Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Wilkes-Barre is a city located in the US state of Pennsylvania and is the county seat of Luzeme County.  Wilkes-Barre is situated at the heart of the area that is known as the Wyoming Valley and has a population of 41,498, which makes it the state’s tenth biggest city.  One of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area’s main cities, the area itself had a population of 563,631 according to the 2010 Census, which makes it the fourth biggest metro/statistical area in the whole of the state of Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1769, Wilkes-Barre was formally incorporated 36 years later in 1806.  Wyoming Valley and Wilkes-Barre are framed to the east by the Pocono Mountains, to the west by the Endless Mountains and to the south by the Lehigh Valley.  Flowing through the heart of the valley and defining the city’s northwestern body is the Susquehanna River.

Known as one the most historical cities in the United States today, Wilkes-Barre received a considerable amount of bad press thanks to the Knox Mine Disaster, while also garnering unwanted attention for its high poverty level during the presidential campaign of 1960. International headlines were made by the damage that was caused to the city by the Agnes flood 40 years ago, back in 1972.

Delaware and Shawanese Indian tribes were the first to inhabit the Wyoming Valley in the early 18th century, with the first Europeans – a group led by John Durkee – making a move to the area by 1769.  The settlement was christened Wilkes-Barre in honor of John Wilkes and Isaac Barre, the two British members of parliament who gave their support to colonial America.

The discovery in the 19th century of anthracite coal earned the city the nickname ‘The Diamond City’ and caused a population explosion in the area, with much relocation to the city by people, particularly immigrants, hoping to cash in on and get jobs because of the discovery.  A number of franchises made the decision to plant their roots in Wilkes-Barre during its reign as an industrial and economic force, including Woolworths, Planter’s Peanuts, Bell Telephone, Lucerne National Bank, Sterling Hotels, and Miner’s Bank.  Wilkes-Barre is also the birthplace of the modern cable television programming of today, with it being the first place able to receive the HBO service in November 1972.

Wilkes-Barre has a complete area of 7.2 square miles, according to figures provided by the United States Census Bureau, 6.8 square miles of which is land and 0.3 square miles of which is water.  Wilkes-Barre has an unusually big skyline for a city of its size and population, being home to over 30 high-rise buildings. These include the Luzerne Bank Building, Citizen’s Bank Financial Center, PNC Bank Building and University Tower.

A number of notable people came from Wilkes-Barre, including playwright Douglas Carter Beane, quantum physicist David Bohm, artist George Catlin, author and actress Harley Jane Kozak (Arachnophobia), cult actor James Karen (Return of the Living Dead) and Tony award-winning actor Jerry Orbach (Law and Order).

Lance Grooms