Phase I of Strawberry Square represents the birth of downtown Harrisburg's revitalization and renewal activity that commenced in the mid 1970's and was pursued with fervor in the 1980's and since. The demolition of the renowned Penn-Harris Hotel at N. Third and Walnut Streets in 1973 came to symbolize Harrisburg's worsening economic condition and depressed state of affairs. The Hotel was an elegant 400-room facility that hosted major national and international figures and celebrities. The building's demise coincidentally occurred at the time the Harristown Urban Renewal Plan was being advanced by civic and political leaders to reverse the city's decline. What resulted was the identification of the block between N. Third and N. Fourth Streets facing Walnut Street, and most importantly Capitol Park, as the strategically located "Key Block" where the built-in buying power of employees of the State Capitol Complex would be captured to launch retail and cultural renewal. In addition, the construction of two office towers, one to be leased by the Commonwealth and the other, originally by Bell of Pennsylvania, would add even more employees to the complex and downtown in general. This block had always been a premier location lying between the Market Street corridor and the Capitol. In addition to the Penn-Harris, the Harrisburg YWCA, built in 1913, anchored the block's opposite corner at N. Fourth and Walnut Streets. The clear benefit to the redevelopment of center city by packaging the entire block for the new complex, completed in 1978, acted as a forerunner to stimulating additional revitalization projects which have enabled downtown to evolve into the retail, hotel, entertainment and cultural center that it is today.
Circa 1920 view of the 300 Block of Walnut Street facing Capitol Park where Strawberry Square Phase I stands today.
Center Left Photo
Penn-Harris Hotel circa 1948 at the southeast corner of N. Third and Walnut Streets.
Center Right Photo
19th Century buildings at the southwest corner of N. Fourth and Walnut Streets circa 1900.
Harrisburg YWCA shortly after completion in 1913 at the southwest corner of N. Fourth and Walnut Streets.