J. Horace McFarland

J. Horace McFarland was born in McAlisterville, Juniata County, on September 29, 1859. His father George, a returning Civil War hero, moved the family to Harrisburg in 1865 and started a printing business and reform newspaper, "The Temperance Vindicator," and later a nursery business.

Working with his father at a young age, McFarland gained experience in both of his father's businesses. At just nineteen he became the owner of the printing business, which he named Mount Pleasant Press. Using his knowledge gained from working at his father's nursery McFarland began printing seed catalogs for nurserymen. As his company grew, it became the premier horticultural publishing company in the country, printing "American Gardening," "Country Life in America," and Macmillan Company's "Encyclopedia of Horticulture."

At the turn of the century McFarland became involved in the City Beautiful movement spearheaded by his Harrisburg contemporary Mira Lloyd Dock. Together they spurred the process of municipal improvement for Harrisburg by convincing influential community leaders to donate money, and by garnering the support of the majority of citizens.

Living most of his life in Harrisburg, McFarland saw firsthand how sewage contaminated Harrisburg's unpaved streets and the Susquehanna River. He witnessed the blight of urban expansion and the effects it had on city residents who were deprived of parks, while homes and businesses butted against each other.

McFarland gained national prominence in 1902 when the struggle against the deplorable conditions in the city of Harrisburg drew attention in newspapers across the nation. In 1904 he became the first president of the American Civic Association — a position he would proudly serve in for the next twenty years.

With parks as a main interest, McFarland became instrumental in promoting and educating the improvement of cities and preserving America's natural beauty. He took part in conservation conferences and was involved in developing policy positions on national environmental issues. His important influence and his position as president of the American Civic Association led to the successful establishment of the National Park Service in 1916.

McFarland also served for many years as chairman of the State Art Commission for Pennsylvania, was a member and vice president of the National Municipal League (1912-1928), and was a member of the National Park Trust Board, appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935.

He passed away on October 2, 1948 at his Breeze Hill home and gardens, which still stands today adjacent to Harrisburg's Bellevue Park, a planned community that McFarland helped create. He was laid to rest with his wife at Harrisburg Cemetery.