Monuments around the country have been in the news recently, many taken or torn down by people who regard them as symbols of racism.
But for over a year, members of the Commonwealth Monument Project have had a plan to erect a new monument in Harrisburg, one that highlights and honors Harrisburg’s African American heritage.
Today, they discussed updates to that plan, as they also honored the Dauphin County commissioners who helped make it possible.
“In other places in our country, we are seeing monuments taken down,” Commissioner George Hartwick said during a public meeting today. “We are putting monuments up.”
Earlier this year, the commissioners awarded the IIPT Harrisburg Peace Promenade a $100,000 gaming grant, indicating their support for the monument project.
Lenwood Sloan, the project’s executive director, phoned in to the meeting to present the commissioners with a bronze replica of the Old 8th Ward. The replica shows an aerial view of the historic primarily Black and immigrant neighborhood that was demolished to make room for expansion of the state Capitol Complex.
“We cannot bring back the buildings or the ancestors, but we can raise the level of dignity,” Sloan said.
The bronze map models a larger one that will sit atop the “Orator’s Pedestal”—the base of the forthcoming monument.
The bronze replica presented to Dauphin County today is one of a series of four. The first was given to Peggy Grove, a supporter of the Monument Project. The second went to Gov. Tom Wolf, the third to the City of Harrisburg, and the last to the county today.
The four maps were created by the A.R.T Foundry in Lancaster.
“I would really like people to understand the history of the Old 8th Ward,” commission Chairman Jeff Haste said. “Bringing history a little more alive for folks will make this a better region.”
The Commonwealth Monument Project is scheduled to be unveiled on Aug. 26 on the Capitol grounds at 4th and Walnut Streets.
On the pedestal, 100 families’ names are engraved, as well as maps of Old 8th Ward streets. On top of the pedestal will be the Old 8th Ward map, as well as four historic African American figures from Harrisburg—Frances Harper, Thomas Chester, Jacob Compton and William Howard Day.
Two of the figures will stand on the pedestal when it is unveiled. The other two are being finished and will be installed by Nov. 14.
Land surveyor Melham Associates has already done construction at the site where the monument will be placed. A small plaza, the Irvis Equality Circle, will allow visitors to walk around and view the monument.