History of Harrisburg
The area of present-day Harrisburg was inhabited by Native American tribes (primarily the Susquehanna) long before the first Europeans came. The first European contact with the tribes was made in 1608 by Captain John Smith. The first settler in the area was English trader John Harris, Sr. in 1719. His son, John Harris Jr., ordered a survey of the land and in 1791 Harrisburg was officially incorporated. Harrisburg became the capital of Pennsylvania in 1812. The city was the site of the first national convention of the Whig Party in 1839.
The fact that Harrisburg was situated at a pass of a mountain ridge made it strategically important, especially for the Westward expansion, to which it was a starting point. Its position on the Susquehanna River was also decisive for the commercial and later industrial development of the city.
During the Civil War, Harrisburg was a major training center for the Union Army. It was also a railroad transportation hub and a connection between the Atlantic Coast and the Midwest. Because of these strategic advantages, it was invaded by the Confederate Army on two occasions. It is believed that the battle at Sporting Hill (two miles west of Harrisburg) was the northernmost battle of the Civil War. Harrisburg was also an important stop for the escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad.
In the second half of the 19th century Harrisburg became a major transportation center but, more importantly, a hub of the steel and iron industry. The nearby town of Steelton was the home of the Pennsylvania Steel Company, the first in the nation. Harrisburg grew with the industry but it also changed significantly from a small town in the middle of a pastoral farming land it became a dirty and polluted industrial center dominated by factory chimneys and miles of railroad tracks.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show was established in 1917 and it remains the largest indoor farm expo in the United States to the day.
The period between the 1920s and the 1970s was a period of industrial decline for the city, during which the population shifted towards the suburbs, causing a heavy decline of the city center. During that time, Harrisburg started turning more and more to the service industry, especially health care and convention centers.
In 1979, there was a partial meltdown at Three Mile Island nuclear plant near Harrisburg. As the authorities advised evacuation of pregnant women and young children in a five-mile radius, some 140,000 temporarily left the city within a few days.
Geography and Climate
Harrisburg is located in South Central Pennsylvania, in Dauphin County. It is situated along the Susquehanna River and the other bodies of water in the city include Paxton Creek, Italian lake and Wildwood Lake. The city is located between the Blue Mountain ridge, the Cumberland Valley and the Lebanon Valley.
The climate in Harrisburg is a combination of humid subtropical and humid continental climates. Summers are hot and humid, with occasional heat waves. Winters are cold, with occasional heavy snowstorms, although there are often winters with little or no snowfall at all.
Population of Harrisburg
In 2010, the racial makeup in the city was 54.2% Black or African American, 30.7% White, 18% Hispanic or Latino, 3.5% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 0.1% Pacific Islander and 5.2% two or more races.
In 2000, the median household income in the city was $26,920 and the per capita income was $15,787.
Economy and Business
Harrisburg has a diversified economy, with more than 7,000 different companies headquartered or operating within the city. Service-related industries make up the largest portion of the city economy. Some of the major national companies Harrisburg include Rite Aid Corporation, Hershey Foods, IBM, EDS and Tyco Electronics. The largest employers are the state and federal government. Other large employers include Penn State Harrisburg, Wal-Mart, Highmark, TE Connectivity, Pinnacle Health System and Giant Food Stores, Inc.
Culture and Events
Two major performance venues in Harrisburg are the Whitaker Center for Science and Arts and The Forum, home to the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra. Some of the best museums and other sites of interest in the city include National Civil War Museum, Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex, State Museum of Pennsylvania, Susquehanna Art Museum, Broad Street Market, Pennsylvania Holocaust Memorial, Market Square, John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion and the Capital Area Greenbelt.
Starting from the early 2000s, Harrisburg has developed a strong and interesting commercial nightlife, from small clubs and bars to large festivals, which made the city one of the favorite nightlife destinations in the region.
Harrisburg has an extensive Catholic education system, with 40 Catholic elementary schools and seven Catholic high schools. As for the higher education, the institutions in the city include Penn State Harrisburg Eastgate Center, Dixon University Center, Temple University Harrisburg Campus, Widener University Harrisburg Campus, Harrisburg Area Community College and Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. There is also a large number of colleges and universities in the larger Harrisburg area, such as Dickinson College, Penn State Dickinson School of Law, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, U.S. Army War College, Duquesne College and Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.
Harrisburg International Airport in Middletown offers domestic and international services for the area. Intercity bus service is provided by Greyhound, Bieber Tourways, Capitol Trailways, Fullington Trailways and Susquehanna Trailways. Intercity passenger rail service is provided by Amtrak on Keystone and Pennsylvanian lines. Capital Area Transit offers bus, paratransit and commuter rail service in the city and the metropolitan area.
Major highways in Harrisburg include I-76, I-78, I-81, I-83, as well as U.S. Highways 11, 15, 22 322 and 422. The city has several large bridges on the Susquehanna River and the Paxton Creek.