By Brandilyn Kultys
Wilkes-Barre was founded in 1769, and named for John Wilkes and Isaac Barré, British Parliament members who supported America’s independence. It grew rapidly in the 19th century, after the discovery of nearby coal reserves as well as the arrival of hundreds of thousands of immigrants. Because of the large amounts of coal used in the city it was nicknamed “The Diamond City.” The city reached the height of its prosperity in the first half of the twentieth century when its population was at almost 90,000. The Wilkes-Barre area was once a place where the rich flocked to live. There were hotels, businesses, and other locations that people were determined to get to. At hand there were and still are numerous buildings around the city where one can look and see the past. Towards Wilkes University’s side of Wilkes-Barre there are a bunch of mansions that have been converted to student housing or businesses but at one point held single families. It makes one question what life was like in this place in the past.
Now, however, Wilkes-Barre is in a state of decline. When you look around you see so many buildings that have been abandoned. Just recently the Hotel Sterling was torn down and it was a historic landmark. Instead of using funds to restore it to its former glory, the city chose to tear it down and it is still unclear what the space will be used for. When walking down the streets one is confronted with the sight of many abandoned buildings. There are vines growing on the sides of them and windows that are broken or boarded up. Some of them have “keep out” or “no trespassing” signs stuck on their doors, which leads one to wonder what is hidden inside.
Despite all of this, and the rough exterior these buildings are laden with hidden beauty. Some of the old buildings that were once abandoned have been repurposed as banks, bars, stores, etc. They are now bringing new income into the city. Even the old and abandoned buildings in the city are beautiful. Regardless of the vines and plants growing out of churches and homes, they still retain an air of magnificence. The decrepit state of them gives off an ominous feeling, but also makes them seem mysterious and draws the looker to them. They seem abandoned and forgotten but it only makes one want to explore and see what their past held. What went on inside of them in the past? What remains from the past lay inside of them now?