The development and evolution of Harrisburg's early public works infrastructure is captured through the unique Riverfront Park setting of the Old Waterworks, the original stone portion of which was constructed in 1841. At that time water was pumped by this facility directly from the Susquehanna River to the City's first reservoir located just east on North Street where the Commonwealth Keystone State Office Building now stands. The distinctive octagonal base of the stone structure on Front Street supported a tall standpipe, which stood from 1876 to 1913, as one of the tallest structures in the city at that time and a vantage point for aerial photography. With the advent of the City Beautiful Movement just after the turn of the 20th Century, Harrisburg became a national model in undertaking a variety of advanced public improvement projects. This included, among others, the construction of a water filtration plant on City Island in 1904 and the simultaneous expansion of this Waterworks building through the brick additions that remain today. Substantially damaged by Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972, which terminated its use as a pumping station, and nearly destroyed by fire in 1977, the complex was thoroughly restored and illuminated in 1985 through a creative adaptive reuse project initiated by the City, further enhancing this unique and highly visible Riverfront landmark.
1905 view of the Old Waterworks after erection of the 1904 expansion buildings and before removal of the towering standpipe.
Bottom Left Photo
1885 aerial view toward the Old Capitol Building from the Old Waterworks' standpipe structure.
Bottom Right Photo
Riverfront view of the Old Waterworks in 1880 prior to the 1904 expansion buildings and stabilization of the river bank.