Oct 172015

October 2015

Let us start with, how do you pronounce Wilkes-Barre? The town was named in honor of British Parliament members, John Wilkes and Isaac Barre and throughout its history, the city’s name has gone through various spellings, including Wilkesbarre, Wilkesborough, Wilkesburg, Wilkesbarra, Wilkes Barry and Wilkes Berry.  The two widely accepted ways to pronounce this hyphenated name are “Wilkes-BERRY” and “Wilkes-BEAR”.

Th Chevalier de Luzerne

Le Chevalier de Luzerne was born in Paris and joined the French Army.  He entered diplomatic service and was sent to the US in 1770.  He was always sympathetic to the young American Republic.


This small town, founded in 1769 and formally incorporated in 1806, is located in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania and is the seat of Luzerne County.  Due to the discovery of anthracite coal in the 19th century, which gave the city the nickname of “The Diamond City”, hundreds of thousands of immigrants flocked to the area for the  jobs in the numerous mines and collieries that sprung up.

The cast-iron ornament of this house, reminiscent of New Orleans, was made possible by the mass production of the Industrial Revolution; forged in an anthracite- fueled foundry, it is an excellent example of the way in which Wilkes-Barre’s coal was helping to transform America. Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan designed this cubical Italian villa for banker Walter Sterling.

The cast-iron ornament on this house is reminiscent of much of the south of the U.S. The house was designed by Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan for banker William Sterling.  Built 1860

During this economic boom a number of franchises were either founded or headquartered in the city, such as Woolworth’s, Planter’s Peanuts, Miner’s Bank, and Stegmaier Beer.  During this period the population was around 86,000, today it is half of that.

McClintock’s house has borne witness to both phases of River Street’s existence. Originally, the house was designed in the Greek Revival style. In 1863, McClintock, made wealthy by the growth of the mining industry, engaged New York architects Calvert Vaux and F. C. Withers to remodel his house. The spare structure was soon transformed into the first High Victorian Gothic house in Wilkes-Barre, boasting a polychrome brick arcade which made the house as fashionable as any of its neighbors.

This high Victorian Gothic home was designed by architect Bruce Price for Murray Reynolds and his family. This was also once the home of Colonel Robert B. Ricketts, a hero from the Battle of Gettysburg and donator of Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania.  Built 1873

The coal industry survived several disasters, including an explosion at the Baltimore Colliery in 1919 that killed 92 miners, but as other forms of energy were discovered and harnessed, its use died out. Most coal operations left Wilkes-Barre by the end of World War II, and then the 1959 Knox Mine Disaster, which killed twelve men and flooded the entire underground mine system marked the end.

The city went into a decades-long decline, hastened by Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

McClintock Law Office

This small Italianate building was originally built in 1840 as a law office for Alexander McClintock

During Hurricane Agnes the Susquehanna River rose to a height of 41 feet, that is  four feet above the city’s levees, flooding the downtown with nine feet of water. No lives were lost but 25,000 homes and businesses were either damaged or destroyed.

Ornamentation on the Water Building

These water spewing ornaments grace the Neoclassical Revival office of the Spring Brook Water Supply Company, it was designed by architects Welsh, Sturdevant and Poggi.  Built 1910

Today the industry still includes beer, the recipes for Steigmair’s was sold to the Lion Brewing company and they still make beer in Wilkes-Barre. The town is the home to both Wilkes University and King’s College, both started to educate the children of coal miners after WWII, when people realized mining was dying out. Other institutions of higher learning include Misericordia University, Luzerne County Community College, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, and The Commonwealth Medical College.

Market Street Bridge is a historic concrete arch bridge over the Susquehanna River between Kingston and Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. It was designed by the noted architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings and built between 1926 and 1929.

The Market Street Bridge  bridge over the Susquehanna River was designed by the noted architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings, the NY Public Library being one of their most famous buildings, and was built between 1926 and 1929.

The King atop the Kings College Administration Building

The King atop the Kings College (College of Christ the King)  Administration Building which was once the office of the Lehigh Coal Company. The building was designed by Daniel H. Burnham.

Scottish Rite Temple

The Masonic Temple was designed by the Wilkes-Barre architectural firm of Welsh, Sturdevant and Poggi in 1916


This is now Weiss Hall. In 1886, a new owner, E. L. Brown had architect Albert Kipp remodel the house, what was once a Greek Revival building, into this turreted, richly textured Queen Anne style abode.

Wilkes Barre Architecture

This is Wilkes-Barre’s Shriners temple, Irem Temple, built in 1907.  Designed by architect F. Willard Puckey it was patterned after the Mosque of Omar on the outside and the Court of Lions in the Alhambra on the inside.  It is without a doubt, the most talked about building in Wilkes-Barre.  Originally it was set on a large lot, and probably had quite a wow factor when built, today, crammed amongst other buildings the beauty is, sadly, somewhat lost.

Shriners Temple
Originally a venue for large public affairs, the building has suffered from benign neglect.  It is estimated that it will take approximately $3million to bring it up to a point where it is safe for occupancy, but most likely other $2million before it is of use.
Shriners Temple
That amount is staggering when one considers that a home in the Wilkes-Barre area can be had for far less than $200,000 and that the church down the road, which is now a collection of artists studios is on the market for $250,000.
The Health Center of Wilkes-Barre
The Kirby Memorial Health Center was designed by Thomas Atherton, and is an example of simplified Classical style. The tile work on the interior is just stunning. The building was built in 1930.
The stairways and walls are tiled, and the brass railings ornamented

The stairways and walls are tiled, and the brass railings ornamented.


On the top floor each end wall has a tile mural and the walls are covered in patterned green tiles.


The building has been graced with an endowment by the Kirby Family of $5million.


Fred Morgan Kirby became an apprentice at the Moore and Smith Dry Goods Store  in Watertown, New York, at the age of 15. One of his co-workers was Frank Woolworth. Each gentleman went on their separate ways, but Kirby maintained a regular dialogue with Woolworth. By 1884 Woolworth persuaded Kirby to take a half interest in a store in Wilkes-Barre. Each man put up $600. The “Kirby and Woolworth 5 & 10 Cent Store” opened September 10, 1884. Early sales were poor and Woolworth wanted to bail but Kirby needed to see a return on his investment and insisted on bravng it out. His patience paid off and by 1887 he had made enough profit to buy out his partner.  After years of both gentlemen making plenty of money going their own ways their stores merged in January, 1912. Kirby received $9million for his stores and a chunk of Woolworth stock, but Woolworth got his name put on all of the stores from there on out.

DSC_8596 *Kirby Health Center Lobby

Wilkes-Barre is still trying to find its way in this new economy, but tourism should be a huge boon if people discover how fabulous this small town is, and what interesting history and architecture it has.  I highly suggest a visit to this town if you find yourself in Pennsylvania.

Oct 172015

October 2015

St. StephensSaint Stephen’s church is a masterpiece in understated elegance and master craftsmanship.  It sits on South Franklin Street and is a downtown landmark.

The church is built of locally-quarried yellow stone, and was the second church that Philadelphia architect Charles M. Burns designed for the site: the first, built in 1885, burned down on Christmas Day 1896 leaving only the tower standing.


These hammer beam trusses that support the roof, are capped with wooden angels.

St Stephens

*St Stephens

The polychrome brickwork is just so subtle, notice the faux arches created simply with brick.

St Stephens

The altar area is topped with a spectacular dome, while it appears to be a mosaic, it is not actually known what the material is, whether it is an applique or paint.

St Stephens

The pipe organ is just stunning and the church is used for many a music venue.

While there are no Tiffany windows in St. Stephens this plaque was done by the Tiffany Company

While there are no Tiffany windows in St. Stephens this plaque was done by the Tiffany Company

St. Stephens Church Wilkes-Barre

*St. Stephens

Oct 172015

October 2015

Wilkes-Barre PA

This is the Luzerne County Courthouse, it is an architectural wonder, not to be missed if you are in Wilkes-Barre.

Wilkes-Barre was once part of Connecticut. At the beginning of its history, the territory belonged to Northampton County, Connecticut.  In 1786, after the establishment of Pennsylvania’s claim to the disputed territory, Luzerne County was formed with Wilkes-Barre as its seat.

Luzerne County CourthouseThe Classical Revival building with its cruciform shape  is 200′ wide x 200′ long . The rotunda is 53 x 53 feet, and it terminates vertically with the dome sitting 100′ above the ground floor.

The dome is presently undergoing renovation and is netted in this photo.

The dome is presently undergoing renovation and is netted in this photo.

The foundations is concrete, the exterior walls are Ohio sandstone and then terra cotta and marble rule throughout the interior.

Luzerne County Courthouse The four piers supporting the dome and the walls of the first story are of Botticino stone, a buff-colored marble with a similar color to Caen stone.. The cornices, columns, balustrades and corridor wainscoting are white Italian marble.

Luzerne County Courthouse*Luzerne County Courthouse*Luzerne County Courthouse*Luzerne County CourthouseYou will also find bronze throughout, including inset in the balustrades, the elevators and office screens.

Luzerne County Courthouse MosaicsThroughout the building, and especially in the rotunda corridors and entrance corridors are mosaics.  They include painted portraits of prominent people throughout the history of Wilkes-Barre and are in chronological order, making the study of the area a simple “walk about”.

Prosperity under the Law by William H. Low


Prosperity under the Law by William H. Low

Over each  Judge’s Bench in the third floor courtrooms are the murals: “Justice,” “Prosperity Under the Law,” “The Judicial Virtues,” and “The Awakening of a Commonwealth,” painted  by Edwin H. Blashfield, William H. Low, Kenyon Cox and William T. Smedley, respectively.


The Judicial Virtues by Kenyon Cox


by W. F. Smelly

The Awakening of the Commonwealth by W. F. Smedly

The lighting outside of the four courtrooms on the third floor

The lighting outside of the four courtrooms on the third floor

Luzerne County Courthouse

Looking up to the second and third floors from the rotunda floor

Mahogany benches in the courtrooms of the third floor

Mahogany benches in the courtrooms of the third floor

Luzerne County Courthouse

The door plates all have the seal of Luzerne County, which is also the seal of Pennsylvania

The door plates all have the seal of Luzerne County, which is also the seal of Pennsylvania

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.  The cost of the building at the time was $2million.  It was the subject of so many lawsuits that it did not come in on time or on budget, but I don’t think anyone today would complain.

The top of the tympanum on the exterior at the front entrance

The top of the tympanum on the exterior at the front entrance

Luzerne County Courthouse

Oct 172015

October 2015

Memorial PresbyterianThis is the Memorial Presbyterian Church, at 29 West North Street, built in 1872. It has been abandoned and is searching for a new loving owner.

Memorial PresbyterianThe church was built by Calvin Whitehead, he lost his three children to scarlet fever, and they are memorialized in these stained glass windows “being dead, might yet speak”

Memorial Presbyterian

This Gothic Revival Gem with its rather rare stone spire was designed by Edward Kendall of New York.

The tile Floor

The tile Floor

Door Escutcheons in the Church

Door hinges in the Church


This is the Kirby Health Clinic Annex

This is the Kirby Health Clinic Annex – 63 North Franklin Street, built in 1890 and credited with kicking off architect Bruce Price’s career.

Notice the rather interesting simple details.

Kirby Health Care Annex

The Kirby Health Annex with its glass and stone embedded stucco and wonderful dolphin downspout

Kirby Health Clinic Annex *

This is the Osterhout Free Library, originally built as the First Presbyterian Church in 1849.  In 1889 Isaac S. Osterhout left his estate of $325,000, to “establish and maintain in the city of Wilkes-Barre a free library” the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, librarian Melvil Dewey recommended the church as a “temporary” building. It was purchased for $27,000.

Osterhous Free Library

Exterior of the Osterhout Free Library at 71 S. Franklin Street

The interior of the library today

The interior of the library today

The interior of the Free Library

The interior of the Free Library


Citizens Bank at 8 Market Street now sits empty.  It was designed by Daniel Burnham, best known as the architect for the Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair (Columbian Exposition). Built 1911

Miners Bank *

Miners Bank

This is the Valley’s oldest congregation the First Presbyterian church, founded in 1779.  The building is Laurel Run Redstone and was built in 1889.  The architects was James Cleveland Cady who also designed the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

First Presbyterian Church

First Presbyterian at 97 South Franklin Street

The church is filled with Tiffany Windows

The church is filled with Tiffany Windows

The house next door served as part of the church at one time, the architect is unknown, however, look at the huge pieces of sandstone that serve as stair rails.
Frist Presbyterian Rectors House


Max Roth Center – 215 South Franklin Street- Built 1895

Designed by J. H. W. Hawkins for a local dentist the stubby Syrian arches and the rusticated walls stand out, as well as the beautiful wood work inside of the Max Roth Center.

Max Roth Center *

Max Roth Center

Bedford Hall

Bedford Hall 96 West South Street

Bedford Hall, built 1876, is architect Bruce Price’s finest example of the High Victorian Gothic Style, it was constructed for attorney and industrialist George Bedford.

Bedford Hall


Ohak Zedek

This building for the Congregation Ohav Zedek, at 242 South Franklin Street, was built in 1930.  Its Middle Eastern over tones were designed by local architect Austin Reilly. Notice the splendid terra cotta entry.

Ohav Zedek


An example of the rowhouses built throughout the city’s fashionable neighborhoods during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

Row House of Wilkes-Barre

Row House of Wilkes-Barre


Stegmeir Beer

Stegmaier Brewing Company (1890-1913)  Wilkes-Barre Boulevard and East Market Street

Charles Stegmaier came to Wilkes-Barre from Germany in 1851 and hired A.C. Wagner, a brewery design specialist, to build the Stegmaier Brewery. This cupola-topped red brick brewhouse is a Victorian’s delight.

Steigmeir BeerIn 1974 when the brewery closed and sold their recipes to Lion Brewery, Stegmaier was the third largest brewery in Pennsylvania, producing 800,000 barrels of beer annually.

Lion Brewing


This is only a small smattering of the many wonderful historic buildings in Wilkes-Barre.  If you are able to find time to visit, you can download a walking tour put together by the Historical Society.


Oct 172015

October 2015


Hollenback CemeteryThe Hollenback Cemetery Association was formed in 1855 with 15 acres gifted by Colonel George M. Hollenback.
Wilkes-BarreAlthough this is the cemetery for the “upper crust” it resides in a neighborhood that is primarily surrounded with old miners homes.

Hollenback Cemetery Wilkes Barre

In 1887 John Welles Hollenback gave an additional five acres as a gift to the association.

Hollenback CemeteryThere are still plots available in this cemetery.

The reason for my visit is to witness, what is possibly the only historic place where an architect has designed a plot once every decade, and more importantly, that architect is Bruce Price renown architect of Wilkes-Barre.

If you have been reading along you have seen quite a few of his buildings.

Bruce Price was born in Maryland, and for a while, studied at Princeton. It is said that his stark style was a large influence on both Frank Lloyd Wright and Robert Venturi. His style included Beaux-Arts, Romanesque and what ever was needed for New York skyscrapers of his time.

In 1871, Price married Josephine Lee, the daughter of a Wilkes-Barre coal baron. They had two children, a son William, who died in infancy and a daughter who grew up to be Emily Post of etiquette fame.

George W. Woodward

The first of the graves designed by Price was for George Washington Woodward (1809 -1875), a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. The monument is meant to represent a Greek funeral pyre.  It is made “Christian” by a very large cross on the top, that at this point, only one flying over or possibly god, could see.  However, if you are so inclined it is possible to view on GoogleEarth.

The stars are there to represent an immortal, representing, of course, immortality.  The “battered” lines are an abstract representation of the personality of the subject, George W. Woodward, and apparently comes from Egyptian lore.    Hanging from the jutting stone at the top were originally bronze wreaths, meant to represent fresh wreaths placed onto the funeral pyre.


*Wilkes-Barre Cemetery

This grave stone is for Price’s father-in-law Washington Lee. (1821-1883) This being the second decade the Price placed a monument in this cemetery.

Washington Lee Gravestone

*Wilkes-Barre Cemetery

The Pergola like structure is where Price and his wife Josephine Lee are buried, he designed this monument.  His son William’s grave is the small one at the front on the left.


With the exception of this stunning sculpture, the grave stones within the cemetery are all rather simple.  Neither the deceased, nor the sculptor, are known for this particular piece.

Notice the exquisite placement of the mourners hat.

Notice the exquisite placement of the mourners hat.