Place:Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, United States

NameWilkes-Barre
Alt namesFort Durkeesource: USGS, GNIS Digital Gazetteer (1994) GNIS42032368
Fort Wilkes-Barresource: Encyclopædia Britannica (1988) XII, 662
TypeCity
Coordinates41.244°N 75.878°W
Located inLuzerne, Pennsylvania, United States     (1769 - )
Also located inWilkes-Barre (township), Luzerne, Pennsylvania, United States    
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog


the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Wilkes-Barre ( or ) is a city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Luzerne County. It is one of the principal cities in the Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area. Located at the center of the Wyoming Valley, it is second in size to the nearby city of Scranton. The Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 563,631 as of the 2010 Census, making it the fourth-largest metro/statistical area in the state of Pennsylvania. Wilkes-Barre and the surrounding Wyoming Valley are framed by the Pocono Mountains to the east, the Endless Mountains to the west, and the Lehigh Valley to the south. The Susquehanna River flows through the center of the valley and defines the northwestern border of the city.

Wilkes-Barre was founded in 1769 and formally incorporated in 1806. The city grew rapidly in the 19th century after the discovery of nearby coal reserves and the arrival of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who provided a labor force for the local mines. The coal mining fueled industrialization in the city, which reached the height of its prosperity in the first half of the 20th century. Its population peaked at more than 86,000. Following World War II, the city's economy declined due to the collapse of industry. The Knox Mine disaster accelerated this trend after large portions of the area's coal mines were flooded and could not be reopened. Today the city has a population of 40,569, making it the largest city in Luzerne County and the 13th-largest city in Pennsylvania.

Contents

History

the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

18th century

By the 18th century, the Wyoming Valley was inhabited by the Shawanese and Delaware Indian (Lenape) tribes. In 1753, the Susquehanna Company was founded in Connecticut for settling the Wyoming Valley (in modern-day Pennsylvania). Connecticut succeeded in purchasing the land from the Native Americans; however, Pennsylvania already claimed the very same territory through a purchase they made in 1736. In 1762, roughly two hundred Connecticut settlers (Yankees) established a settlement near Mill Creek. They planted wheat and constructed log cabins. The Yankees returned to New England for the winter.

The Connecticut settlers returned in the spring of 1763 with their families and additional supplies. A party of Iroquois also visited the area with the dual purpose of turning the Delaware (Lenape) against the colonists and killing Teedyuscung, a local Delaware chief. On April 19, 1763, the residence of the chief, along with several others, was set ablaze. Chief Teedyuscung perished in the inferno. The Iroquois let the Delaware believe that this atrocity was committed by the settlers. As a result, the Delaware attacked the colonists on October 15, 1763. Thirty settlers were killed, and several others were taken prisoner. Those who managed to escape fled back to New England. The Delaware then burned what was left of the Yankee settlement.[1]

In 1769, the Yankees returned to the Wyoming Valley. Five townships were established by Connecticut. Each one was five square miles and divided amongst forty settlers. Wilkes-Barre Township was one of the original townships; it was named in honor of John Wilkes and Isaac Barré — two British members of Parliament who supported colonial America. Pennsylvanians (Pennamites) also arrived in the valley that same year.[1]

The Connecticut settlers established Fort Durkee, which was named in honor of their leader (Colonel Durkee). This was immediately followed by a series of skirmishes between the Pennsylvanians and Connecticut settlers. The land changed hands several times between the two groups. The Congress of the Confederation was asked to resolve the matter. With the Decree of Trenton, on December 30, 1782, the confederation government officially decided that the region belonged to Pennsylvania; the Wyoming Valley became part of Northumberland County.[1]

Pennsylvania ruled that the Connecticut settlers (Yankees) were not citizens of the Commonwealth. Therefore, they could not vote and were ordered to give up their property claims. In May 1784, armed men from Pennsylvania force-marched the Connecticut settlers away from the valley. By November, the Yankees returned with a greater force. They captured and destroyed Fort Dickinson in Wilkes-Barre. With that victory, a new state (which was separate from both Connecticut and Pennsylvania) was proposed. The new state was to be named Westmoreland. To ensure that they didn't lose the land, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania worked out a compromise with the Connecticut (Yankee) settlers. The Yankee settlers would become citizens of Pennsylvania and their property claims would be restored (prior to the Decree of Trenton). As part of the compromise, Pennsylvania would establish a new county in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The Yankees agreed to the terms.[1]

On September 25, 1786, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a resolution which created Luzerne County. It was formed from a section of Northumberland County and named after Chevalier de la Luzerne, a French soldier and diplomat during the 18th century. Wilkes-Barre became the seat of government for the new territory. This resolution ended the idea of creating a new state.[1]

In 1797, several decades after the community's founding, Louis Philippe, later the King of France from 1830 to 1840, stayed in Wilkes-Barre while traveling to the French Asylum settlement.

19th century

Wilkes-Barre's population exploded due to the discovery of anthracite coal in the 19th century. In 1808, Judge Jesse Fell of Wilkes-Barre discovered a solution to ignite anthracite with the usage of an iron grate; it allowed for the coal to light and burn easier. This invention increased the popularity of anthracite as a fuel source. This led to the expansion of the coal industry in Northeastern Pennsylvania; Wilkes-Barre was nicknamed "The Diamond City" due to its high productivity of mining coal.

Throughout the 1800s, canals and railroads were constructed to aid in the mining and transportation of coal. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants flocked to the city; they were seeking jobs in the numerous mines and collieries that sprang up throughout the region. In 1806, Wilkes-Barre Borough was formed from a segment of Wilkes-Barre Township; it was later incorporated as a city in 1871. This was the direct result of the population boom. At its peak, Wilkes-Barre had a population of over 86,000 in the 1930s and 40s.

New industries were established and the Vulcan Iron Works was a well-known manufacturer of railway locomotives from 1849 to 1954. During Wilkes-Barre's reign as an industrial and economic force in America, several major companies and franchises became based in the city, such as Woolworth's, Sterling Hotels, Miner's Bank, Bell Telephone, Luzerne National Bank, and Stegmaier.

20th century

Wilkes-Barre is located within Pennsylvania’s Coal Region. The anthracite coal mining industry, and its extensive use of child labor in the early 20th century, was one of the industries targeted by the National Child Labor Committee and its hired photographer, Lewis Hine. Many of Hine's subjects were photographed in the mines and coal fields near Wilkes-Barre. The impact of the Hine photographs led to the enactment of child labor laws across the country.

The coal industry continued despite several disasters, including an explosion at Wilkes-Barre's Baltimore Colliery in 1919, which killed 92 miners. The industry declined when the United States switched to other energy sources, and most coal operations had left Wilkes-Barre by the end of World War II. The 1959 Knox Mine Disaster, resulting in the flooding of numerous mines, marked the end of large-scale coal mining in the area. Industrial restructuring also caused the city to lose jobs and begin a decades-long decline.

In 1926, Planters Peanuts Company was founded in Wilkes-Barre by two Italian immigrants. The company maintained its headquarters in the city until 1961. In 1929, baseball player Babe Ruth hit one of the longest home runs in history at Artillery Park in Wilkes-Barre.

In November 1972, 365 subscribers of Service Electric Cable were the first to receive HBO's premium cable television service, making Wilkes-Barre the birthplace of modern cable TV programming.

Flooding

Manufacturing and retail remained Wilkes-Barre's strongest industries, but the city's economy took a major blow from Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972. The storm pushed the Susquehanna River to a height of nearly , four feet above the city's levees, flooding downtown with nine feet of water. A total of 128 deaths were attributed to the storm. Most drowning deaths were caused by people trapped in their cars. Almost 400,000 homes and businesses were destroyed and 220,000 Pennsylvanians were left homeless (as were hundreds of thousands in other states). Damage was estimated to be $2.1 billion in Pennsylvania alone. President Richard Nixon sent aid to the area, after flying over in his helicopter on his way to his Camp David retreat (on June 24, 1972).

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Wilkes-Barre attempted to prevent the damage from storms as intense as Agnes by building a levee system that rises ; completed in January 2003, the network of levees cost roughly $250 million. It has successfully resisted other threatening floods in 1996, 2004, and 2006. The Army Corps of Engineers has praised the quality of the levees. In 2006, the city made the front page of national newspapers when 200,000 residents were told to evacuate in the wake of flooding that was forecast to reach levels near that of 1972, though the flooding fell short of predictions.

In late August 2011, Hurricane Irene off the New Jersey coast caused the Susquehanna River to rise to flood level, but there was no cause for alarm. Then, from September 6 to 8, heavy rains from the inland remnants of Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Katia offshore funneled heavy rain over the Wyoming Valley and into the Susquehanna River watershed. The Susquehanna swelled to record levels across the state. In Wilkes-Barre, it crested on September 9 at an all-time record of , nearly higher than water levels reached during Hurricane Agnes in 1972. The levees protected Wilkes-Barre, but nearby boroughs were not as lucky. West Pittston, Plymouth, and parts of Plains Township were affected by extreme flooding.

21st century

Revitalization and construction

On June 9, 2005, Mayor Thomas M. Leighton unveiled his "I believe..." campaign for Wilkes-Barre, which was intended to boost the city's spirits. Construction began on a planned downtown theatre complex, which had a grand opening on June 30, 2006. Renovation of the landmark Hotel Sterling was being pursued by CityVest, a nonprofit developer. The expansion of Wilkes University and King's College took place. Also, the canopy and matching street lights in Public Square and across downtown were removed; they were replaced by new green lampposts.

The City of Wilkes-Barre celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2006. Several events, including a Beach Boys concert, were planned but canceled due to extremely heavy rains. Most of the city's population was ordered to evacuate on June 28, 2006. The celebration was postponed to Labor Day weekend, September 3, 2006, and was attended by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and the Beach Boys.

The Riverfront revitalization project (River Common), broke ground in 2007 and was completed in early 2010. It has made the riverfront accessible to the public. The area also has a new amphitheater for live performances and improved access through ramps and sidewalks. Fountains and color-changing lights have been added underneath two bridges which carry pedestrian traffic across the normally-open levee. The project stretches approximately four blocks from the Luzerne County Courthouse to the intersection of South River Street and West South Street. The River Common has since hosted concerts and charity events.

Since completion of the River Common, additional improvements to city infrastructure have been progressing. New crosswalks have been installed downtown, including signage emphasizing that pedestrians have the right-of-way. The completion of the James F. Conahan Intermodal Transportation Facility has added parking and relocated Luzerne County buses from their former Public Square staging sites. This has reduced traffic congestion around the square. Private carrier Martz offers coach bus service from the terminal as well.

The widening and realignment of Coal Street, a major road connecting Wilkes-Barre City with Wilkes-Barre Township, was completed in 2012. The new Coal Street provides four lanes over the original two lanes, making travel between the highly commercial Wilkes-Barre Township and the city much easier. In 2013, Hotel Sterling was demolished due to flood damage in the hotel’s basement (which compromised the building’s integrity). As of today, several buildings are in the process of being constructed on the site of the former hotel.

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