Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, which opened September 9, 1999, is the successful culmination of decades worth of community effort to develop a major performing arts and science center in downtown Harrisburg. The resources which were brought to bear at the local and state levels and in the public and private sectors resulted in the first facility of its type in the United States where education, science and the performing arts take place under one roof. Whitaker Center occupies the block that at one time contained along its Market Street frontage both the first and second Dauphin County Courthouses as its western end and Brant's Hall and the Bergner Building at its eastern end. The Bergner Building was erected by publisher and editor George Bergner in 1874 at the home of the Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg's oldest daily newspaper at the time, having been founded in 1831. The Telegraph was Harrisburg's last second daily newspaper until it ceased operation in 1948. The original Brant's City Hall, next door, was built by John Brant in the 1850's, who also erected the Sylvan Heights Mansion on Allison Hill, now the Harrisburg YWCA. Brant's City Hall replaced the residence of T. Chester Morris (1834-1892) noted journalist, educator and lawyer who taught in Liberia and was the first African-American to practice law in England. Brant's City Hall was a major facility for conventions, meetings and performances and in time was renovated and expanded for banking purposes, occupied by such institutions as the Commonwealth Trust Company, the First National Bank of Harrisburg, and later by the National-Central Bank. This block historically one of the most dynamic in Harrisburg and which housed county government, the judiciary, banking and the press, continues to emanate vitality as the region's principal destination for the performing arts and science education.
Circa 1890 view of remodeled Brant's City Hall (center) when used for banking purposes, and Bergner Building, next door at right.
1855 engraving of the original Brant's City Hall.