Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 10/8 – 10/16

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania:  Population = 49,673 (metro area = 1,219,422) , elevation = 320 feet, average January low temp = 23.2, Average July high temp = 86, average sunny days = 193, annual snowfall = 33.4, annual rainfall = 39.1, air quality index = 15.8, water quality index = 67, comfort index = 47

Leaving our cabin in the woods, we are headed back to the city.  We have reserved more bargain resorts in the upcoming weeks, so now we are “connecting the dots” with cities between.  As it turns out, Harrisburg is on the way and Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania.  This capital building is something special.  The tour guide proclaims it as the most ornate of all the state capitals.  There is a big difference between beautiful and ornate.  I believe she was right about this building being ornate.  Walking into the rotunda, is a jaw-dropping experience.  Everything gold-colored is  actually trimmed in 23 karat gold.

The capital buiding is enormous. The dome is visible for miles around
The rotunda is accented by murals, mosaics, and gold trim
The Senate chamber
The walls of the Supreme Court are lined with historic laws from many cultures
The House chamber
The grand Atrium, showing one of the four murals

Just down the block from the capital there are a row of churches.  The tallest and most ornate of these is the Cathedral of St. Patrick.  I am a big fan of ornate, but I am a little uneasy with how much the Cathedral and the Capital have in common.  Separation of church and state and all that.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral
The rotunda is decorated with saints and biblical scenes

Harrisburg is a river town.  The Susquehanna river runs through the city, crossed by many bridges, both stately old arches and gawky modern freeway decks.  During our stay, we were lucky enough to find a paddlewheel river cruise with a beer tasting featuring Rusty Rail beers.  From the river, you can see the walking trails along the river, the parks and trees, the office buildings, the domes and steeples.

On the Riverwalk, a view of the many bridges
The Pride throws a fun little cruise
Sunset on the Susquehanna

During the Civil War, Harrisburg was close to the battlefields but never invaded.  It was a staging area for the Union troops before the battle of Gettysburg.  Up on a hilltop overlooking the city, we find the National Civil War Museum.  The exhibits here are arranged in sequential order.  The first rooms deal with the background and causes for the war.  Later rooms display the weapons and equipment, the key battles, and finally, the aftermath.

Causes of the Civil War
Confederate infantry equipment
Union infantry equipment

Just a few miles downriver, we saw another museum.  This one is the beautifully preserved Fort Hunter Mansion.  It was first built in 1786 and then added to in 1814.  Among the owner’s many holdings, were his 20 slaves who worked in his home and farm.  The house has many of the original furnishings, including portraits, children’s toys, and china.  One of my favorite things is the bathtub for one.  Most bathtubs of the period were the big clawfoot tubs.  Starting with Dad, everyone in the house used the same bathwater, in order from oldest to youngest.  The single tub was for one person to use themselves and was considered an extravagance for rich people.

The Fort Hunter Mansion
The parlor / living room
A rare bathtub for one.

There is a lot to see in Harrisburg.  And there is a lot to see nearby.  We took a couple of interesting road trips during our stay here.  Since this is already running long, I will split off the road trips into a separate post.

Next up: Hershey and Gettysburg


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We are two recent retirees who decided to sell the house, pull up stakes, and explore North America. We are both being tourists and looking for the right blend of people, place, and geography that makes for the perfect place to retire.

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