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The Urban Legend about Harrisburg’s State Street Bridge

Harrisburg PA Capitol Complex as seen from State Street BridgeYou’ve probably driven across it many times, but did you know there is old urban legend associated with the State Street Bridge in Harrisburg? Otherwise known as the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Bridge, the structure is a striking sight that welcomes visitors and daily commuters to our State Capitol. Flanked by stone pylons on the west end, each measuring 143 feet in height and crowned by a majestic-looking eagle, the bridge makes a lasting impression.

Even as a kid I was in awe of those looming pylons, soaring so high above. I later learned the eagles represented the United States Army and Navy, respectively. Constructed over a five year period from 1925 to 1930, the bridge serves as a memorial to the U.S. Armed Forces, particularly those from Pennsylvania (at the time the bridge was constructed, the Air Force was part of the Army). It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in June of 1988

As a child, I remember asking my father about the doors at the base of each towering structure. They’re visible as you leave the city heading east. Imposing in their own right, I was sure they had to conceal something spectacular.

Harrisburg PA State Street Bridge I can’t remember what he told me. Odds are he didn’t know. Or maybe he shared a folktale common to Harrisburg. It’s not earth-shattering, but it is old . . . according to legend the pylons house the State Archives.

As a kid, I’m sure I would have found that nugget of folklore disappointing. No secret passages leading to a room brimming with treasure? No obscure wonders or magical objects?

In truth, the rooms are empty. This last bit of information is according to the Pennsylvania Department of General Services, as relayed in an article by Harrisburg Magazine. So much vacant space. It makes you wonder what could be stored there if the inclination struck.

I’m sure there are many who will continue to speculate about what is hidden behind those massive doors, just as I did. The great thing about urban legends is that they have a life of their own. Even when disproven, they continue to fuel curiosity -- as I’m sure the doors at the base of the pylons will for future generations. It never hurts to wonder, “what if?”

Candy Ortenzio
Executive Administrator
Brownstone Real Estate Co.

*Smaller image courtesyWikimedia Commons by Joseph Elliot [Public domain]
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AState_Street_Bridge_(Harrisburg)_HAER_4.jpg

*Larger image courtesy Wikimedia Commons by Joseph Elliot [Public domain]
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AState_Street_Bridge_(Harrisburg)_HAER_color.jpg