Hurricane Agnes struck from June 21-23, 1972 and dealt the state its most distructive natural disaster. Flooding was heavy throughout Pennsylvania. There was record flooding on the Susquehanna and other rivers in eastern Pennsylvania. Tens of thousands of residents were rendered homeless. Agnes was dubbed "Hurricane Agony" by Governor Shapp. In three days Agnes left behind 50 deaths and 2.3 billion dollars in damage throughout the Commonwealth.
The Capitol, designed by Stephen Hills, was built in 1822.
Several hours before the fire was discovered some people had smelled smoke but could not find the source.
The fire – discovered just before 1 p.m. - started in the lieutenant governor's apartment above the Senate chamber.
According to the front-page story in The Patriot on Feb. 3, 1897, the Senate was preparing to reconvene when the fire was discovered.
“Bad news travels quickly and it seemed as though in a twinkling everybody on the floor knew of the fire.” While the chief clerk ordered everyone to “get your buckets,” it was too little too late.
“The chief clerk’s orders were obeyed; but the most efficient bucket brigade in existence could not have extinguished the flames that were eating their way around the upper part of the building between the brick work and the walls. As proof of this the most earnest efforts of the Harrisburg fire department were found to be entirely unavailing so far as the saving of the main building was concerned. The men with the buckets returned to their chief with the news that the fire could not be reached.” The building was consumed by the fire in an hour. The damage estimate was $1.5 million. That fire prompted the newspaper’s editorial board to call for improvements for the fire department.
“The city should have engines capable of greater forcing powers and hose than can withstand greater pressure. We should have a few water towers besides the not always well used ladders. And above all the city should have a chemical engine. When the best apparatus is needed at all it is needed so badly that anything short of efficiency is bound to be disastrous. …
Next, a costly public building like the capitol should have a fire department composed of its own employees. It is preposterous and criminal that a blaze like that of yesterday should have such disastrous results, in the middle of the day, at a busy hour, with hundreds of persons about the building.”
PA State Capitol in Ruins After 1897 Fire
Harrisburg Baking Co. 1916, Harrisburg, PA - click to enlarge
Arthur T. McGonigle
He used a Pretzel on his campaign pins as he took a pretzel plant in Reading Pa from rags to riches.. he was known as "the man who took the pretzel out of the bar and put it into the kitchen". Arthur T. "Art" McGonigle (1905-1977) was a Pennsylvania businessman and the 1958 Republican Party nominee for state governor. McGonigle was born in Kane, Pennsylvania. He grew up in a Methodist home and gained a reputation as an affable individual. McGonigle attended Temple University and later took a job as a traveling salesman for General Foods. He took an entry level job at Bachman Bakeries in the 1930s and eventually worked his way up to become CEO of the company; he introduced new manufacturing techniques that allowed the corporation to become the world's largest pretzel manufacturer. McGonigle first became involved in Republican politics when he became party treasurer in 1956, as the organization was searching for someone with business experience to clean up a bad financial situation. He caught the attention of party leaders in 1958, and was asked to run for governor as a dark horse candidate. In the Republican Primary McGonigle faced off against a much better-known figure, former Minnesota Governor, University of Pennsylvania President and Eisenhower aide, Harold Stassen. McGonigle, the establishment candidate, defeated Stassen, effectively ending the latter's political career. McGonigle ran an aggressive campaign in the fall and invested a portion of his personal wealth; although he lost by only about 2% points, he was unable to defeat seasoned political veteran David Lawrence.. Succeeded by William Scranton