This 63-acre Susquehanna River jewel and major tourism and recreational destination has lured human occupations not just since Harrisburg was founded and throughout the ensuing centuries but also by prehistoric native Americans beginning at least 9,000 years ago. This key land mass, set within the river, served as the convergence of ancient trails and would later establish the city's prominence as a transportation center. The Island contains archaeological treasures of the Susquehannocks and the Iroquois tribes which established seasonal settlements here. The Island was reached only by boat during the initial development of Harrisburg until 1817 when the Camelback Bridge, site of the present-day Market Street Bridge, was completed. Known in its early years as Turkey Island, Maclay's Island, Forster's Island and Hargast Island, the land was originally used for truck farming. It would not be until the municipal improvements of the early 20th century that the Island would begin to develop into the park that it is today. While amateur baseball teams played here as early as the 1880's, professional baseball arrived in 1903, hosting both the Harrisburg Athletics and Negro League Harrisburg Giants baseball clubs. Such notables as Satchel Paige and Babe Ruth played ball here. Athletic fields were developed at the Island's southern end and were the site of many track meets and other sporting events.
In 1908, Jim Thorpe won the high jump here for the Carlisle Indians in statewide competition. The public works improvements of the early 20th century led to the construction of the City Island Filtration Plant, which extracted water from the river, filtered it in reservoirs which now define the edge of the Skyline Sports Complex, and pumped it by way of an under-the-riverbed tunnel to the Old Waterworks at Front and North Streets, which in turn pumped the water to the reservoirs in Reservoir Park. The bathhouse and concrete beach emerged by 1922 as the Island's popularity grew. By the mid-1980's, the Mayor's Parks Improvement Program brought back professional minor league baseball to Harrisburg with the construction of Riverside Stadium and other attractions including Riverside Village, Harbourtown, Skyline Sports Complex, Carriage House, Harrisburg Riverboat, miniature golf, three boat marinas, the City Island Railroad and twenty other facilities. City Island is home to the Harrisburg Senators, a AA baseball team and winner of numerous national and League titles, as well as home to the Central Pennsylvania Piranha, a multi-year champion of minor league professional football. Outdoor soccer, lacrosse, rugby, softball, volleyball and other sports, along with hundreds of events annually, are hosted on City Island.
Photos - left to right
Circa 1910 postcard view of Harrisburg Athletics Baseball Stadium located where Riverside Stadium is today.
1932 aerial view of City Island looking south with old Filtration Plant in foreground; today's site of the Skyline Sports Complex.
1931 Veteran's jamboree encampment at City Island's southern end. note Market Street Bridge tollbooth at lower left.
Circa 1920 bathing scene at City Island's northern end.
Circa 1915 postcard view of City Island track meet just south of Market Street Bridge.