Middletown, PA – With the recent news that Ann Street is finally set to be repaved, plans to further improve the corridor are being envisioned. Developing a proposal for the ‘Historic Harborton’ destination has been a recent pastime of some Middletown citizens, but without support from the borough it will be an uphill battle.

The proposal is to establish the district of Historic Harborton, also known as Portsmouth which is the southern section of town that is bordered by the Susquehanna River and the Swatara Creek.

Residents have expressed their desire to create a cultural district of dining and arts that would thrive on tourism as well as recreational attractions.

The new parking limits ordinance that will soon be enacted in Middletown is essential to create the aesthetic streetscape for the Historic Harborton district to become a reality, but the project has not yet gained the full support of the Mayor’s office, or borough council. With many current initiatives being undertaken in the borough, Middletown Mayor James Curry said he has not officially discussed the proposal.

Middletown Borough Council member Ian Reddinger who offered no comment on the Harborton proposal, recently stood out as the lone “No” vote last month, holding firm to his position that large RV’s and trailers should be permitted to park on residential borough streets. Council approved advertising the ordinance by 6-1 vote, with Councilor Reddinger voting no. It was believed that the ordinance may have been voted against to halt progress on the Harborton plan. 

“How would this impact our residents?” Reddinger asked before the vote. Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter read provisions included in the proposal, after which Reddinger cast his no vote.

Artist Rendering of the original Harborton

Although many esteemed borough residents have offered support of the Historic Harborton project, perhaps in a scaled down version, at this time Curry and Reddinger are standing firm and showing little interest in the proposed district.

One local resident of Pike Street, a self-described River Rat (people who live in the old 1st Ward along the Susquehanna River), is keen on the idea and said that he shared the sentiment of his many neighbors who were born and raised here on the water. “Middletown should rebuild the historic water works and recreate the industrial features of town as a resort destination for dining, arts, historic tours, fishing, recreation and leisure.”

While the feasibility of rebuilding the Wood Street Lock and original blast furnace remains to be determined, as far as the prospect of digging out a simulated mill race aqueduct, Mayor Curry scoffed at the idea when he wrote, “Middletown, your one major flaw is the rumor mill. It’s destructive while being indestructible, itself.”

(The Paxton Boys) Councilor Reddinger, Mayor Curry informally discuss the Historic Harborton proposal at the Tattered Flag Brewery on Friday August 2, 2019

Some borough residents feel that Curry and Reddinger favor their personal interests north of the railroad tracks over the needs of their constituents in the old 1st Ward.

Mayor Curry posted this update on Facebook to quash rumors of a sea wall and Harborton development in the old 1st Ward section of town that was originally named Portsmouth, where the confluence of the Pennsylvania and Union canals once met in a basin near what is now S. Union Street.

“Apparently, I’m building a big beautiful sea wall.

Middletown, your one major flaw is the rumor mill. It’s destructive while being indestructible, itself.

I need alcohol.

– Jim”


Middletown History

In 1809, George Fisher, son of the founder of Middletown, laid out a second town at the mouth of the Swatara Creek, naming it Harborton. By 1814, the name was changed from Harborton to Portsmouth. The Union Canal, the Pennsylvania Canal and the Harrisburg-Lancaster Railroads all intersected in Portsmouth. There was one small and one very large boat basin to accommodate canal traffic.

Historic map of Middletown featuring the old mill race and Harborton basin

The “Paxton Boys”




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