Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Fixing History: Harrisburg begins to replace, refresh historical signs.

Harrisburg recently replaced some of its damaged historical signs, including this one in Riverfront Park.

On a visit to Harrisburg’s Riverfront Park, you may have wondered about the history of your surroundings—the story behind such prominent structures as the Walnut Street Bridge and the J. Donald Cameron Mansion.

The information is there for you. It’s just been hard to read on the soiled, bleached, tagged and damaged historical markers scattered throughout the park and the city.

The city administration now has begun to freshen up Harrisburg’s history by replacing many of the Plexiglas-covered signs that offer information on everything from Governors’ Row to the Hope Fire Station.

“Many were in terrible shape,” said Mayor Eric Papenfuse. “Over the years, they had been covered in graffiti and damaged from sun bleach.”

The signs themselves aren’t actually very old. Part of the “Harrisburg History Project,” they were installed between 2002 and 2004 at 113 locations throughout the city. However, by 2015, they already were in such poor shape that Historic Harrisburg Association placed them on its list of preservation priorities.

“We were delighted when we started seeing the new signs appearing,” HHA Executive Director David Morrison said today. “They’re a wonderful asset to the city.”

In June, the city replaced about 30 signs, part of a duplicate set it received along with the project 15 years ago. Over the years, the duplicates apparently had been moved from one storage facility to another, and, through administration turnover, had been forgotten about, Papenfuse said.

“Security rediscovered them, and we put them out,” he said.

Unfortunately, the rest of the duplicate set is missing. Papenfuse believes these signs were used for other purposes—for instance, mounted as part of other historical displays during the Reed administration.

This worn and vandalized sign, which tells the story of Verbeke Street, awaits replacement.

“We don’t have a complete set,” he said.

Not all of the signs need to be replaced, as some are still in good shape, Papenfuse said. He added that he hopes to find funds to replace the others. In addition to the signs, some of the metallic, podium-style stands have suffered damage and need to be replaced. In fact, over the years, some units have been removed entirely after getting hit by cars or otherwise destroyed.

But, to Morrison, 30 new signs is a good start.

“This is wonderful,” he said. “We’d love to see it completely restored.”

Author: Lawrance Binda 

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