Then and Now of Harrisburg's Old 8th Ward
As the Old 8th Ward was demolished, hundreds of families, dozens of businesses, and several churches were displaced. These residents and institutions were scattered into other parts of Harrisburg and its surroundings. Although Pennsylvania's progressive reformers were sure that creating the Capitol Park Extension was well worth its monetary and social costs, perhaps others, such as the 8th's residents, were not. In the name of neoclassical aesthetic beauty and modernization, one of Harrisburg's most unique and ethnically-integrated neighborhoods was razed.
In the Old 8th's place, governmental buildings and plazas were built. In 2005, the Capitol Complex is grand and would certainly please Harrisburg's reformers of 100 years ago. But the quest to uncover the Old 8th's past has raised the question that journalist J. Howard Wert posed to his readers in 1913--wasn't something equally beautiful and meaningful lost with the demolition of the Old 8th Ward? Of this Wert wrote, "Around many time-stained buildings of the old 'Eighth' cling blessed memories which are stored in the hearts of those who, as children, there knew a mother's love and a father's care." He went on to say, "Memories of a similar character will give at least a passing pang to many a heart, as house after house of the 'Old Eighth' passes into oblivion." If the physical environs of the ward were shoddy and broken, the spiritual was not.
We invite you now to take another tour of the Old 8th Ward, where photographs of the community as it appeared in the early 1900s are presented beside photographs taken in May 2005. Obviously, most visitors will agree that the modern Capitol Complex is visually pleasing, but the edifices seem cold and empty when compared to what the Old 8th once was.
Proceed to Harrisburg Then and Now Tour >
For further reading:
- 2005 Capitol Complex map--view a modern map of the Capitol Complex with Old 8th Ward street names included on the map.