Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Burg Blog: Historic Credits

The long-shuttered Swallow Mansion in Harrisburg is currently under restoration.

As it does each year, Historic Harrisburg Association this past week presented its “Preservation Priority” list.

This is a summary of some of the Harrisburg area’s most threatened structures, and many of the buildings on the 2020 list should come as no surprise to anyone who cares about historic preservation locally.

On it, you’ll find such notable structures as the J. Donald Cameron Mansion (up for sale), the Riverside Firehouse (slated to be sold), several abandoned churches and a few structures, victims of negligent owners, that may be lost forever if not shored up soon (among them, the pre-Civil War Balsley House downtown and the former Gerber’s Department Store—aka the “Carpets and Draperies” building—in Midtown).

The old Harrisburg Moose Lodge, now the home of StartUp Harrisburg and Union Lofts

Each year, HHA uses this list to make the public aware of the area’s historic heritage crumbling around them—and maybe even hold owners’ collective feet to the fire.

But I’d like to use this blog post to highlight something else. In its presentation, further down, following the bad news, there is this—hope.

HHA lists a section called “prior listings,” which consists mostly of buildings that have been preserved or are otherwise no longer threatened.

The fully restored North Street building, which now houses Elementary Coffee Co. and apartments

I think it’s important to highlight the buildings that have been saved and the people who have done the expensive, hard work, often against the odds and against financial logic, to preserve them. It wasn’t long ago that these buildings were endangered.

So, an enormous thanks to:

  • Mike and Sally Wilson, who transformed the decrepit Mary Sachs and Hull mansions into the stunning Manor on Front Bed & Breakfast
  • Chris and Erica Bryce, who restored the General Henry and Elizabeth Gross Mansion next door to Manor on Front
  • Harristown Development, which saved the old Fox Hotel/Santanna’s Restaurant, turning it into a boutique apartment building
  • Vice Capital/LeRon and LeSean McCoy, who are finishing up a total restoration of the Swallow Mansion on N. 6th Street
  • WCI Partners, which restored the boarded up former Moose Lodge and several commercial buildings on the 900-block of N. 3rd Street
  • Matt Krupp and Harrisburg Commercial Interiors for saving and rebuilding two North Street buildings that now house Elementary Coffee Co. with apartments upstairs.

The Bridge, the former Bishop McDevitt High School

And, as they say, the best is yet to come.

This year, The Bridge plans to begin to transform the old Bishop McDevitt High School into co-working space and an “eco village,” Matt Long/Harrisburg Commercial Interiors has received permission to begin work restoring the Jackson Rooming House, and andCulture is completing a restoration of the Old Waterworks on Front Street.

There’s also hope that, this year, the Harrisburg school district may finally sell the William Penn building and property and that the Zembo Shrine building will change hands and find a new use.

Lastly, a million thanks to David Morrison, Jeb Stuart, Calobe Jackson and everyone at HHA for reminding this community of its historic heritage—and how important it is to preserve it.

To learn more about Historic Harrisburg Association, visit their website.

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