Midtown Man Personifies Civic Involvement

If there is a Who’s Who of Harrisburg, David Morrison is in it. The 62-year-old Philadelphia native arrived in 1979 and promptly immersed himself in the city’s life and culture.

He has yet to stop.

Last October, Morrison was honored for 30 years of service to the Historic Harrisburg Association (HHA).

He has also been the co-founder of more than a dozen other entities, among them the Camp Curtin Historical Society, Modern Transit Partnership, the Elegant Progressions Dinner and the Capitol Preservation Committee.

He has served and continues to serve in leadership capacities in various organizations, including the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, Susquehanna Art Museum, Theatre Harrisburg, Capital Area Transit Authority and the Art Association of Harrisburg.

Despite all this, which is only a sampling of his résumé, Morrison declares that he is “basically retired.” The facts suggest otherwise. He is a strategic planning consultant to nonprofit organizations.

“I facilitate retreats for nonprofits…arrange meetings where I can help them learn how to advocate for their objectives,” he explains.

“The Pennsylvania Art Education Association is one of my clients, and they hold an annual conference at Kutztown University. In the past, the theme was occupational. Now it’s about saving art programs in the schools.”

Morrison earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications from Lehigh University. He came to Harrisburg as the executive assistant to the secretary, Pennsylvania Department of General Services.

Thereafter, he accepted a position with John A. Neidel and Company, a real estate investment firm.

“Among other things, I helped to organize and fund historic preservation projects,” he says. “I had always had an interest in architecture and historic buildings, so the job fit me well.”

It was during his Neidel employment that Morrison began his leadership role at HHA. He has served as both its president and executive director, and is currently the board chairman.

Farther up Third Street, construction on the Susquehanna Art Museum’s new location is under way. It is another major addition to the Midtown renaissance.

Regarding HHA’s mission, Morrison says, “There are different ways in which we can be helpful. Sometimes we use our own resources to acquire and restore a structure. Private enterprises may look to us for guidance in restoring or funding a project. We can also gauge and muster public opinion on issues.”

Morrison discusses the recent renovation of the 6-story Commercial Bank Building on North Third Street, next door to the HHA offices. “This project became a reality when private and state resources combined with an innovative architectural plan,” he says.

“Major changes were made to make the structure useful. HHA is often just as interested in the economic development side of restoration as the historical preservation side.In this case, the building’s original 1915 façade was preserved while the rest of the structure was modernized.”

Farther up Third Street, construction on the Susquehanna Art Museum’s new location is under way. It is another major addition to the Midtown renaissance.

“We expect it to open October 2014,” says Morrison.

Bethlehem Steelmaker (1992) is a book about former Bethlehem Steel Corporation president Edmund Martin written by Morrison, who has authored and co-authored several others.

“Martin was the last of a kind,” he muses. “Graduated from college and was hired by the company. Worked his way up through the ranks to become president. He literally knew how to make steel.”

When not burning the candle at both ends, Morrison enjoys getting away to a family home in the Poconos. “I love hiking, boating….just being outdoors.”

What does he hope to accomplish before truly retiring? “I want to continue to be useful and have fun,” he says.