As early as 1903, reference was made to a strip of ground at the "head of Second Street" above Division Street which would become part of the comprehensive parks improvement plan advanced by landscape architect Warren Manning of Boston at the start of Harrisburg's City Beautiful Movement. Known even then as Italian Park, the land was a wooded wetland fed by springs and was a popular place for outings as were other sylvan areas just outside the city limits prior to the establishment of the city's park system. The "Italian" reference can best be attributed to Harrisburg hosteler Patricio Russ (1852-1925) who, in addition to operating several downtown Harrisburg hotels, had established a traveling lodge on N. Front Street known as the "Italian" Hotel, a name that became associated with the surrounding area. Although the future park was set forth in Manning's original concept, it would not be until the 1925 construction of the new William Penn High School that public improvements, supporting the quality of the overall development of the Uptown and Riverside neighborhoods, began to fall into place. That year, formal plans were advanced to create two lakes from the old watering hole and to use fill from the high school's excavation for grading and landscaping the new park. Between 1925 and 1939, the park and its formal gardens would slowly emerge to become an exquisite place of beauty. Distinguished by the landmark Japanese Bridge, and the elegant Dance of the Eternal Spring sculpture, which dates to 1909 and was placed in the southern lake's center in 1971, the park was even further enhanced by the 1990' under the Mayor's Citywide Parks Improvement Program, through the installation of period lighting fixtures, expanded gardens and walkways, and lake shoreline improvement.
1926 view looking north near Division Street showing commencement of grading work and original lake wetlands.
1931 aerial view looking north toward the partially-developed Riverside neighborhood with Italian Lake Park and Will Penn High School at right.