Historic Harrisburg Association
Preservation Priorities — 2017
The following is Historic Harrisburg Association’s 2017 list of “Preservation Priorities” for the Harrisburg community. These properties and sites are deemed by HHA to have special
importance to the community, as architectural or historic landmarks, as important civic
landmarks, or as pivotal elements in a larger neighborhood revitalization objective. Some, but not all are at risk of being lost, while others await the resources needed for their preservation.
Property Name: Former William Penn High School
Owner: Harrisburg School District
Priority Since: 2017
Status: For sale
Former William Penn High School was opened in 1926 as the mate to John Harris High School at the city’s northern and eastern ends respectively. This major Harrisburg landmark, designed by Harrisburg architect Charles Howard Lloyd, has been on the market for sale since 2015 since it was vacated by the Harrisburg School District. Beautifully situated overlooking Italian Lake, developed in sync with the construction of the high school, and at a key uptown location adjacent to the Academy Manor and Riverside neighborhoods and the Zembo Shrine Center across Division Street, the complex may hold great potential for an adaptive reuse project particularly when considering the spacious grounds that could be dedicated to recreational purposes.
Property Name: Zembo Shrine Center
Address: 2801 N. Third Street
Priority Since: 2017
Status: For sale
The magnificent Zembo Shrine Center was completed in 1930 as the home to Harrisburg’s Masonic organizations. For over 85 years, it has been the location of many important performances, sports competitions, rallies and special events. It’s Moorish Revival architecture was designed by noted Harrisburg architect, Charles Howard Lloyd. The 62,621 square foot building on 7.28 acres is on the market for $950,000. The Zembo Center is a major landmark in Harrisburg and particularly in the uptown area. It’s setting across the street from Italian lake and the former William Penn High School, which is also on the market for sale, presents a tremendous opportunity for creative and imaginative uses for this picturesque neighborhood.
Property Name: Capt. James Bell Tavern
Address: 7084 Harrisburg Pike, Carlisle PA
Owner: Triple Crown Corporation
Priority Since: 2016
Status: Partially Demolished
Built in 1780 as the James Bell Tavern, the structure hosted the Stony Ridge Convention on July 3, 1788, a meeting of Anti-Federalists opposed to ratification of U.S. Constitution, which led to amending the document with the Bill of Rights. According to meeting minutes, the 1788 Stony Ridge Convention held at the former James Bell Tavern was attended by Benjamin Blythe, one of Shippensburg’s first settlers, and Robert Whitehill of Cumberland County. Whitehill is noted as the “Father of the Bill of Rights,” according to ExplorePAHistory.com, with its conception reportedly happening at that meeting at the Bell Tavern. This marks the first time a Cumberland County property has been included on this list. HHA has many West Shore members and we have always been a regional organization, working collaboratively with sister organizations and historical societies to achieve mutual goals. We encourage support of this grassroots effort to save this landmark.
Resource Name: Harrisburg History Outdoor Exhibit System
Address: Citywide Installations
Owner: City of Harrisburg
Priority Since: 2015
Status: Many of the 113 installations have deteriorated or are missing
The Harrisburg History Project consists of 113 outdoor displays, installed between 2002 and 2004, describing and illustrating historic buildings, neighborhoods and landmarks of the past in Harrisburg of local, state and national importance. The intent of the Project has been to provide tourists and local residents with information about these sites in a way that creates an interesting visually interactive experience in comparing the “then and now” appearance of Harrisburg. Jeb Stuart, Special Consultant to the City of Harrisburg at that time, was responsible for the photographic research, writing and project coordination.
Most areas of the City are included within the system including the Central Business District, Capitol Complex and Capitol District, Historic Midtown and Old Uptown, Riverside and 20th Century Uptown, Shipoke, the Northern Tier as well as Allison Hill and Eastern Harrisburg. Because the system was installed a number of years ago, many of the exhibits have been damaged, removed or have deteriorated due to wear and tear. Funds are needed to replace damaged or missing exhibits so that system is restored in its entirety. This could be a great project for a philanthropic entity or a grassroots effort.
Resource Name: Mulberry Street Bridge Murals
Address: Presently in Storage
Owner: Danzante, Inc.
Priority Since: 2014
Status: Seeking funding for installation at new locations
After six months of repair, the Mulberry Street Bridge reopened to traffic in December, 2015. For those familiar with the span of concrete viaduct designed in 1909 by James Fuertes, there was one notable aspect of the bridge missing—the murals.
Eighty-six panels of murals colorfully extended along both sides of the bridge depicting Harrisburg history and Allison Hill community members. Last April they were carefully removed by PennDOT and put into storage; however, due to structural conditions, the art pieces cannot be returned to the place they’ve been viewed since Danzante Urban Arts installed them between the years 2003-2006.
Currently a group known as the Mulberry Street Bridge Murals Restoration and Preservation Committee, which is now a project of the Foundation for Enhancing Communities, is working to assure that the murals will be back in the public eye. The goal is to find a suitable location or locations where they may be installed for permanent public display.
Property Name: Harrisburg State Hospital
Address: Cameron and Maclay Streets
Owner: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Priority Since: 2014
Status: Proposed sale of the property
Originally called the “City on the Hill” and listed in the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district, the Harrisburg State Hospital, once known as the Pennsylvania Lunatic Asylum, was the first in Pennsylvania—and one of the first in the United States—built for the care and treatment of the mentally ill. It contains approximately 30 architecturally significant buildings designed by noted Pennsylvania architects and a beautiful campus setting a portion of which is traversed by the Capital Area Greenbelt. The State Hospital has been closed since 2006, although several buildings remain in governmental or institutional use. HHA is leading an effort known as “the Committee for the Future of the Harrisburg State Hospital” which advocates that sale of the property by the Commonwealth should result in three distinct outcomes: protection of the historic buildings and their spectacular hilltop setting through some form of adaptive reuse or historic preservation tax credit investment; preservation of the natural open space area that includes the Asylum Run watershed and the Greenbelt corridor, possibly as a municipal park; and responsible development of the extensive remaining acreage.
Property Name: Paxton Firehouse
Address: S. Second and Vine Streets
Owner: City of Harrisburg
Priority Since: 2014
Status: Closure as an active firehouse; potential sale for adaptive reuse.
Paxton Firehouse was designed by William Lynch Murray and built in 1937 to replace a predecessor firehouse of the same name and location that was heavily damaged by the flood of 1936. Art Deco in architectural style, the building is located within the City’s municipal historic district but falls just outside of the National Register District.
In late 2014, the fire station was closed after mutual agreement between City officials and the firemen’s union was reached. The City has initiated plans to sell the property by seeking proposals from prospective buyers. Given its prominent location at the City’s “southern gateway” and its unaltered historic exterior, this firehouse (like others successfully sold by the City since 1980) offers attractive possibilities for adaptive reuse.
Property Name: Camp Curtin Fire Station
Address: 2504 North Sixth Street
Owners: James Cooper
Priority Since: 2014
Camp Curtin Fire Station is a historic fire station located in Uptown Harrisburg. It was built in 1910, and is a two-story, rectangular brick building, and measuring 38 feet by 46 feet. The building exhibits Italianate style design features. It features a square wooden bell tower at the center of the front facade. The tower has a hipped, shingled roof and four stilted segmental arches. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981, when the City divested itself of several obsolete but historic firehouses and marketed them for adaptive reuse. The building for many years housed Camp Curtin Barbecue, whose owner recently retired.
Property Name: Camp Curtin Church
Address: 2221 North Sixth Street
Owners: Camp Curtin Memorial-Mitchell United Methodist Church
Priority Since: 2013
Status: Capital fundraising, community support being sought.
The beginning of the Camp Curtin Church can be traced to an organization of a Sunday School in north Harrisburg by the Rev. Dr. Thomas Wilcox on May 12, 1889. Within a year, the Curtin Heights Methodist Episcopal Church was built and by 1893, two wings were added. Sadly, on December 30, 1894, the new church and all of its contents were destroyed by fire but within two years a new building was constructed. By 1914, the membership had grown so large that a new building had to be constructed. Since the new church was located on the site of Camp Curtin, it was designated a memorial to all Civil War soldiers and the name was changed to Camp Curtin Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church. A large allegorical painting – depicting Christ appearing to a dying soldier, dressed in blue and gray – still adorns the sanctuary wall. In 1922, the monument to Governor Curtin was erected adjacent to the church. In 1989, it merged with the Mitchell congregation and is now known as the Camp Curtin Memorial-Mitchell United Methodist Church. The Camp Curtin United Methodist Church was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2010, one of few churches listed in the Register.
Property Name: Santana’s Restaurant/Fox Hotel
Address: 236 South Second Street
Owners: PinnacleHealth System
Priority Since: 2011
Status: Threat of demolition
This property was originally known as the Fox Hotel and was built in 1906 for Otto Fox. It replaced the earlier Fox Hotel at Second Street and Meadow Lane. In 1939 it became Santana’s Restaurant. This property is currently owned by Pinnacle Health System, which has tabled the idea of demolition at this time. Arguably, if this property were destroyed, and replaced with more modern urban architecture or surface parking, it would erode the context of the historic neighborhood surrounding the John Harris – Simon Cameron Mansion.
Property Name: Former Brotherhood Relief & Compensation Fund Building
Address: 2101 North Sixth Street
Owners: The Philadelphia Suburban Development Corporation
Priority Since: 2011
Status: Preservation opportunity
Designed originally in 1923 to be a 10-story building, the project was halted following financial difficulties. The basement and two stories of steel framework stood untouched for several years. As revised and scaled back by Philadelphia architectural firm Ritter & Shay, the building was redesigned and completed in 1932. The structure later became known as the Hudson Building (1979) and later housed the Tri-County Opportunities Industrialization Center, Inc. Its potential as an Uptown neighborhood anchor and its high visibility at Harrisburg’s “northern gateway” make its preservation especially desirable and strategically important.
Property Name: Beidleman House
Address: 1225 Market Street
Owners: Faith, Hope, and Love Partnership Services, Inc.
Priority Since: 2011
Status: Severe deterioration and no preservation plan
This Market Street landmark, at the gateway to Allison Hill, was built in 1906 for the prominent attorney and political leader Edward E. Beidleman, and is located in the Mount Pleasant Historic District. Beidleman served in the State House from 1904-1911, State Senate from 1912-1918, and was elected Lieutenant Governor from 1919-1922. In 1937, the building was converted to professional offices and apartments. Due to its location within a National Register Historic District, this property is eligible for Federal rehabilitation tax credits.
Property Name: Swallow Mansion (aka Ridge Avenue Methodist Church Parsonage and Curtis Funeral Home)
Address: 1000 North Sixth Street
Owners: Annette Antoun
Priority Since: 2000
Status: Vacant, awaiting a preservation plan
The Swallow Mansion at the corner of Sixth and Boas Streets in Old Fox Ridge was built for Dr. Silas Comfort Swallow in 1896 by the architectural firm Warren O. Weaver and Son. This brick Queen Anne mansion later served as the Curtis Funeral Home, a prominent African-American-owned business, and also was used for a time as the parsonage for the Ridge Avenue Methodist Church. Now vacant, the building was at one time a proposed site for Harrisburg’s African-American Museum, which never came to fruition. 1000 North Sixth Street was listed on Preservation Pennsylvania’s “At Risk List” in 2011. The property is a contributing part of the National Register Federally Certified District and locally-regulated Fox Ridge Historic District. Occupying a prominent gateway location, this property could be part of a block-long project if investors and financing could be found.
Property Name: Former German Jackson Residence (Jackson Rooming House)
Address: 1006 North Sixth Street
Owners: Jeremiah Chamberlin
Priority Since: 2000
Status: Vacant, new owner seeks a preservation plan
The Jackson Rooming House played a unique role in Harrisburg’s African-American history. This brick Second-Empire-style building was erected in 1884 as a residence for dry goods merchant Frank Hess and his wife Eleanor, Its importance dates to its subsequent owner, German Jackson, an African-American who worked as head doorman at the Penn Harris Hotel in the middle decades of the 20th Century. Jackson allowed many African-Americans, including Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, to stay here in the era of segregation when blacks were not welcome in Harrisburg’s hotels. Thus, the building is often referred to as the Jackson Rooming House. The property changed hands twice in recent years, and the new owner is exploring viable preservation options.
Property Name: Broad Street Market
Address: 1233 North Third Street
Owners: City of Harrisburg
Priority Since: 1996
Status: Aging infrastructure, capital investment needed.
America’s oldest continuously-operated farmer’s market, and an anchor of the Midtown Market District, the 150 year old market boasts a vibrant array of ethic, organic and Pennsylvania Dutch vendors, meeting urban nutrition needs with fresh produce, specialties and prepared foods. The Broad Street Market originally served soldiers stationed at Camp Curtin during the Civil War. The market complex is owned by the City of Harrisburg and managed by the non-profit Broad Street Market Alliance. Although great operational improvements continue to occur, the aging infrastructure is in need of investment through community and government action to enable the historic market to thrive.
Property Name: Walnut Street Bridge
Address: Connection from Harrisburg City to City Island
Owners: PA Department of Transportation
Priority Since: 1996
Status: Flood-damaged Western Span curtails optimum regional potential
The Walnut Street Bridge also known as The People’s Bridge is a truss bridge that spans the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Built by the Phoenix Bridge Company in 1890, it is the oldest bridge on the 400-mile Susquehanna River. Since flooding in 1996 destroyed sections of the western span, it no longer connects to the West Shore. The bridge was built to break the toll monopoly enjoyed by the neighboring Camelback Bridge (now the Market Street Bridge). The Walnut Street Bridge was closed to motor vehicles and converted to a pedestrian and bikeway link to City Island after the 1972 Tropical Storm Agnes flood. The eastern span of the bridge is outlined in lights which, along with the City Island facilities, create a dynamic visual effect at night. The 2,801 foot span is one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world. The conversion to pedestrian use gave the bridge a new purpose and it is used by over a million visitors, tourists and residents annually. The bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and is also recognized as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. In 2012, “Lighten Up Harrisburg” relit the Walnut Street Bridge and has continued to raise funds to explore LED lighting opportunities. Other efforts, supported by HHA, seek to replace the missing western spans so that the full potential of this recreational, tourism and transportation resource may be realized.
Property Name: Historic Harrisburg Resource Center
Address: 1230 North Third Street
Owners: Historic Harrisburg Association
Priority Since: 1993
Status: Capital funding needed
The Central Trust Company was established at this site in 1893, and the present building was completed in 1911 with major renovations following a fire in 1927. It was donated to Historic Harrisburg Association in 1993 and has been operated as a civic resource and non-profit activity center while undergoing grassroots restoration. Renovations are ongoing, and a master plan was adopted by HHA in 2013. Improvements to the second floor have allowed Historic Harrisburg to secure an anchor tenant, the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, which brings both operational and organizational advantages. Restoration of the spectacular main banking hall, designed in 1927 by Lawrie & Green, when funded, will significantly increase the Resource Center’s use and value as a community hub.
Change in Status
Since the following properties were posted on the “Preservation Priority List”, they have changed in status.
Resource Name: The Giusti Mansion
Address: 3405 N. Front Street
Owner: River Oaks Associates
Priority Since: 2016
The historic Giusti Mansion, at N. Front and Montrose Streets, was demolished on April 28, 2016, by principals of the next door law firm of Mette, Evans and Woodside for a new office building. Built in the late 1920’s by Samuel Wilhelm, Secretary/Treasurer of the Mechanics Trust Company, the house was purchased in the mid 1930’s by Ernest and Speranza Giusti who owned and operated the Alva Restaurant. After the Giusti family sold the property in 1999 for group home and later to Dr. Cary Cummings as a special events venue, the late Derek Hathaway purchased it for the purpose of donating it to the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra for the Symphony’s headquarters. The Orchestra subsequently declined the offer and Hathaway, shortly before his death, sold it to the current owners. Preliminary plans indicate the house’s demolition for a larger new building of “similar” architectural style, although issues such as screening and an abundance of surface parking in the home’s rear yard, may be concerns that also need to be monitored. The demolition of this 1920’s landmark that had been featured on Elegant Progressions a number of years ago is a loss to the remaining and neighboring historic Front Street homes in the Montrose Park neighborhood and to the Front Street corridor as a whole.
Property Name: Mary Sachs Mansion and Hull Mansion
Address: 2909 and 2917 North Front Street
Owners: Sally and Mike Wilson
Priority Duration: 2005 – 2015
Status: Fully restored in 2015
Harrisburg has two architectural signatures: the Pennsylvania Capitol and the Mansions of Front Street. Among the most architecturally exuberant iare two mansions just north of Division Street. In 2005, a plan was proposed by Mary Knackstedt (founder of Riverfront People’s Park preservation organization) to demolish these landmarks for a new condominium project. The plan received overwhelming opposition from the surrounding neighbors, Historic Harrisburg, and city officials. However, as a complete turnaround, the properties were offered for auction and Sally and Mike Wilson purchased them for restoration into what is now the highly acclaimed “Manor on Front” Bed and Breakfast. Elegant in appointments and fully complemented with amenities, the $1.7 million project represents a virtual success story in the mission of advancing historic preservation. The Hull Mansion was awarded HHA’s Preservation Award in 2015.
Property Name: General Henry and Elizabeth Gross Mansion
Address: 2005 N. Front Street
Owners: Christopher and Erica Bryce
Priority Duration: 2005 – 2016
Status: Restoration underway
The southernmost of three Front Street mansions proposed for demolition a number of years ago for an ill-fated condominium complex, the historic Gross Mansion at N. Front and Division Streets has been acquired by Harrisburg entrepreneurs Chris and Erica and Bryce who are restoring it as their family residence. Completed in 1928, this beautifully executed Federal styled landmark was more recently their residence and business of noted interior designer, Mary K. Knacksted. Henry McCormick Gross was the son of Edward Z. Gross, Mayor of Harrisburg from 1905 to 1908. Henry Gross also served as head of Pennsylvania Selective Service and was a leader in implementing many of Harrisburg’s public works improvements during the City Beautiful Movement.
Property Name: Former Moose Lodge
Address: 922 North Third Street and adjacent buildings in the 900 block
Owners: WCI Partners
Priority Duration: 2006-2015
Status: Restoration completed
This property was built as the Loyal Order of Moose, Lodge No 107 in 1924. It was designed in Greek Revival style by noted Harrisburg architect Clayton J. Lappley in 1924. The Lodge was an early victim of the Great Depression. More recently the Moose Lodge and its adjacent buildings were owned and used by the Ronald H. Brown Charter School. WCI Partners purchased and renovated the building for 33 apartments through a mixed-use development along with three adjacent historic building on N. Third Street. st@rtup Harrisburg, the city’s first co-working space linking freelancers, entrepreneurs, enterprisers, and organizations to shared resources and networks, occupies the first floor. The Burg Magazine will move to the first floor of two of the N. Third Street buildings.
Property Name: Locust Street Houses
Address: 110 and 112 Locust Street
Owners: Thomas Nardi
Priority Duration: 2015 – 2016
Status: Demolition Prevented
A Preservation Priority in 2015, the Locust Street Houses were saved from demolition in 2016 and have been preserved under new ownership.
To suggest additional properties or projects for HHA’s “Preservation Priorities,” or to learn how to become involved in one of the above-mentioned cases, please contact HHA at 233-4646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.