The job will require Murphy & Dittenhafer’s innovative design and the work of numerous specialists to clean and bring back delicate fixtures that date from the 1930s.

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In the lobby of the Forum in downtown Harrisburg, on the walls of the historical building, a series of intricate carvings illustrate the history of knowledge. Nestled between two large state libraries, those illustrations help welcome visitors to one of the most well-known structures downtown.

Today, that space – originally dedicated to betterment and learning is set to get a freshening, thanks to a team of knowledgeable specialists.

Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects is leading a group of skilled professionals in updating and carefully restoring the Forum lobby, part of M&D’s larger renovation of the iconic Harrisburg building. Work in that entrance area will be what visitors see first when the project is complete.

“We know that the Forum is a special place and that lobby area is particularly unique,” says Murphy & Dittenhafer Architect Todd Grove. “We’re very glad we can lend our expertise to this particular project.”

Restoring a treasure

Picture the decorative, painted ceilings; the stone floors; those ornate walls. Now, imagine the careful work that must be done to repair, restore and update that original interior.

The job will require Murphy & Dittenhafer’s innovative design and the work of numerous specialists to clean and bring back delicate fixtures that date from the 1930s. M&D will update the space’s lighting with new (and more appropriate) LED fixtures and wall sconces, as well as carefully adding modern HVAC and life-safety systems.

“With the complexity of this project, there’s something new every day,” says M&D Architect Peter Colello. “It’s a great balancing act between the updates and the original style, and that’s very interesting.”

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The project is currently at the end of the design phase, and bidding to prime contractors is set for early summer for what’s expected to be a two-year construction project. The hope at the end of that process is to leave behind a Forum Building updated for the future – but with all the historical character of its original period design.

For M&D architects, it’s about preserving a legacy for others to enjoy.

“We’re looking at it like a 100-year plan,” Colello says. “We want to walk away feeling good that this work will last that long.”

‘Worth investing in’

At Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects, there is a rich tradition of preserving history.

For decades, the staff at M&D has honed skills that allow them to take on important preservation projects with competence and confidence. The Forum Building is just such a noteworthy project, and the firm has approached it that way since being selected for the work in conjunction with the Capital Preservation Committee in Harrisburg.

From careful system updating around old books to open-concept office spaces on the upper floors to that grand lobby that will soon shine again with all the character that it has never lost, progress at the Forum is exciting for all involved.

It’s a win for anyone who appreciates the importance of saving our past, with one eye firmly on the future.

“It was very easy with a building like this to say it’s too old, too difficult,” Grove says. “But at Murphy & Dittenhafer, we disagree. We think this building is iconic, and we think it’s very much worth investing in.”


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