 1979, the Three Mile Island nuclear plant, along the Susquehanna River located south of Harrisburg, suffered a partial meltdown. Although the meltdown was contained and radiation leakages were minimal, there were still worries that an evacuation would be necessary. Governor Richard Thornburgh did recommend an evacuation of pregnant women and preschool children who lived within a five mile radius of TMI. Although there were about 5,000 people covered by this recommendation, over 140,000 people fled the area.

After Harrisburg suffered years of being in bad shape economically, Stephen R. Reed was elected mayor in 1981 and has been re-elected ever since, making him the longest serving mayor of Harrisburg. He immediately started projects which would attract both businesses and tourists. Several museums and hotels such as Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, the National Civil War Museum and the Hilton Harrisburg and Towers were built during his term, along with many office buildings and residences. Several semi-professional sports franchises, including the Harrisburg Senators of the Eastern League, the defunct Harrisburg Heat indoor soccer club and the Harrisburg City Islanders of the USL Second Division began operations in the city during his tenure as mayor. While praised for the vast number of economic improvements, Reed has also been criticized for population loss and mounting debt. For example, during a budget crisis the city was forced to sell $8 million worth of Western and American-Indian artifacts collected by Mayor Reed for a never-realized museum celebrating the American West.

www.harrisburgpa.gov/

www.harrisburgregionalchamber.org/

www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=7107
www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=7110
www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=7159

Recent city comments:

  • Cumberland Valley Rail Bridge (abandoned), Byberrianfanman wrote 3 years ago:
    It isn't used because it is redundant.
  • Math Science Academy/Ben Franklin School, gh (guest) wrote 5 years ago:
    Are we gonna learn or NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Paxton Crossing, j.a.b. (guest) wrote 5 years ago:
    this was the reading railroad spur to the beth. steel mill in Steelton
  • City Island, kshetty wrote 5 years ago:
    Best place in H'burg for evening walk...
  • Keystone State Office Building , kshetty wrote 5 years ago:
    My workplace...
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Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on the map.

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