Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Big donations advance monument honoring voting rights, Harrisburg’s old 8th ward

TFEC’s Janice Black presents a check to Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse and the Commonwealth Monument Project’s Lenwood Sloan.

A monument honoring voting rights and Harrisburg history is a step closer to reality, as the project today received more than $100,000 in new funding.

At a city hall press conference, the Commonwealth Monument Project received several large checks and pledges that will enable work to begin on critical aspects of the multi-part statue.

The city, the Foundation for Enhancing Communities (TFEC) and philanthropist Peggy Grove all announced additional support for the monument planned for the lawn of the Capitol’s Irvis office building at N. 4th and Walnut streets.

“It’s a wonderful and incredibly important day,” said Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse. “The monument, which has been a vision for so long, will become a reality.”

In its 2020 budget, the city pledged $25,000 to help build the base of the monument if organizers could raise a $25,000 matching grant. Today, TFEC provided that match.

The $360,000 monument, called “A Gathering at the Crossroads,” consists of three distinct aspects, all crafted by Lancaster-based A.R.T. Enterprises.

The first, the “orator’s pedestal,” depicts scenes of Harrisburg’s old 8th Ward, which was demolished to expand the Capitol complex. It already has been completed (pictured).

The second consists of life-sized figures of four important figures in Harrisburg history: civil rights activist William Howard Day, journalist and lawyer Thomas Morris Chester, musician and restaurateur Jacob T. Compton and abolitionist and suffragist Francis Ellen Walker Harper.

In addition to honoring the demolished 8th Ward, the monument is a tribute to voting rights—specifically, the U.S. Constitution’s 15th and19th amendments, which secured the vote for African Americans and for women, respectively.

The project’s third aspect is the base of the monument, which today’s $50,000 donation will fund.

President and CEO Janice Black said that TFEC made the gift as part of its commitment to fund community projects in connection with the charitable organization’s 100th anniversary.

“Because of our anniversary, we are honored to provide this money to help with the city’s match,” Black said.

Grove, who had already helped fund the monument’s pedestal, then announced additional support by the Grove Family Fund for two of the four statues.

“This bronze monument and what it signifies . . . for all people of color, for women, for all the disenfranchised people who have had to fight for the vote, all these many years–that’s what this really represents,” Grove said.

Besides raising money, the monument’s executive committee has succeeded in receiving legislative approval to site the monument on the grounds of the Capitol complex.

Today’s funding announcement allows the monument to stay on schedule, said Lenwood Sloan, the project’s executive director. A groundbreaking is slated for late March, with a June 15 unveiling.

The event concluded with an appeal for additional funds to close the remaining gap.

“I’m asking our community to make donations so we can complete this project,” said Kelly Summerford, executive committee treasurer. “Those with deep pockets, go deep, and those without such deep pockets, do what you can.”

Click here to contribute to the monument initiative. The Commonwealth Monument Project is an initiative of the IPTT Harrisburg Peace Promenade, a project of The Foundation for Enhancing Communities (TFEC), fiscal sponsor. 

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