Reflection on Recent Trip to Harrisburg

Students from Professor LaGrand’s Urban History class in Harrisburg, PA on Saturday, 15 September 2012.

Last Saturday (15 September), students from Professor LaGrand’s Urban History class visited Harrisburg, PA. While there, they visited Bethlehem Steel and the surrounding neighborhood in Steelton, Bellevue Park near Market Street in Harrisburg, and Midtown Scholar Bookstore and the Broad Street Market in Midtown Harrisburg. Included below is a reflection by Megan Keller (History ’13).


I grew up twenty minutes away from Harrisburg, but I’ve never fully appreciated the rich cultural diversity and multifaceted history of the city before our trip to Harrisburg this past weekend. Professor LaGrand and his Urban History class exponentially increased my interest in communicating Harrisburg’s vibrant history to broader audiences through a Web site later this semester.

We first visited several landmarks in Steelton. After parking in a Rite Aid lot, we walked down to one of the entrance gates to Bethlehem Steel. The mill is huge! While there, Professor LaGrand told us about the European immigrants and African Americans who once manned the facility. From there, we walked around the town, observing the homes and places of worship of past Steel workers and their families. I found the churches throughout the town to be very interesting, particularly how the churches were architecturally and theologically influenced by specific ethnic groups.

After departing Steelton, we visited Bellevue Park. To be honest, I don’t remember too much about this part of the trip because Professor LaGrand was giving me driving directions and telling me to slow down (I was driving). I do remember, however, that it’s a beautiful neighborhood. The homes are very ornate, the streets are very winding and narrow (I had the pleasure of maneuvering a fifteen-passenger van on them), and the neighborhood is overflowing with lush scenery. It reflects the City Beautiful movement’s devotions to early-twentieth-century materialism and commerce perfectly.

We concluded our lovely trip to Harrisburg by visiting Midtown. We walked around the neighborhood briefly, and I was amazed by the high amount of gentrification taking place in the neighborhood. We then visited Midtown Scholar Bookstore, where I bought two antique postcards related to Harrisburg. By the way, if you haven’t visited the Bookstore, it’s a must-do while attending or visiting Messiah College. We finished up our trip by having lunch at the Broad Street Market, where I bought some delicious Japanese food, apple cider, and a mango.

Overall, the trip to Harrisburg was awesome! I saw some cool stuff, ate some yummy food, bought some postcards, and (much to Professor LaGrand’s dismay) drove a giant van around.  I’d say it was worth getting up at 7:30 AM for!

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