Archive for HISTORY

Architecture, Riverfront, and Walkability in Wilkes-Barre: America’s Best Community

The City of Wilkes-Barre is home to many awe-inspiring architectural masterpieces –all located within its River Street Historic District!

Over 200 buildings representing the architectural styles of Art Deco, Baroque, Beaux Arts, Chateauesque, Craftsman Style, Gothic Revival, Classical Revival, Greek Revival, Moorish Revival, Colonial Revival International, Italiante, High Victorian Gothic , Neoclassical Revival, Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, Renaissance, and Romanesque, can be found throughout our downtown streets.

Private and public entities have undertaken countless rehabilitation projects throughout the district to restore and modernize the buildings of the downtown. Mixed-used projects, including the Luzerne Bank Building development and the Northampton and Main/Movies 14 project, have connected entertainment, office, and residential spaces. Additionally, many historic buildings, including the Fredrick Stegmaier Mansion, have been restored to their original splendor. Our park-like River Common space has also opened the riverfront back up to the community, and is host to many community events.

Rehabilitation and reuse strategies continue to be a focus area for our America’s Best Communities Revitalization Plan-so stay tuned!


Watch above to learn more about Wilkes-Barre’s architectural history, riverfront development, and restoration projects!

MEMBER IN-FOCUS: F.M. Kirby Center

Written by Chamber Intern Meghan Flanagan READ HER BIO HERE

CSC_0591F.M. Kirby Center Executive Director Will Beekman and Director of Operations Drew Taylor hosted a backstage tour and talk for the Chamber of Commerce Interns, contributing to the interns’ weekly experiential activity.

During the tour, Drew Taylor explained the history of the F.M. Kirby Center building, and guided the interns through the layout of the theater, explaining how it has evolved since its transition from a movie theater to a performing arts center.


Perhaps the most complicated and intriguing aspect of the F.M. Kirby Center is its various names. Drew Taylor explained that throughout the years, from its opening in 1938 present day, the theater has had three different titles. The F.M. Kirby Center was first known as the Comerford Theater.

It became the Paramount Theater in the late 40’s, when the government broke up Comerford’s chain of theaters. To complicate this further, another theater opened across the street from the Paramount, and took the name Comerford. The Paramount name changed again in the 70’s in honor of the Kirby Family, who donated a large amount of money in order to keep the theater open.

The tour included the main theater area, where Drew Taylor spoke about the changes that took place when the theater became the F.M. Kirby Center. The seats were replaced entirely by new, larger chairs, and a two stories were added to the top of the stage house because high ceilings were needed for the movement of scenery and lighting.


Despite these changes, many aspects of the theater are original, and maintain the building’s historical roots. All of the decorative plaster, brass doors, and some of the lighting, particularly the use of Lumaline bulbs, are original.


The interns were able to see the downstairs dressing rooms, where performers can stay and shower, and the laundry room, where travelling acts can care for their costumes. The tour ended in what is now the gallery area, used for catering and pre and post show receptions. Drew Taylor explained that this room was a nursery in 1938, a place where parents could leave their children to play while they watched a movie.


Executive Director Will Beekman spoke to the interns about the art of marketing and booking performers, and how that process is a delicate balance act between offering a price that agents will be excited about, while still being able to practically satisfy the needs of the business.

The F.M. Kirby Center invests $40,000-50,000 yearly in events that support its mission. Will Beekman says “We do a Classical Arts Series every year because that is part of our mission. I would like to say that is what makes us the Kirby Center, doing events like the opera, world music, modern dance, ballet.”

The F.M. Kirby Center supports this mission, as well as its overall operation, by the aid of donors, the recruitment of members, grants, and by booking popular performance acts.


Want to become a Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber Intern?
Apply NOW for Summer 2015 at!

THROWBACK THURSDAY: 1926 Wilkes-Barre Chamber Offices

1926: Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber Offices on Market Street in the Citizens Bank BuildingCLICK ON THE PHOTO TO VIEW IT FULL SIZE!

Throwback Thursday takes to a print image we found in our archives of the Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce and Farm & Credit Bureaus’ old offices. This image was not dated, but a few visual clues in the photo helped, especially the calendar on the wall… it’s 1926!
2wideJanuary of the year in the photo started on a Friday on that calendar and a historical calendar confirmed it. So now we know it is 1926 for sure.

Now where is this office located? In the same zoom, if you look out the windows you can see “National Bank.” There are only a few places this could of been, but this made our work easy as well!

Go HERE to google street view and you can make out that the current PNC Bank as this same building. So now we know we’re on market street. These windows are in the 2nd floor of the Citizens Bank Building along Market Street.

Click to zoom in on the photo. Let us know what OTHER great things you find in this photo in the comments!