Wish You Were Here reflects the value of postcards as tools for learning about the past, with images drawn from Manuscript Group 213, Postcard Collection, Pennsylvania State Archives.

One hundred years ago, on May 20, 1911, a self- proclaimed “business man in the Capitol City,” identified only as C. O. S., wrote to Lial Phillips of Leechburg, Armstrong County, on a postcard bearing an image of Harrisburg’s State Street, looking west from the State Capitol toward the Susquehanna River.

Although the sender’s remarks are brief and desultory, the postcard’s image is not. It dramatically portrays the capital city’s religious might, evidenced by the magnificent houses of worship lining the north side of two blocks of the picturesque thoroughfare. Grace United Methodist Church, with its spire soaring 226 feet into the air, was designed by Francis E. Davis of Baltimore, Maryland. Beginning in 1871, construction consumed eighteen years and was not fully completed until 1889. After fire leveled the State Capitol on February 2, 1897, the church building housed the state legislature until the present-day building was completed in 1906. Below Grace Methodist Church stands St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, a landmark easily identified by its twin steeples and large dome. Designed by Philadelphian George I. Lovatt Sr. (1872–1958), the cathedral, inspired by Italian Renaissance architecture, was dedicated on May 14, 1907.

To the west of these monumental edifices (and not depicted on this postcard) are St. Michael Lutheran Church, serving German-speaking parishioners and completed in 1906, the same year as Joseph M. Huston’s new State Capitol, and St. Lawrence Church, now the Chapel of St. Patrick Cathedral. St. Lawrence Church, designed by Harrisburg native Paul Monaghan (1885–1968) in a French-inspired Gothic Revival style, was consecrated on April 20, 1918.

The architecture of such imposing ecclesiastical edifices speaks volumes about the role of the church in both religious and community life, and the proximity of these four churches to the State Capitol is testimony to their importance in the spiritual and cultural life of Harrisburg residents.