the other ‘burg

Though we may refer to Pittsburgh as THE ‘burgh–despite its ‘h’—Pittsburgh is only one of more than 50 burgs in Pennsylvania. For this abundance, we can thank our German Pennsylvanian ancestors who named many camps and forts burgs or “cities” in German. While I hail my home of Pittsburgh as the greatest burg of all, this summer I had the opportunity to visit our state’s most important burg for the first time: Harrisburg.

rotunda
The rotunda of the Capitol building in Harrisburg

Nearly 300 years old, this historic town resides as the capital of Pennsylvania as well as a sometimes home to many state senators and representatives. Our own statesmen, state Senator Matt Smith and state Representative Dan Miller, graciously guided my father and me through a day in the capital this June.

While it wasn’t as close to a House of Cards scene as I projected, Harrisburg’s Capitol building is quite glamorous and is a whirlwind of moving parts. Starting off our day shadowing  Rep. Miller, we were immediately off and running. From meetings large and small, I was surprised to see that state government does cater to its people through its extensive network of representatives.

Treated to lunch by  Miller and Smith, my dad and I were able to finally have casual conversations with the legislators. It was a nice balance to some of the highly formal events of the day like sitting in on the House of Representatives and the Senate. Observing the men and women at these functions showed me more than just the choreography of state government. It showed the spirit. A young female, I fell into the minority that day surrounded by older men in suits. That’s why I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the players come together at these events; ensuring women have a growing presence.

After lunch, we spent some time with  Smith—a man who spends little time off his feet. Gallivanting atop marble floors and under gold ceilings, Smith spends his day much like Miller—trying to get as much done as possible for the people within 24 hours.

As we left the Capitol building that day non-statesmen filled its lobby. Crowded on the steps was a group in red T-shirts protesting a public school issue. Even though they were unhappy, this group seemed to fit well into the puzzle of moving pieces under the gold and turquoise dome of the capitol. While turmoil is a constant, the equilibrium of our capital and all that it encloses seemed to just make sense. Well, at least a little more sense than adding an ‘h’ to the end of burg.

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