Saturday, September 1, 2012

Exploring Wilkes-Barre

So...Friday morning I woke up and made a plan for the day.  I've never been to W-B, only passed through on the interstate.  Time to check out the town.  But first, I went downstairs to take advantage of the free breakfast offered in the hotel's restaurant.  There was only one other person there, an older woman, so I asked if I might join her.  She eagerly welcomed me to her table. 

We had a delightful breakfast together!  As it turned out, she was a very spry and sharp 82 years old, traveling alone from Philadelphia to attend the annual Welsh Society meeting in nearby Scranton.  She told me all about it, about the singing concerts they put on every year, about the people that travel from all over to attend, about the different cities that have hosted their get-together.  She's been to Wales many times, and told me about her visits there, and about the early Welsh immigrants to America, where they arrived, how they traveled inland and settled in PA, in NY, in OH.  I couldn't tear myself away from her wonderful narratives!  Finally she realized we'd been there for nearly two hours and that the waitstaff were trying to ready the dining room for lunch.  She had to go, and so did I.  But before we parted, I gave her my calling card.  Not sure if she'll do anything with it, but one never knows!

After breakfast I hit the sidewalks of Wilkes-Barre, camera in hand, prepared to explore.  From the size of the downtown area, it was clear that this was once a vibrant city, sitting on the Susquehanna River, borne of the discovery of a certain kind of coal in the region.  The river was its lifeblood, providing transportation of coal out of the area to points far beyond. 

King's College
Three or four streets running parallel to the river for several blocks bear testament to the heyday of this city.  Big, beautiful homes line these streets.  Many of them have been converted to professional office buildings or to dorms and sorority/fraternity houses for the two local colleges, Wilkes College and Kings College.  Mature trees line these streets, giving them that genteel, mature feel.

I walked along the river until I came to the Luzerne County Courthouse, an impressive structure sittiing right on the riverfront.  In spite of the scaffolding that surrounds the dome, it was a beautiful building in a pretty setting.

The homes sitting on River Street, facing the river are gorgeous mansions!  It was easy to imagine what this must have looked like over 100 years ago.  Today, these homes and city streets are protected from the river by a high levee or dike.  The city is prone to flooding.  The dike protected the city proper, but I was told by one of the race volunteers that neighborhoods just to the north of the city experienced flooding during Hurricane Agnes in 1972 and by Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.

In the very center of the city, at the city square, life comes together for this little city.  Folks were actually "cruising" Main Street, circling the square, making the rounds.  Cars, motorcycles...all doing the "circuit."  It was such a throwback moment for me, standing there observing this.  It was like stepping back into the 1960's.

Many of the storefronts are occupied still by the usual downtown businesses.  An old-fashioned barber shop, Boscov's department store, a Rite-Aid drugstore, and many small shops and businesses.  Only a very small number of storefronts were empty.   There is a handful of decent cafes and restaurants surrounding this square.  There's a very busy Dunkin' Donuts, and there's a Subway Sandwich shop.  

I stepped back out late in the afternoon and discovered a Friday night car show getting set up around the square.  Cars of all ages and vintages were backed diagonally against the curb lining the square, their paint gleaming in the late sun, their engine hoods up for inspection. 

I returned to the hotel restaurant for dinner and the maitre-d' and the waitress both welcomed me back.   A simple dish of haddock with a pomegranate relish was my dinner...trying to keep it light the night before the race. 

Tomorrow morning....the Wendy's Kids Half Marathon!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful pictures. I am always a fan of the old architecture. Can you imagine living in one of those homes back in the heyday?

    I am sure you are done your half marathon by now, so I will say congrats on finishing another. One more state closer to your goal. Good job.