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Harrisburg celebrating its 200th year as capitol of Keystone state

  • FILE PHOTO The Carbon County float passes in front of the Pennsylvania State Capitol during Gov. Rendell's inaugural parade in 2006.
    FILE PHOTO The Carbon County float passes in front of the Pennsylvania State Capitol during Gov. Rendell's inaugural parade in 2006.
Published March 10. 2012 09:01AM

In 1812, the capital of Pennsylvania was relocated to Harrisburg, then a Susquehanna River jumping-off point for westward expansion.

Harrisburg, the ninth largest city in Pennsylvania, which has recently been rated by Forbes Magazine as the second best place in the U.S. to raise a family, started its life as the 3,000-year-old Native American crossroads village of Paxtang, a location where trails leading from the Delaware to the Ohio rivers, and from the Potomac to the Upper Susquehanna, intersected.

Captain John Smith, founder of the Jamestown Colony, is believed to be the first European to visit the area when he traveled here in 1608 to visit the Susquehannock tribe.

In 1705, John Harris, Sr. began trading in the area, which he recognized for its strategic location at a mountain pass along the Susquehanna River, He made peace with the Iroquois, Susquehannocks and the Shawnees. In 1719, he set up a trading post, then secured grants for 800 acres, and in 1733 established a ferry across the Susquehanna River that opened migration to the West and became its last provisioning stop.

In 1785, his son, John Harris, Jr., surveyed a town on his father's land, which he named Harrisburg. In 1791, Harrisburg incorporated.

The first capital of Pennsylvania was Philadelphia, which was also the capital of the United Sates. The city hosted the First and Second Continental Congresses, the Constitutional Convention. From 1790 to 1800, until it moved to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia served as the capital of the United States.

In 1777, when Philadelphia was attacked by the British, the Continental Congress fled the city and met at the Court House in Lancaster. After meeting there for one day Sept. 27, 1777 they moved farther away to York.

On Oct. 13, 2011, Lancaster's City Council recognized September 27 as Capital Day, a holiday honoring Lancaster's time as capital of the nation.

Although the United States capital was in York less than one year, the city calls itself the first capital of the United States of America, as the Articles of Confederation was the first legal document to refer to the colonies as "the United States of America."

Independence Hall in Philadelphia served as the capitol of Pennsylvania from the beginnings of the state of Pennsylvania in 1776 until 1799, when it relocated its capital to Lancaster, one of the oldest non-coastal towns in the United States.

The city of Lancaster was home to several important figures in American history James Buchanan, the fifteenth President of the United States; Thaddeus Stevens, considered among the most powerful members of the United States House of Representatives; and Robert Fulton, who created the first successful steamboat.

After the American Revolution, Lancaster became a manufacturing center for iron, the Conestoga wagon, and the Pennsylvania long rifle.

In October 1812, the capital of Pennsylvania was relocated from Lancaster to Harrisburg, principally because of its strategic importance for westward migration, and because a portion of the land was donated by Harris.

The legislature initially met in Harrisburg's Dauphin County courthouse. In 1816, a red-brick Federal-style design by architect Stephen Hills was selected. The Hills Capitol was completed in 1821 and destroyed by fire in 1897.

A new Pennsylvania Capitol, designed by Henry Ives Cobb was built in 1899. It was never completed, due to a lack of funding, and was abandoned in 1902.

The current capitol was designed by Joseph Miller Huston in 1902 and accepted as the seat of the state government in 1906. The Huston Capitol contains 475 rooms on a 45 acre park.

In August 2010, the Daily Beast website ranked Harrisburg as the seventh most recession-proof area in the country. On Oct. 11, 2011, the City of Harrisburg filed a Chapter 9 bankruptcy petition in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Congratulations to Harrisburg on its Bicentennial as the capital of Pennsylvania.

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