Harrisburg has been an important transportation center since the days of riverboat
traffic. Its western boundary is formed by the Susquehanna River. This location played an important part in its
selection as the capital of Pennsylvania in 1812. Because of its location, Harrisburg played a large part in the
early development of the Pennsylvania canal system and the subsequent development of the railroads, highways and
airlines. Today, Harrisburg is one of the most important commercial centers and distribution points in the East.
In colonial days, John Harris operated a ferry at Harrisburg. His son,
John Jr., laid out the town of Harrisburg in 1785, and gave land to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that was later
used for the Capitol grounds. The capitol building is an Italian Renaissance-style statehouse. It is an example
of outstanding architecture, with collections of art and scultpture, including large murals. On the floor of the
main hallway, tiles show Pennsylvania's history, symbols, insects and animals.
At the dedication of the Capitol building in 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt described
this structure as "the handsomest building I ever saw". The capitol dome rises 272 feet. This vaulted
dome weighs 52 million pounds, and was modeled after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. It's beautiful staircase looks
like one from the Paris Opera. Over 100,000 people per year enjoy a free tour of Harrisburg's Capitol building.
Walk across a plaza to the Forum building, housing the State Library, an extensive
Law Library and genealogical search room for visitors.
If you would like to take a free tour of Pennsylvania's Capitol building, call or write
the General Assembly's Office Of Capitol Visitor Services at 1-800-TOUR-N-PA (800-868-7672). You will want to reserve
your tour as far in advance as possible. Allow 40 minutes for a tour. Tours are available weekdays, weekends, and
some holidays. No tours are given on New Year's Day, Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, or Thanksgiving.
You can also explore Pennsylvania government at work by visiting the Welcome Center at
the Capitol. Learn about Pennsylvania Government -- and have fun in the process -- by reading, listening, touching
and interacting with 18 colorful, informative exhibits. The Welcome Center is located in the East Wing of the Capitol,
and is open regular workdays (Monday through Friday, except holidays) from 8:30am to 4:30pm.
Photographs on this page courtesy The Dauphin County Historical Society.