Archive for the ‘ Guerrilla History ’ Category

Spontaneous Acts of Art: Concrete City Ruins

*(All photos are my own unless another photographer is credited.  If the photo is from another person, you can click on the photo itself to see more of their work.  All photos were shot at Concrete City) 

Old Skool: All Great Truths Begin as Great Blasphemies


Photographer: Dawn Robinson–Baltimore, Maryland

I love to explore the ruins of Concrete City, an honest to goodness ghost town  in Northeastern Pennsylvania that has morphed from a long forgotten hopeless abandonment,   into a frequently changing urban art gallery.   There is something amazing about a place that is left to disappear into history that creates a second life for itself.  At Concrete City you can feel a faint heartbeat and bear witness to the stirring of a soul thru the expression of the street art that people feel compelled to create on its decaying & crumbling walls. 

All We Know is Falling </3 Caution Cliff Ahead

By “street art”  I don’t mean misspelled racial slurs, poorly drawn genitalia, or swastikas (although you will run into plenty of that), I mean art that was clearly done by someone with talent or at least a statement with a deep thought behind it.  The purpose of this kind of art is to question the existing environment with its own language.  It is art that is unsanctioned and not sponsored by community or government initiatives.  “Street art” is art in its truest form—art for art’s sake brought to life in a public space.   

Concrete City is also a location popular with Paint Ball enthusiasts which helps to add a certain photographic ambiance to an otherwise dreary location. Photographer Katherine Rogers—Tattoo Artist, Reading Pennsylvania

Photographer Katherine Rogers—Tattoo Artist, Reading Pennsylvania

Old Skool: Imperfections Create Character

 I don’t just mean old skool graffiti in which traditional artists have primarily used free-hand aerosol paints to produce their work.  Today’s resurgence in street art encompasses many other techniques such as stencil art, sticker art, and installations.   And in a phenomenon that I find most interesting, this art renaissance that is spontaneously occurring at Concrete City has attracted the attention of photographers who are actually bringing models there to shoot on location!  At Concrete City!  😉 

Photographer: LUIGI ROMANO (aka Egoista_73)  from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

“I like to do photo shoots in this area because it’s the right amount of strange. It’s colorful, creepy and crazy, and there’s nothing better than having that combination with a mix of modern people.” —Corrine Klug

Photographer: Corrine Klug—Dallas, Pennsylvania

“I like doing out of the box fashion shoots, Concrete City is an amazing place, and pretty PRIVATE for the most part, it’s a place where you can clear your mind and just enjoy the art of it all.”– Sande Kaczkurkin

Photographer: Sande Kaczkurkin  “Pennsylvania Sande”—Springville, Pennsylvania with model Sarah Cugini of Model Mayhem–MM Number 2100887

With a little luck, maybe this creative energy can find a way to infuse itself into some other areas of Luzerne County if community leaders would allow it.  These are artists who clearly want to share their talents, why not give them some space somewhere to create community generated art?  Wilkes-Barre is a small community without a lot of money; it needs all of the free inspiration that it can get! 

Is it vandalism or Van-Dali’-ism?!

The history of graffiti/street art includes Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire.  Graffiti was found in the ruins of Pompeii, on the walls of ancient Jerusalem, and in ancient Egypt.   It has always been used by mankind to express underlying social and political messages. One of the most famous and inspiring graffiti campaigns predating the modern street art movement began during World War II with the tag “Kilroy was here”.   Kilroy was a little long-nosed character with a bald head that began popping up in unexpected places across the theaters of war visited by American troops.  American soldiers engaged in competitions to inscribe the tag in obscure locations to help keep the battle-weary soldiers inspired.  Soldiers became so engaged by the graffiti art competition, that the mysterious Kilroy character had Japanese Intelligence Officers and Hitler himself worried about the “message” being propagated by the little ubiquitous guy. 


Photographer: Stacy Shannon—Alexandria, Virginia

Today, graffiti has become a rapidly developing art form that is gaining legitimacy.  The art world of curators, dealers and collectors are helping graffiti artists expand their audience on a worldwide scale, just as Luzerne County is gearing up to start its own War on Graffiti in the name of keeping our streets free from gang influence.  Our community leaders and law enforcement officers are telling residents to protect our children and our streets from gangs by reporting all graffiti to the police departmentIncidentally, there also happens to be a stream of funding available at this time for communities who can prove that they are plagued by the infiltration of gang-related activity. 

Sadly art is historically a casualty in any community where leaders try to create solutions to avoid an impending economic apocalypse.  I’d hate to see local Banksy wannabes get silenced during a campaign against little local gangsta wannabes just as graffiti art is sweeping the nation as a means to revitalize declining and blighted communities.  Cities like Los Angeles and Chicago are publically recognizing the talent of their graffiti artists by providing the means for them to do legal graffiti, which helps to foster developing street artists while lessoning the amount of graffiti that appears in their cities as vandalism.  One criticism often heard in Luzerne County is that we knock down our historic structures and do nothing with the newly created space, or worse yet, put up a parking lot— UNUSED parking lots

Our leaders need to foster more progressive thinking in terms of turning our dying community around and breathing new life into our often empty streets.  With price tags for the historic preservation and the economic development of our blighted structures reaching into the millions, as our community sits and waits for something to happen to reinvigorate the center city area of Wilkes-Barre, local graffiti artists have been creating a message (for free!) that is calling out to other creative individuals.   Local street artists are drawing visitors and compelling them to document a broken and deserted town sitting in the middle of nowhere in Luzerne County.  What can we do to get these people to travel less than ten miles down the road to breathe a little life and tourism into Wilkes-Barre using the same inexpensive method? Can the same medium be used to draw local residents in neighboring communities into the center of Wilkes-Barre again?  Maybe, if given the opportunity, at least temporarily until the millions needed for community redevelopment and historical preservation can magically arrive……Just as the Kilroy Graffiti Campaign gave hope to American soldiers fighting a war, perhaps a Community Graffiti Campaign is what the city of Wilkes-Barre needs to give citizens a renewed sense of optimism as they prepare to fight their own war–a war against economic blight.

Giraffiti in The Concrete City Jungle Room


Beyond Concrete City, people in the area are currently talking about the red cat stencil tag artist.  Who is this mysterious street artist and what is their message?  Can anyone out there offer any insight?


Gruesome Intermodal Kitty

Frank Clark Jeweler Cat


South Street Bridge Stencil Art Cats

Another South Street Bridge Playful Kitty

And this keeps showing up in the most unusual places also….who is he?

Graffiti IS happening in Luzerne County and very little of it appears to be gang related…..


Visit Vimeo to watch my Concrete City mini-movie!


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Cheri Sundra © 2012
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It’s the End of the World as We Know It: The Moonlite Drive-In

(aka The Drive-In of the Damned)

Moonlite Drive-In Sign July 2011
Moonlite Drive-In Sign January 2012

I’ve seen more shooting stars at the drive-in than anywhere else on earth.  Man has always looked to the sky. For eons, the moon has been our ever present companion, and the heavenly landmark that tells us we are Earthbound, in the same way that the Golden Gate Bridge announces we are in San Francisco.  There is something awe inspiring about sitting outside, with the stars on the screen competing with the eternal stars in the sky. Drive-in movies combine a primal experience with some of the creature comforts of a more modern life. 

Moonlite Drive-In Ticket Booth Summer 2011
Moonlite Drive-In Ticket Booth Winter 2012
Ticket Booth Interior–Think the Windex will help?

You may remember going to these outdoor theaters as a child dressed in pajamas, as you played on the swings and slides that were usually found near the big screen.  Or you may recall other memories that include the backseat of the car and steamy windows.  For many teenagers, the drive-in was a rite of passage that included illicit bottles of beer and as many friends as you could pack into one vehicle.    But your age didn’t matter when it was time to visit the concession stand.

Concession Stand Interior

Drive-in movie food is unlike any food you will ever find in some generic multiplex cinema.  Drive-in food is packed with personality and a lot of mobility—at least according to the concession stand advertisements traditionally shown during intermission.  This food danced, it sang, performed circus acts and was always tasty, satisfying, and refreshing.    It constantly reminded you that it was 5 minutes until the start of the show… 4…..just 3…..only 2 minutes left—better get those tasty fries now!  Make sure you compliment your order with a refreshing soda!  You’ll feel satisfied! That is until you attempt to drive away with that metal speaker still hooked over your car window…..

Moonlite Concession Stand Summer 2011
Smoke ’em if you got ’em! Because you’re not getting any here…..

The very first drive-in theater was created in 1932 by Richard Hollingshead when he nailed a screen to some trees in his backyard in Camden, New Jersey.  He set a Kodak projector on the hood of his car and placed a radio behind the movie screen.  He applied for, and received, a patent for his invention in 1933.  That same year, Hollingshead opened the very first drive-in, on June 6th in Camden, with an investment of $30,000.  Admission was 25 cents per car PLUS an additional 25 cents per person.  Within 25 years, more than 4,000 drive-ins opened nationwide, with Pennsylvania playing an impressive role in drive-in movie history.

Abandoned Moonlite Drive-In Screen Summer 2011
Drink Coca Cola at the Moonlite

In 1934, Pennsylvania’s first drive-in, and America’s second, was opened in Orefield by a man named Wilson Shankweiler.  The Shankweiler Drive-In  is still operating today; making it the nation’s oldest continually operating drive-in theater.

January 2011
Abandoned Vehicle at the Moonlite (The Biohazard Bus @ The Drive-In of the Damned)

In addition to claiming the longest running drive-in, Pennsylvania can also boast about the fact that it had one of the two smallest drive-ins nationwide.  The Harmony Drive-In, of Harmony Pennsylvania, could hold no more than 50 cars, just like the other “smallest” contender, the Highway Drive-In located in Bamberg, South Carolina.

During the golden age of Pennsylvania’s Drive-In Era, the late 1950’s & early 1960’s, it is reported that the state peaked with 180 in operation.  Since that time, the number of drive-ins still operating in the state today has declined by more than 80%.  The Moonlite Drive-In is one of those casualties.

Follow the Red Arrow


 The Abandoned Projection Room

Piece of Film


The Moonlite Drive-In ruins are located at 1190 Shoemaker Ave in West Wyoming, Pennsylvania—or as the locals call it, “the back road” in Swoyersville / Edwardsville. The location could accommodate about 400 cars. Some accounts say that it closed in the late 70s, but I found an ad from 1983 when the price of a carload was $5—which is a $4 increase from their price in 1965!  People telling stories about visiting the Moonlite usually mention that the man at the ticket booth would tell them to “KEEP SMILING” as they drove away to watch the show.

Going to the Moonlite Drive-In today feels like visiting the planet earth a few decades after an apocalypse.  The landscape is wildly overgrown, even in front of the big screen.  The Snack Bar stands in a half-burned down state of decay.  The sounds of the movies, racing car engines, and giddy movie-goers have been replaced by screeching birds circling overhead while the tall grass rustles in the breeze.  The setting is a desolate reminder of a world that used to be, and a time when we had access to the stars, for $5 a carload. 

Moonlite CLOSED


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Cheri Sundra © 2012

All Rights Reserved

The Kirby Park Zoo–An Unrealized Vision

The Clark Wright Evans plans for a “zoological building for Kirby Park—Courtesy of The Hoyt Library, Kingston, Pennsylvania

In 2009, archaeologists discovered strange animal burials in the Egyptian capital of Hierakonpolis that suggests the existence of a large animal menagerie around 3500 B.C. that included baboons, wildcats and two elephants.  These animals were buried in the city’s elite cemetery, where rulers and their family members were also interred, along with evidence indicating that these powerful rulers kept the animals in captivity, almost like a zoo. These animals were given special treatment in death, buried in human fashion and even sometimes accompanied by a human figurine.

This was an important archaeological discovery because for the longest time the first zoo that we knew about was started around 1150 B.C. by a Chinese emperor that contained many kinds of deer, birds and fish.  This 1,500 acre zoo was called the “Garden of Intelligence” and was kind of like our modern zoos with one huge exception; it was kept for the amusement of the Emperor and his Court and was not open to the public.

A bronze statue of a mother lion with her cub at the Philadelphia Zoo

It is widely believed that the first public zoo was established by Queen Hatshepsut in 1500 B.C., in ancient Egypt, by collecting animals from all over Africa.  Throughout history, zoos have been built to show a leader’s wealth & power.  The oldest zoo still in existence today is located in Vienna on the grounds of the Schönbrunn Palace and was initially founded as an imperial menagerie in 1752.   The first public zoological garden in the world, the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, was opened in 1793.

Like most things that man builds, zoos are a reflection of our values—-throughout history, our relationship with animals can give us insight about where we were as a society.

Philadelphia Zoo closed their Elephant House in 2009 due to the need for renovation & budget constraints.

 During the Age of Enlightenment, when Darwin was like a science rock star, zoos represented science as a mission.  This is when some of the earliest official zoos began, like the London Zoo in 1828 and America’s first zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo, in 1874.   This was also the Romantic Age, when beauty had the utmost value and zoos were also becoming a place for socializing.  The architectural style was ornate & dramatic while “Houses” were in vogue—Cat House, Bird House, etc.  But, sadly for the inhabitants, appearance was more important than function, and animals were seen as beautiful objects, rather than living beings, so the cages were inadequate and as a result, life expectancy was short.

The next incarnation of the zoo reflected the fact that the world was in the midst of several wars, and as a result, the study of nature seemed much less important than it did during the height of Darwin’s celebrity, but the Age of Romanticism still existed and zoos were treated as living art galleries where exhibits were turned into mini-paintings or real-life sculptures with visually designed “proper” landscapes.  This style’s popularity was short-live at first, because everyone seemed to be adopting the modernist movement in zoo design, including the architects who designed the now defunct Nay Aug Park Zoo in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Nay Aug Park Zoo Elephant House

Nay Aug Park Zoo

Modernism was all about function and reflected man’s advances in medicine.  At that time, zoos were designed for quick sterilization and exhibits were created so they could easily be hosed down on a regular basis.  This usually meant concrete structures with clean lines, and a simplified modern style that was influenced by the Modernist Art movement, creating zoo exhibits that looked more like the setting for a sculpture rather than an animal habitat.  This movement in zoo design did actually help to extend the life expectancy for zoo animals, but did little to address their mental well-being.

Nay Aug Park Zoo Habitat

Since that time, we have evolved to develop a strong sense of animal rights and environmental awareness so our modern zoo exhibits reflect not only a sense of beauty, recalling once again the Age of Romanticism, but also strive to achieve a higher standard of physical and mental health accommodations for the inhabitants.   Exhibits are now designed to recreate the animal’s natural habitat while also attempting to incorporate the visitor into the surroundings as if they are immersed in the landscape.

The Houston Zoo

Luzerne County attempted to become a contender in the world of community zoos with mixed results during the 1930s thru the early 1940s.  On one hand, the Kirby Park Zoo was able to boast about accommodating somewhere between 2,000 to 3,000 visitors during the weekend in the summer months (Wow!  If only we could find something that could do that now, huh?! ) according to local newspaper reports and on the other hand, it was dogged by claims of animal cruelty and flooding. 

I became intrigued with the notion that a zoo used to exist in Kirby Park when the grandmother of a friend told us about it when we were young.  I was so fascinated by the structures that still stand in Kirby Park today that have been identified by the local papers as “zoo ruins” that I attempted to research what the structures were used for with surprising results!  (Follow the link to learn more!)  Since my last post, The Hoyt Library has generously made the plans for the Clark Wright Evans “zoological building” available for viewing by the public (They remind me of The Nay Aug Park Zoo in Scranton):

The Clark Wright Evans Zoological Building Design for the Kirby Park Zoo

Cheri,  I am a reference librarian at the Hoyt. We were not able to contact you on your MSN email account but found this page and wanted to let you know the Kirby Zoo blueprints are here on the second floor of the library! Stop in at the desk and we can help you further your research efforts! ~~ Kathleen Bednarek

 The following information about the Kirby Park Zoo was provided via email by Larry Newman, past president of the Wyoming Valley Historical Society (now the Luzerne County Historical Society).

 While the zoo may not have been part of the original plans for the park, it was definitely in place by 1932, because we know that Wilkes-Barre architect Clark Wright Evans (architect of the Westmoreland Club and what is now King’s College’s Luksik Hall) designed a “zoological building” for Kirby Park in that year. The plans were advertised for bid in the 11/9/1932 edition of the Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders Guide, and at least some of Evans’ drawings for the zoological building, dated Sept. 1932, are included in the inventory of Evans’ remaining architectural plans, which are housed at the Hoyt Library in Kingston. The index to those plans notes that the building was “destroyed by flooding in 1936” – but the articles quoted below make me wonder whether it was ever built in the first place. As a matter of fact, based on contemporary newspaper descriptions of the zoo (copied below), it’s hard to conclude that any of the “ruins” in today’s Kirby Park Natural Area were ever part of the zoo.~~ Larry Newman 

Mr. Newman cited the following information from newspaper articles showing that the zoo did not close because of the 1936 flood:

An article on Page A-3 of the March 29, 1936 Sunday Independent, titled “Zoo at Kirby Park Regains Occupants,” read:

“Tranquility once again prevails at Kirby Park zoo. Turmoil, provoked by high water of the Susquehanna, routed all animals, the rescue work being carried out by city employees under direction of Park Supervisor Tom Phillips. Last night the “refugees” were back home. Only one casualty, the male buffalo, was listed. Poisoned food hastened the end of the quadruped, according to Councilman John Nobelt.  A female buffalo, all fox, rabbits, groundhog, honey bears, monkeys and the eagle were quartered in the 109th armory during the flood.

Three bears, cynosure of all juveniles visiting Kirby Park, withstood ravages of the disaster. The water came up so rapidly they could not be rescued and were forced to perch atop a stone house inside a cage. The animals were foodless for five days and did virtually no sleeping during the flood period. Over four feet of water swept through the bears’ habitat.

Kirby Park Zoo Bears during the 1936 Flood, “Lest We Forget: Wyoming Valley Flood of 1936”–Luzerne County Historical Society Collection

Alas and alack – Pete, the pet gose [sic], joined his colleagues yesterday. Pete laughed at “Old Man River” when it began to swell. The winged pet watched the water flow over the west shore and continued to smile. On the third day Pete was hungry. He emulated Johnny Weismuller and swam all the way to Edwardsville, where he was picked up by two youths. The boys, fearful of prosecution, returned Pete yesterday to the park and they were told arrests would not follow. So all again is peaceful with the speechless population of Kirby Park.”

One year later, an article about the Kirby Park zoo on Page A-13 of the March 28, 1937 Sunday Independent listed the Kirby Park zoo’s inhabitants:

“There are seven monkeys, one baboon, two parrots, three macaws from South America, two raccoons, three foxes, about two dozen pigeons, three horned owls, four sheep, five bear, two wild goats from South America, one North American goat, one buffalo and two geese.”

In the same 1937 article, Ernest Vivian, the zookeeper, noted that the Kirby Park zoo could not accommodate additional animals:

“’If we had a larger and more substantial set of buildings than we have now, we could handle more of the gifts people are continually offering us but right now it’s impossible to take care of them.’ What were some of the animals offered as gifts? ‘Well, for example, pheasants and peacocks. We had to turn them down. We hadn’t any room and nothing could be done right now.

An Unrealized Vision for The Kirby Park Zoo

Full View

Also from the same article, ‘The snakes and alligators the zoo had were given up. The snakes dug out of their pit one day and there wasn’t any way of keeping them safe unless we had a concrete base and a glass cage. But we have a lot of other animals here and the children and their parents will find that in a few weeks, when we open up, the collection will be as fine if not better than ever.”’ 

 “When summer is in full swing, between 2,000 and 3,000 people visit on Sunday and about the same number come in during the six week days.

Wilkes-Barre has a fine zoo for the amount of money expended on it. However, if the straitened financial conditions of the city ever are arranged so that a permanent structure can be built, the improvement would improve the zoo many fold.”

Building Details

 However, improvements never came. An article on Page A-4 of the April 14, 1940 Sunday Independent stated:

“Announcement that the Kirby Park zoo probably will be reduced to a monkey house – and nothing more – shows the change of the years. It’s not so long ago that most ambitious plans were in the air for the Kirby Park zoo. The park department still has some pretty pictures of the plans that were made. It was hoped to have a splendid building, big runways and everything to permit the animals to live as nearly as they do in natural surroundings. There were hopes of expansion so that a great variety of animals would be on display, for the amusement and education of the entire valley. That is a far cry from latest plans to have a monkey house – and nothing more. And it’s all a matter of money. In the old days the trust fund provided by Fred M. Kirby for the upkeep of the park brought in from $25,000 to $28,000 every year . . . Then came the depression. Now the amount the fund gives the city – after a couple of years of nothing at all – is about half what it used to be . . . Blame the depression.”

Less than one month later, however, a grim story on Page A-11 of the May 5, 1940 Sunday Independent, titled “Filth at Kirby Park Zoo Forced Humane Society to Act,” painted a different picture and pointed the blame at people (as opposed to money):

“The Kirby Park Zoo, for which the city of Wilkes-Barre spent thousands of dollars to establish (sounds a little Sterling-esque, huh?!)  and many more thousands to maintain, has turned out to be a filth-infested, highly unsanitary “haven” for wild birds and animals (also fits the current description of the Hotel Sterling, am I right?!) . Because health conditions are deplorable, reaching the point where the majority of the animal populace has either died or been killed off, the zoo now must be abandoned.

Survey of the situation yesterday revealed the fact that there are but two bears, one silver fox and a horned owl, outside of a flock of monkeys, remaining in the penned areas. The Luzerne County Humane Society has interested itself in the situation, as a step in clearing up matters, paid $25 to take over everything but the monkeys. The city will maintain cages for these. . . .

In addition to filth brought by high river water, and given only western exposure and wooden houses when eastern exposure and concrete shelters are needed, it is reported thousands of rats have infested the pens at Kirby Park to aggravate a bad situation. These rats made life miserable for other animals by stealing food and, it is believed, spread disease among the inmates.

In addition to the drowning of a silver fox and two goats in the recent flood, three bears recently “murdered” each other and killed a cub, the two buffalo and a calf have passed away, while none of the ten deer survived. It is believed the zoo was improperly located from the start, situated in soggy ground, and another matter that enters into the picture is the fact that feeding and care of the animals in recent years was but a sideline of caretakers at the West Side park.”

“HELP YOURSELF MY DEAR DEER–Such was the invitation extended Kirby Park’s spotted fawn by 3-year-old Florence Victoria Krick, daughter of Attorney and Mrs. Charles P. Krick of West River Street. And as the photo plainly shows, a second invitation was not needed.”—Luzerne County Historical Society archives

The May 5, 1940 story concluded by describing how the Humane Society planned to release the two bears into the woods of Noxen Mountain.

Less than one month later, a column on Page A-9 of the May 12, 1940 Sunday Independent mourned the Kirby Park Zoo’s demise:

“To all intents and purposes the Kirby Park Zoo – the Wilkes-Barre City Zoo – has gone and the fact that it had to go, plus the manner of its passing, is not exactly a boost for the town.

The zoo was situated in a park, the upkeep of which along with that of the animals, was provided for by the philanthropy of Fred M. Kirby.

Naturally, the income from the bonds Mr. Kirby provided has shrunk, but hardly is it likely that it has shrunk as much as the park of which the city once was so proud.

Conceived as a place of beauty for the city, the main expanse of the park has been taken over to a great extent by the dike leaving, with the zoo gone, several baseball fields on the flat stretch next to the armory and, nearby, the tennis courts.

Worst of all, however, was the action of the Humane Society in “buying” the animals. This, they said, they felt was necessary in order to live up to the creed of their organization. They did not consider the animals were being treated in a humane manner at the zoo.

Life will go on in Wyoming Valley, of course, as it did before. Many other little niceties also could go and some people seem intent on removing them too, getting the general population down to the elementary necessities of eating, drinking, sleeping and working.

But the zoo was enjoyed by many – including the children. It added just a bit to their pleasure and helped make the park and the city of which we boast more complete. It also is to be noted that many other cities, unaided by the gift of a philanthropist, consider it worthwhile to spend their own money on such things. Furthermore, they do a good job of it.

So it is not exactly something to be proud of when it is proved that Wilkes-Barre lacks even the ability to keep a zoo – after the money is provided.”

Thanks again to Larry Newman for sharing the above information and to the Hoyt Library for making the Zoo Plans available to the public (There are several pages not pictured here).   The part that I STILL find puzzling is the fact that I cannot locate any pictures from the zoo when it was open.  2,000 to 3,000 people visited on Sundays during the summer and no one thought to take any pictures? I can only find the two posted above of the bears & the deer! If you have any relatives in their 70s, 80s 0r 90s,  ask them if you can take a peek at any old family pictures they have lying around!

 Even today, the Letterman Top 10 on January 20, 2012 listed the monkey as the #1 animal…..imagine how exotic it would have been to have monkeys in Kirby Park during the 1930s!  Where are the pictures?! ….. THAT to me is the real mystery of the Kirby Park Zoo!  🙂 


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Cheri Sundra © 2012
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KIRBY PARK ZOO RUINS ? !—Ooops! Maybe not……

If you are reading this, it is probably because you saw the title and thought one of two things:

“There was a zoo in Kirby Park?”  Yes, there was! But the Flood of 1936 led to the eventual demise of the Kirby Park Zoo.   You can read about the Kirby Park Zoo here .


“I know where those zoo ruins are in Kirby Park”.  No, you don’t.  You know where ruins are, but they most likely are not zoo ruins, at least not the structures that you think are zoo ruins. 

But I do kind of hope that someone out there has the information needed to prove me wrong.  The idea of zoo ruins is far more romantic than the theory that I’m about to blog about in this post…..

Zoo graffiti from May 2010 which has vanished with the flood of September 2011

“It is sadder to find the past again and find it inadequate to the present than it is to have it elude you and remain forever a harmonious conception of memory.”— F. Scott Fitzgerald

I am not a historian and I am bringing this up to prove a point.  Despite the fact that I am NOT a historian, there is information out there that could lead someone to believe that I am legitimately a historian if they were to run across a Letter to the Editor that I wrote which ran on August 5, 2010, with the misleading title “Historian seeks info, stories about old Kirby Park zoo.”  Yes, I am a member of the Luzerne County Historical Society, but that does not make me a historian unless belonging to the Philadelphia Museum of Art also makes me an artist!

This is how historical misinformation can spread.  Unintentional misunderstandings, misquotes or a misprint in a publication can be used as a reference over and over again by other writers and researchers until it becomes part of the “facts”.  

We’ve all been told with certainty at some point that Betsy Ross made the first flag, it was even printed right there in our grade school text books!  Yet many historians (the real ones!) dispute that “fact” and Betsy’s house is not part of the U.S. National Park Service–which is a huge indication that the story is not true. 

During my short time as a faux-historian, I’ve come to the realization that historical research is hard, time-consuming and not exactly always….well….EXACT.  It’s more like trying to fit together a puzzle with missing pieces, filling in the blanks using a combination of critical thinking and speculation to try to create a complete picture. 

The very first article that I ever read about the zoo was pulled out of the Kirby Park file at the Luzerne County Historical Society.  This article ran on May 13, 2001, in the Times Leader, and was titled “Kirby Park: About 4 score years ago, a green place bloomed along the river.”  In the article, it states, when referring to the famous Olmsted Brothers landscape architectural firm who were commissioned to design Kirby Park, that “they did the entire original design for Kirby Park, including a zoo, a band shell and a wading pool.”  The statement was attributed to a quote by a man named Larry Neuman, president of the Wyoming Valley Historical Society (now the Luzerne County Historical Society). 

Unfortunately, Larry Neuman was never the president of that organization,  but Larry NEWMAN was!  Still, I did spend time searching for Larry Neuman.  I’ve also spent a decent amount of time searching for information about the Kirby Park Zoo plans and repeatedly came up with nothing.  Again, I’m not a historian, and I would hardly say that my search was completely thorough, but I tried every avenue that I could think of—the courthouse, city hall, different local historical organizations, the library—and couldn’t find any plans for the Kirby Park Zoo or any indications that the structures left standing were zoo buildings.

When I did finally contact Larry Newman, he shared a whole bunch of information that he had about the zoo, but said that he did not know if the zoo was part of the original plans for the park (he mentioned plans designed by someone else—I’ll get to those plans later).

Further in this article from May 2001, it states “John Mayday, president of the River Front Parks Association, said a walk down the Olmsted Trail—which follows the old drive through the natural area—will take you past the wading pool, as well as the foundations for the old gardener’s cottage, the band shell, a riverside observation deck and a couple of old zoo buildings.”

I had the opportunity to have a very entertaining conversation with Mr. Mayday earlier this year, and he told me all about the cottage, wading pool, band shell and observation deck, but was unsure about the remaining structures.  He also gave me a booklet produced by the Riverfront Parks Committee about the Kirby Park natural area that mentions nothing about zoo buildings either.

So I am unsure about how or where this idea about the few ruins left in Kirby Park being part of the zoo actually came from–and I cannot find any proof that a zoo designed by the Olmsted Brothers was part of the original park plans, but my guess would  be that the writer of  that article misunderstood or misheard that information.  Or maybe he pulled it from another source himself, but that particular article contains the earliest mention that I can find about “zoo plans/ruins” in a local newspaper.  And then every article that I have been able to find after that point, contains that same information, probably using that same article as a reference, just as I did when I wrote an article about the zoo myself. 

I eventually just gave up on finding any more information about these structures, until one day I decided to look through the resources at the Luzerne County Historical Society again to learn more about the children’s playground that was designed as part of the original plans for the park, but was lost when the levee was constructed that cut that area off from the rest of Kirby Park. 

As I looked for playground information, instead of zoo information, through the double binder titled Kirby Park Wilkes-Barre Olmsted Frederick Law Plans 1921 and the Kirby Day Book (June 4, 1924 ,“To Fred M Kirby from his son Allan P Kirby”) at the Luzerne County Historical Society, in addition to other information provided by Riverfront Parks booklets,  the mystery surrounding the remaining structures seemed to be solved, at least in my mind anyway. 

References to the Children’s Playground

“The Children’s Playground –Looking Toward Wilkes-Barre”—Picture from Kirby Day 1924, Luzerne County Historical Society Collection

“Nor have the kiddies been overlooked.  The little concrete block cottage almost on the west bank of the river, at a point below the Market Street Bridge, is to be used as a rest room for mothers and children.  The large section of the lawn surrounding the house will be utilized as a playground for the youngsters.  Between the rest house and the grove south of it there will be swings, sand courts, a bathing pool and many other interesting features for the amusement of the youngsters.” —-Kirby Day Book

“Cottage at Children’s Playground—Looking West”–Picture from Kirby Day 1924, Luzerne County Historical Society Collection

“The grounds around the bungalow near the river, formerly belonging to Thomas Podmore, were laid out as a playground for children.  The intention was to use the large front room of the house and the front porch and as much more of the house as may seem desirable in the future as a rest room for women and children.  If only the front room of the house is required for that purpose the balance of the house is available as an apartment for the caretaker, with entrance at the rear.  The cost of all improvements in and around the bungalow and children’s playground was $10,477.56.”–Kirby Day Book 

“The pool was part of the original Olmsted design and was used by children for wading.”— Riverfront Parks of Wilkes-Barre, Riparian Trail Guide, Kirby Park Natural Area, Yours to Discover & Enjoy   **Note:  In some articles the pool is called a “Reflecting Pool”

The Wading Pool & Sand Pits—Looking South from the Cottage—Kirby Day 1924, Luzerne County Historical Society Collection

“A children’s playground immediately south of the Market Street Bridge in such a location that if the new bridge is erected the arches will afford shelter and also access to the present playground and park north of the bridge.  This playground would be in its permanent location and should be equipped with apparatus which is readily removable during the winter when the area is not in use and at other times when it may be threatened by floods. The present bungalow on the knoll near the river could be used for a caretaker’s home until such a time as this area may need to be graded to increase the channel cross-section…..”  —Plan Book, Kirby Park, Page 569

Wading Pool Ruins October 2011

Cottage Ruins October 2011

“As you walk along the Olmsted Trail, you will see remnants of structures from the original park area, including an animal cage from the zoo, remnants of the Caretaker’s Cottage, and the Reflecting Pool.”– Riverfront Parks Olmsted Trail “Remnants of a Time Past” (project for the Leadership Wilkes-Barre Class of 2000) **NOTE: I wish I could figure out where they got this information at!  I also wonder how or if this influenced the 2001 Times Leader article referring to zoo ruins.

Unidentified Structure

Located Near Station 6

I have no basis for making this statement, other than lack of information, BUT if there is a zoo remnant still left in Kirby Park, this is most likely it.  I didn’t come across anything in the plans for the park that indicates what this structure may have been, and it is the one ruin that no one that I spoke with offered any insight about. 

Given the lack of pictures available of the zoo while it was open, all that I can offer on this subject is the following information in the hopes that someone can either help to prove or disprove that this structure could possibly be the remains of the bear habitat—the only zoo structure that I was actually able to locate a picture of so far. 

(And I do apologize because I have to go back to the Luzerne County Historical Society to look up the title of the booklet that contains the following pictures from the 1936 flood.  My notes are incomplete–all that I have is that editors & publishers of the book are Edward J. Donohoe and Hugh J. Brislin.)

Kirby Park Zoo Bears during the 1936 flood, Luzerne County Historical Society Collection–“Lest We Forget:  Wyoming Valley Flood of 1936”

This is a closer crop of the background behind the bears.  Keep in mind that the levee had not been built yet.

In the picture above, if you walk from the unidentified ruins to the top of the current levee system and snap a picture, which is of the Kingston Armory (built in the early 1920s), this is what you get if you crop that building.  Is it possible that it is the same view?  I’m not really sure myself….But apparently this is what the real historians would do to try to figure out this kind of stuff!  😉

Zoo Area During 1936 Flood—Luzerne County Historical Society Collection

References to the Band Shell

This is a picture of a slide with the caption: “The most recently completed of Mr. Fred M. Kirby’s magnificent gifts to Wyoming Valley. The bandstand is fifty-five feet wide by twenty-seven feet long and accommodates one hundred musicians. It was designed by a New York firm of architects which specializes in such structures. See Page 63 (Note: I don’t know of what) Photo by Ace Hoffman.” —-Luzerne County Historical Society Archives.

“The foundation has already been laid for a band stand to be located in the midst of the beautiful shade trees forming the grove near the bend of the river. “—Kirby Day Book

The next structure on the Olmsted Trail is what I believe to have been the band shell, which was part of the original Olmsted Brothers design.

In conversations with other people who I have run into while walking along the trail here, this is the remaining structure that seems to capture the imagination the most.  Several people have told me that they thought it was the remains of the bear habitat or the monkey house because of the little tunnel system/walk way that runs underneath the structure.

Underneath band shell October 2011

Other people thought it was the band shell with bathrooms below the stage with layer upon layer of mud deposited underneath from all of the flooding throughout the years.

Another view underneath the band shell remains October 2011

“A Bandstand with concrete foundation and with storeroom beneath was built in the wooded area near the river at a cost of $3,001.19”—Kirby Day Book

Rear View (levee side) band shell ruins

Yellowish paint on band shell remains

What appears to be concrete beams and a center support underneath the band shell. Picture use compliments of Ed Mountjoy.

References to the Pavilion

As you are walking along the path in the natural area of Kirby Park along the Olmsted Trail, you will find this structure on the left hand side.

Pavilion Ruins May 2010

While some people like to speculate that it was part of a structure once used to house monkeys, I now believe it was a Pavilion that was part of the original plans for the park.

Pavilion Ruins May 2010 facing the river

“The Pavilion and Grove Looking South”—Kirby Day Book 1924, Luzerne County Historical Society Collection

The Kirby Park Wilkes-Barre Olmsted Frederick Law Plans 1921 mentions placing a small pavilion in the picnic grove.

The Woodsy Owl Deck “The deck you’re standing on is what’s left of the gazebo from the original Olmstead Brothers’ park.”–Riverfront Parks of Wilkes-Barre, Riparian Trail Guide, Kirby Park Natural Area, Yours to Discover & Enjoy Page 29 

Zoo Structure or Toilet Building?  That’s the question……

“Located about half way down the river bank in the wooded section are small separate concrete toilet buildings for men and for women”—Kirby Day Book 

Located near the pavilion ruins, on the right hand side of the trail, you will find this structure (there is another similar structure a little further down the path, deeper into the wooded area).  This is the one that has been pictured in local newspaper articles the most often and is always identified as a “zoo structure”, usually in the form of a picture looking out of the window.

I believe that these structures may have actually been bathrooms.

Second structure October 2011–Several cracks have formed throughout the structure because a tree fell on it, most likely due to the flooding in September

In notes to Olmsted a toilet building for men and boys in circular grove of trees near children’s playground are mentioned.  Also included are notes to place a small pavilion in picnic grove, toilets to be either included in or near the building. —Kirby Park Plan Book pages 394 and 395

“Located about half way down the river bank, in the wooded section are small separate concrete toilet buildings for men and women.”–Kirby Park Plan Book Page 592

“A comfort station for men and one for women have been erected in the grove.”—Kirby Day Book

Water was supplied to that area of Kirby Park

Water pipe underneath band shell—Picture courtesy of Ed Mountjoy

“The balance of the supply to the park is supplied by a two-inch and smaller pipes extending from the manhole at the junction of the drive to the children’s playground and along the river to the toilet buildings near the bandstand. The total cost of the three toilet buildings, including sewage disposal, was $15, 985.74.—Kirby Day Book  **Note: unsure where the third toilet building may have been.  Maybe that could be the unidentified structure if it isn’t part of a zoo cage?

Another water pipe underneath band shell—Picture courtesy of Ed Mountjoy

In Conclusion 

The Kirby Park Zoo did not officially open until 1932, although there were zoo animals housed in Kirby Park prior to the official opening. The zoo was mentioned in the original plans for the park, but I never did find any actual plans for the zoo designed by the Olmsted Brothers.

REPORT OF VISIT BY H. J. Koehler, September 16, 1926, Notes:  “Zoological garden. 1 Bear, 2 owls, 2 pheasants, 1 coon.  Have it in the northwest corner.”  —Kirby Park Plan Book

This is the only other picture that I have been able to locate of the Kirby Park Zoo:

“HELP YOURSELF MY DEAR DEER–Such was the invitation extended Kirby Park’s spotted fawn by 3-year-old Florence Victoria Krick, daughter of Attorney and Mrs. Charles P. Krick of West River Street. And as the photo plainly shows, a second invitation was not needed.”—Luzerne County Historical Society archives

“The modest beginning of a zoo has been made.  Restrict it to its present area and in its present condition.  There can hardly be an objection to it.  Should an enlargement be considered, this ought to be carefully planned for in advance, and probably in some other location of the park.” — Kirby Park Plan Book, page 616, From Mr. Gilbert S. McClintock, October 6, 1926.

I find it hard to believe that I have been unable to locate any more pictures from the park, especially of the monkey house which would have been considered to be quite an exotic creature to have hanging around Luzerne County, especially during the 1930s!

There is one other piece of the puzzle out there that I am aware of that may help to shed some light on the mystery of the Kirby Park Zoo.  Unfortunately, I have been unable to obtain any access to it.

As a result of my Letter to the Editor, I received the following information in an email from Carl J. Handman of Eyerman,Csala & Handman, located on Public Square :

“The “ZoologicalBuilding” (project #228) was the last project I know of designed by W-B architect, Clark Wright Evans, AIA (1857-1940). My firm’s archives (Evans sold his firm to Robert Eyerman c.1935) contained 13 tracings, including a perspective rendering, dated September 1932. In 2002 I donated all of the Clark Wright Evans drawings in our archives (31 projects from 1898 to 1932) to the Hoyt Library in Kingston. They are stored there in acid free paper in flat files.

You can probably view them there by making an appointment with the new Library Director. She was not there when I made the donation, & if she is not familiar with them, let me know & I can fill her in on the details of my donation.”

I contacted the Hoyt Library via email and received this response:

On Wed, Aug 18, 2010 at 12:37 PM, Hoyt Library <> wrote:


The material is in a restricted area of the library. Due to budget cuts we do not have anyone who could be with while you are researching your topic. We have reduced our hours and staff. When funding is resumed we will be happy to accommodate you.

Diane Rebar

Reference Librarian

I did send another email to the Hoyt Library on October 26th of this year requesting access to these materials again, but I have yet to receive any response.  Maybe one of the real historians out there can take up the cause and gain access to this information!  😉  

“Central Section Looking Toward Wilkes-Barre” (with Cottage)—Kirby Day 1924, Luzerne County Historical Society Collection

“River Bank Walk–Looking East”—Kirby Day 1924, Luzerne County Historical Society Collection

“River Bank Walk–Looking South”—Kirby Day 1924, Luzerne County Historical Society Collection

Kirby Park Olmsted Trail October 2011

To learn about the zoo animals, visit:

The Animals Of The “Lost” Kirby Park Zoo


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Cheri Sundra © 2011
All Rights Reserved


***NEW UPDATES for: “Lost History Found : Croop’s Glen Amusement Park, Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania”

Since my last post about “Lost History” at Croop’s Glen, an abandoned amusement park located on Route 11 right outside of Nanticoke Pennsylvania, two more people have contacted me to share information about this long abandoned amusement park!

Photo memorabilia donated by Frank Regulski, courtesy of Sheila M. Brandon

Sheila M. Brandon of Sweet Valley, Pennsylvania, used to maintain a history website that contained information about Croop’s Glen and pictures of the Hunlock Creek Train Station.  She very graciously sent me pictures and information from her now defunct web site, which covered topics from Lower Luzerne County, to use for this blog.

From Sheila’s information, I’ve learned that the structure that you first encounter when you look over the guard rail and into the park, used to be a ticket booth.  It’s interesting to view the changes that have occurred over a relatively short period of time to this structure, thanks to the ravages of time and Mother Nature.

“Ticket Booth” courtesy of Sheila M. Brandon

Again After Recent Flood on September 17, 2011–My own photo

Part of Croop’s Glen’s success was the fact that it was located across the street from the Hunlock Creek Train Station.   From the copy used for Sheila’s webpage:

 “The rolling thunder of the approaching train was heard as it neared the station at Hunlock Creek, bringing visitors from all over, coming to enjoy a warm summer day at the glen…the sounds of children’s laughter could be heard echoing through the trees.. the warm babbling brook sang ever so sweetly, inviting the visitor to come take a swim.. the smell of popcorn and cotton candy filled the air.. beautiful melodies played under the dance pavilion as the adults danced the night away.”

“Hunlock Creek Train Station” courtesy of Sheila M. Brandon

Hunlock Creek Train Station ruins today courtesy of Ed Mountjoy

“The glen opened in 1908 or 1909, adjacent to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Station. During its earliest years, the park was primarily used for church outings, family reunions and school picnics. In a deed filed at the Luzerne County Courthouse, the parcel of land is described as follows; briefly, a parcel of land containing a two-story frame hotel building (a\k\a- Hunlock Creek Hotel), containing 16 rooms, barn, stone icehouse, dancing pavilion and two refreshment stands. The icehouse, which was located next to the hotel, has been described as the following; it was two stories high, the bottom floor had 3 to 4 feet of sawdust on the floor. Ice was cut from the river and kept all summer in the icehouse. It was still used in the 1920’s.”

Photo of Joseph Virtue in front of Icehouse courtesy of Sheila M. Brandon

Photo of Croop’s Glen postcard donated by Frank Regulski, courtesy of Sheila M. Brandon

Croop’s Glen Amusement Park Map courtesy of Sheila M. Brandon

In addition to the rides, the park had a swimming pool, bathhouses, a penny arcade, two refreshment stands, pony rides and two dance pavilions.  The dance pavilion located near the park entrance was elevated so that cars could park underneath it. 

Croop’s Victrola Sign courtesy of Sheila M. Brandon

From Sheila’s webpage copy:

“The First of its kind in Northeastern Pennsylvania, afternoon & evening,” would greet visitors as they entered the glen. Famous orchestras from the big band era, including the Dorsey brothers, Fred Waring, and Hugo Winterhalter played there on a regular basis. The park boasted having the first nickelodeon during its first few years of operation. After the glen had closed, in later years the dance pavilion was used as a skating rink until it was destroyed in a devastating fire. All of the modern and expensive equipment was lost in the fire. It was stated that two children sparked the fire one winter after the park had closed.”

The smaller dance pavilion was also used for picnics and contained a coin-operated piano and coin amusement devices.  The structure also served as the entrance to the roller coaster. 

“Croop’s Coaster View” courtesy of Sheila M. Brandon

The Hunlock Creek Hotel was purchased from the Croop’s by the Hartman family.  The website quoted Mary Hartman recalling the following memories of the glen:

“The Hunlock Creek Hotel catered picnics at the glen, including some for the power plant and the Retreat employee picnics. My brother and I took the supplies to the park with our ponies and spring wagon. If I remember correctly, Bess Croop’s family operated the concession stand for several seasons. My best memory of the glen, was one day after school, we discovered the electricity had been left on in the Merry-Go-Round pavilion at the park, and we got the rides running full blast. We had a ball until someone on Falls Hill heard the music.”

The park had something called a “wiggle pole” for the young visitors which was essentially a horizontal, telephone pole sized wooden shaft with one loose end that would wiggle when walked upon. 

Croop’s Glen postcard photo donated by Frank Regulski, courtesy of Sheila M. Brandon

The webpage cited gas rationing, which was imposed nationally after the bombing of Peal Harbor in 1941, as the reason for visitors no longer visiting the park in the same way that they could in the past.  After the park was closed, according to the site, Stanley Croop used the property as a saw mill. 

Croop’s Sawmill courtesy of Sheila M. Brandon

Sawmill Remains courtesy of Sheila M. Brandon

Sheila also sent pictures of the park’s rollercoaster.  I’m waiting for permission from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company to post the pictures. 

Thank you so much for sharing your pictures and information, Sheila!

I’ve forwarded the information from Sheila to The Luzerne County Historical Society and The Plymouth Historical Society.  I did not include all of the information or photos about the park in this post.  If you want to learn more about Croop’s Glen, you’ll just have to visit one of the historical societies!  Sheila also sent information pertaining to the Hunlock Township World War II Veteran’s Memorial.

Miniature replica of Croop’s Glen sign created for a fundraiser to replace World War II Memorial courtesy of Sheila M. Brandon

Croop’s Sign ruins on September 17, 2011–my own photo

A person who graciously wanted to share a first-hand account of her time spent at Croop’s Glen is Lucille Weaver from West Nanticoke.  Lucille’s daughter contacted me with the following recollections that her mother has about visiting the amusement park:  

“Croop’s Glen was the place to go ‘back then.’ School and/or class picnics were held there, that’s where her class went. There was the Maypole, merry go round, the whip, dance hall, a carousel and others.  The Maypole seems to stand out in her memory the most and ‘The Whip” came in second 🙂 The dance hall was alongside of the merry go round or she said, maybe ‘a part’ of it somehow. The carousel had a ‘music box’ that began playing when the carousel started turning…Apparently the ‘Maypole’ was somewhere near the entrance…Since we were talking on the phone, she could not see the ‘now photosof Croop’s Glen, but I described, a long room that reminded me of the inside of a covered bridge and she said that was the dance hall !!! In another photo there was a picnic table and next to that was a long green table (I said to her, I would love to have THAT table!” and mom said it sounded to her like that might have been where they sat & played Bingo. According to mom, when Croop’s Glen was open for business, it was the biggest thing at the time and that is where everyone went. If you grew up there during that time, you KNEW of Croop’s Glen!!!!  I really enjoyed listening to my mom talk about Croop’s Glen because it was obvious that was one of her very happy memories when she was growing up.  I didn’t know that until today. Instead of our average 45 minute morning phone call, we talked for almost 2 hours! LOL”

Thanks to Lucille and her daughter for sharing such fond memories!

If anyone else has more information that can help to complete the picture about the time spent by one of Luzerne County’s fading generations at Croop’s Glen, please contact me!

Miniature replica of Hunlock Creek Train Station created for a fundraiser to replace World War II Memorial courtesy of Sheila M. Brandon

Hunlock Creek Train Station courtesy of Sheila M. Brandon

Hunlock Creek Train Station ruins (ticket window) today courtesy of Ed Mountjoy


It was Jennifer O’Malia who introduced me to the concept of Urban Exploration

Style Photography in 2010.  Jenn, who has the unique vision of a

social documentarian, is now offering her services as a freelance photographer.

 Photo by Jennifer O’Malia 

Jenn Wedding

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for more articles about Croop’s Glen

Lost History Found : Croop’s Glen Amusement Park, Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania


Croop's Glen, Route 11, Just outside of Nanticoke

Croop’s Glen, Route 11, just outside of Nanticoke, PA

Sometimes, history gets lost.  And I don’t mean long ago, far away history like those places or events that are ancient, but the history of less than a hundred years ago, right outside your own front door.   History, like the generation of people who share an experience or memory, begins to fade away if people don’t document and share it.

I first became aware of this fact while looking for information about an abandoned zoo  in my own hometown in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  The Kirby Park Zoo  (1932-1936)  was wiped out by the flood of 1936.  Now a little less than 80 years later, all that I can find about this local attraction are little bits and pieces of conflicting and incomplete information.

The generation of people who would have visited the Kirby Park  Zoo as children is quickly dwindling in numbers, and unless someone happens to come across photos while cleaning out a deceased relative’s house and decides to donate them to one of the local Historical Societies, I fear that the Kirby Park Zoo and its Olmsted Brother designed bridal/walking path that wound through that area of the park just a few decades ago, will fade away as part of Luzerne County’s lost history.

Luckily for another Luzerne County attraction, Ellen Geisel of Honey Brook, Pennsylvania, has generously come forward to share pictures that will save Croop’s Glen, a long abandoned amusement park along Route 11 in Hunlock Creek, from the threat of fading into oblivion.

Abandoned Pennsylvania: Croop's Glen (24), Luzerne County, Route 11
I first became aware of Croop’s Glen  last spring.   I was amazed to look down into the little valley where the park is situated to see remains of buildings being swallowed up by time and Mother Nature.  In a quest discover more about the park, I first went to Defunct and found a few lines of information along with three pictures of a rollercoaster.

Next, I visited both the Plymouth Historical Society and the Luzerne County Historical Society and found very little additional information in their collections—a newspaper article about the collapse of a pavilion on the property during a picnic and some pictures of members of the Croop family standing next to a car.  Neither organization had ever received any pictures of the park to add to their resources.

I know it seems hard to believe that an amusement park that closed during the ‘40s because of WWII, but was used for the picnic grounds (possibly, and dance hall until early 1950’s), didn’t seem to have one image available less than 70 years later.

All of that changed when I found the following comment on my blog post about abandoned
Croop’s Glen:

“Would you like some pictures from the park from 1912 to about 1930? A relative of mine just passed away at the age of 99. Her father owned the the rides at Croop’s Glen while B. Frank Croop owned the park. My relative used to sell tickets at the park as a teenager. I also have
photos of her as a baby in 1912 sitting on a carousel horse. Please let me know how I can post them for you.”

The following information and pictures were sent to me from Ellen Geisel:

“I was so excited to find these pictures. I have all the originals and all but one is an old original. The one looks like it was a photo of a photo and I do not know where it came from. I also found out that Charles Shelley built the roller coaster and the Shoot-the-Chute at Harvey’s Lake. see Enjoy! ”–Ellen

Croop 1 – My cousin Jean (2nd from left) and some friends in front of the Pop Corn stand (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 2 – carousel – photo by Croop’s Glen Art Studio (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 3 – My cousin Jean selling tickets (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 4 – My cousin Jean as a baby on a carousel horse

A little history. Charles Shelley apparently worked at Harvey’s Lake and built the roller coaster and Shoot-the-Chute. They opened in 1910. He then married Luella Britton (not sure of the exact date). My cousin, Jean was born in March 1912. In 1913, Luella died giving birth to Jean’s little brother (the baby also died). Charles, not knowing how to raise a toddler daughter, hired a live in housekeeper/nanny to help raise Jean. Charles then hooked up with B. Frank Croop and they opened Croop’s Glen and stayed there until it closed in 1940?. Charles Shelley died in 1941 and I think B. Frank Croop died in the next year or two. I know Jean told me she used to sell tickets at the park and worked there as a teenager. Several years ago, we took
her to Knoebel’s and she rode the merry-go-round. She died this past July at the age of 99”–Ellen

Croop 6 – Charles Shelley (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 7 – Jean and Charles Shelley at Harvey’s Lake

Croop 8 – Jean and Charles

Croop 9 – The Whip (Note:  Ellen does not know if this is Croop’s Glen or Harvey’s Lake)

Croop 10 – Jean and unknown man at Harvey’s Lake

Croop 12 – Charles Shelley (Croop’s Glen)



Croop 13- dance hall? Not sure (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 15 – 4 men working on mechanics of a ride. I think Charles Shelley may be the one
kneeling on the left. This is the photo of a photo and I do not know where it came from. (Could be Croop’s Glen or Harvey’s Lake)

Croop16 – roller coaster. I believe Charles Shelley is pictured in the center looking up (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 50- carousel – Again Charles is in the center looking at the camera.


Thank you Ellen for making our history a little more complete!


More Recent Pictures From Croop’s Glen


Baby Contest Pavilion Collapse at Croop’s Glen


It was Jennifer O’Malia who introduced me to the concept of Urban Exploration

Style Photography in 2010.  Jenn, who has the unique vision of a

social documentarian, is now offering her services as a freelance photographer.

 Photo by Jennifer O’Malia 

Jenn Wedding

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click right HERE for more Croops Glen Updates!



Angela Park: An American Eulogy

The abandoned amusement park of your childhood memories is where I decided to stop one day. ”Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry” were the lyrics  I was singing on my way to the long rotting carcass that was once the local amusement venue known as “The Playground of Northeastern Pennsylvania “.  A hollowness hung in the air as I pulled up to the field primarily containing weeds and busted up concrete, where the remains of Northeast PA memories of happier times lay abandoned, desolate and for the most part, dejected.

So Bye-Bye Miss American Pie

How the residents loved Angela Park! Just read any number of the accounts by local historians and reporters to learn the facts about the rise and decline of this once popular roadside attraction that reads like a sadly typical American eulogy to lost community, prosperity, and small town life.

I’m not really concerned about our agreed upon history about this specific park. I feel that way about many of the places I explore, much to the bewilderment of many local history buffs. I’m always interested in something different than facts about a long gone past. I’m concerned about the history of “just yesterday” and “now”.

I think that we often forget that history evolves, and while we can’t change the past, we can choose how to shape our present and future history. History is a verb, or it can be if we choose to make it into one. And how we choose to interpret events as they occur, often tells us unspoken truths about ourselves and society at that moment in time, if we care enough to listen.

This Used to Be My Playground

Standing at the park entrance, I longed to hear the clatter of the wooden roller coaster followed by happy shrieks as the cars crest and swoosh. I would have loved to see the electric sparkle on the ceiling of the bumper car pavilion and to catch a whiff of the mixture of greasy French fries, cotton candy, diesel fuel, and chlorine in the air. That’s the stuff memories are made of!

I could still smell that scent of pine that you would experience every time you rode the train near the picnic grove. But as far as I could tell, that was the only recognizable trait left from my memory of Angela Park since the burning charcoal and the picnickers left long ago.

I’ve visited abandoned places to photograph them before, but none that had been a part of my childhood experience. It really mattered to me that I’d been there to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl and Carousel. I have fond memories of what seemed like a cutting edge arcade during the pre—Wii and XBOX era. Angela Park was a fun place to spend a day with family or friends that we all had easy access to, back when we had a real sense of shared community. During those times, small towns across the nation had local amusement parks to go to during a simpler era when even the annual broadcasts of the Wizard of Oz or Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory were popular shared cultural events among millions of households with children.

As I stand there and look out at this amusement park from my childhood memories, it looks back at me, all neglected and ugly. Being there felt unsettling because all I could see was what wasn’t there anymore. Then I realized that this place still had life. Maybe not necessarily pleasant signs of life—but life just the same. It was hard to tell if that rustle in the weeds was a snake, a rat, or maybe a cute little bunny retreating as I moved closer.

People still come to the ruins of Angela Park as evidenced by the makeshift skateboard park which they’ve built, like good little recyclers, by re-purposing the abandoned pieces of lumber and wide concrete pads where concessions, games or rides once stood. At least the things the last community left behind are being used by others to try to construct some sense of community for themselves.

Somehow, abandoned places always take on a sometimes infinite number of second lives. Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, an abandoned jail turned museum, has an artist installation paying homage to this concept called The Ghost Cats which represents a testimony to survival as it calls attention to the lives of a colony of cats that took over the building for 28 years after it was abandoned as a jail in 1971.

Recorded accounts of Angela Park’s first attempt at second life, during the 1990’s and into the early part of the new millennium, are portrayed as a Twilight Zone-esque creepy-carnival-nightmare-come-true with descriptions of graffiti covered buildings where local “Goths” would hang out and frighten the local community with their drawings of six-pointed stars and drug references, potentially holding astral-crossing seances—whatever that means! This was also the time of national panic about school children who dressed in black like the “The Trench Coat Mafia” at Columbine High School, with communities full of the kind of fear-mongering that led to the sort of witch hunt that resulted in the hasty conviction and imprisonment of the now free West Memphis Three.

But that was also a different era in our recent history, before the proliferation of Ritalin, before schools were required to offer Emotional Support in the classroom and before bands like Green Day  articulated the newly evolving teenage angst of millions of Jesus of Suburbia  -types living in their soul-sucking cul-de-sacs across the nation. This was the time prior to the national frenzy of worshiping the tragically cursed souls of vampire boys who sparkle, before the culture of the undead became fashionable, and before “Goth” became a label for kids who were usually intellectual in nature and prone to artistic divergences outside of mainstream culture.

It was during this era that Angela Park became a local monument to vandalism and indifference, full of “Big City” type graffiti—which was scary to small town minds because they didn’t know what it all meant. This was prior to graffiti becoming recognized as a legitimate form of art with museums and art galleries  featuring graffiti exhibits and Paloma Picasso  designing her graffiti inspired jewelry for Tiffany & Co.  According to reports prior to demolition, the arcade at Angela Park was supposedly the most graffiti covered structure of all, a fitting and cool tribute for an abandoned arcade. Those hometown graffiti artists deserve applause for a job well done.

Given the lack of understanding by the community at that time about the kids who hung out at the discarded park, and the fact that all good things must eventually come to an end, the remaining structures at Angela Park were razed. Sadly, a new, more organized purpose has yet to be realized on the property.

Second Life After Abandonment

In a perfect world, I’d like to think that communities have the insight and resources to listen to what abandoned locations are telling them about potential uses for the future. In the case of Angela Park, the obvious answer would be to turn it into a legitimate skate park. But since the prohibitive cost of insurance was a major contributing factor to the decline of the amusement park, it is unlikely that a skate park could ever be realized at the location due to the high cost of liability.

It would be wonderful if someone would redevelop the location as another community-centric space with a progressive twist such as a simple public graffiti park. It would be easy to plant some flowers, put up some benches and build a huge wall for the purpose of allowing local graffiti artists to showcase their craft. Graffiti happens, usually in inconvenient places. Why not create legitimate places for it? It could become a constantly changing art exhibit for the community, by the community, and the wall could be repainted or cleaned off at regular intervals (like the graffiti wall in front of Graceland) so that there is always room for more artwork on a regular basis. Just like history, art can also be a verb and has the power to bring communities together. In this current era of America’s post-industrial decline, communities are left with too many abandoned places, few resources for development and a complete lack of imagination when it comes to ideas for new uses for these spaces.

But whatever happens to the site of Angela Park in the future, the property, just like the community surrounding it, will constantly continue to change. As it stands now, Angela Park’s once proud Olympic size swimming pool holds trees instead of water, and the parking lot is well on its way to being eventually swallowed by the plants that have forced their way through cracks in the concrete. When humans fail to act, Mother Nature always reclaims her ground with the help of Father Time as he wears away the structural integrity of the objects that people leave behind.


For an update about the Park’s Ferris Wheel, click here:

Cheri Sundra

The Obligatory History of Angela Park

Angela Park opened during the summer of 1957 on Route 309 in Butler Township, just north of Hazleton, Pennsylvania. The amusement park started with only six rides which included a junior style wooden roller coaster built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. Throughout the years, a Paratrooper, Swinging Ship, Carousel, Spiral Slide, Scrambler, Ferris Wheel, Antique Cars, Tilt-A-Whirl, The Giant Slide, The Sky Ride, Tea Cups, an assortment of Kiddie Rides, The Swingin’ Gym, four refreshment stands, Porky the Paper Eater (an interactive pig-shaped trash receptacle that vacuumed paper through his mouth and told kids not to litter), several souvenir stands, a stage, an arcade, athletic fields, miniature golf, picnic facilities, and an Olympic size pool with changing facilities, lounge chair and diving boards helped the park earn the title the “Playground of Northeastern Pennsylvania”.

In 1985 the Barletta Family (the park was named after family matriarch Angela) sold the park to the Mirth Master Corporation, based in Downington, because the younger members of the family were not interested in operating the park. Less than three years later, Mirth Master filed for bankruptcy. The park closed after the 1988 season.

Several attempts to reopen the park failed. One attempt was led by Dr. Robert Childs of Hazleton, who hoped the park could continue as a nonprofit organization. Sadly, the park was put on the auction block in March of 1990 and the rides were auctioned off.

The structures at the park fell into disrepair and were vandalized after the park closed. The location was used for several years in the late 1990s as a training facility for the Lackawanna Junior College Police Training program.

In 2004, all remaining structures were demolished. All that remains at the location today are a few concrete footers, crumbling pavement, and a swimming pool filled with dirt and plant life. According to Wikipedia, the land is currently owned by New Land Development of Lackawanna County. Fishing is permitted on the property by courtesy of the landowner.

***All nostalgic images of Angela Park were captured by photographing a brochure from the collection of the Luzerne County Historical Society


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Cheri Sundra © 2011
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Croop’s Glen: “Lost” Amusement Park

Abandoned Pennsylvania: Croop's Glen (24), Luzerne County, Route 11

You could drive right past the ruins of Croop’s Glen Park daily without even realizing that an amusement park once thrived right on Route 11, near Nanticoke, in Hunlock Creek.  The ravages of time and nature, along with the valley where the remains are situated, help to keep the location protected from prying human eyes, unless those eyes are already aware of the park’s existence.


(Luzerne County) Abandoned Amusement Park Entrance Sign: Croop's Glen  {EXPLORED}
The park was opened in 1908 by B. Frank Croop when it was primarily used as a  picnic area with the stream and waterfall as the park’s main attraction.

Abandoned Pennsylvania: Croop's Glen (19), Luzerne County
Between 1926 and 1927, two wooden roller coasters were added.  There was a full size coaster named Twister, and one Kiddie Coaster.  Other attractions added to Croop’s Glenn were a whip, carrousel, bumper cars, a dance pavilion plus a swimming pool.  During the 1928 season, Croop’s Glen advertised parking for 2000 cars.  The park was closed in 1943 because of the conservation efforts for World War II and rising insurance costs.  The dance pavilion was converted into a skating rink which was commercially successful until it burned down in the early 1950’s.
Abandoned Pennsylvania: Croop's Glen Amusement Park (68)  Route 11
There are just a few remnants left of Croop’s Glen Park– a rusted sign at the entrance and a few tattered buildings—and once they disappear,  Croop’s Glen will become another lost chapter in the history of  Luzerne County.


Abandoned Pennsylvania: Croop's Glen Amusement Park (outhouse)  Route 11 poster-style HDR {EXPLORED}

Since posting this article, I’ve had some people contact me with some new information about Croop’s Glen. 

Baby Contest Pavilion Collapse at Croop’s Glen 


Lost History Found: Pictures of the Park when Open


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Cheri Sundra © 2010
All Rights Reserved

Kirby Park Zoo : Take A Walk With History

My article about the Kirby Park Zoo is now available at Independent NEPA Magazine at:

Take A Walk With History

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Cheri Sundra © 2010
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Hanson’s Amusement Park: Abandoned but Not Forgotten Ruins

All photos are from June 15, 2010

Located on Harvey’s Lake, in Luzerne County Pennsylvania, this site opened in 1891 as the old Lehigh Valley Railroad Picnic Grounds. Early attractions at this location included a carousel, bowling alley, dance hall, a small roller coaster and an arcade.

Roller Coaster Skeleton

The Hanson family purchased the park in the mid 1930s after the addition of a Pretzel dark ride, which was later renamed Pirate’s Cove. The family continued to add numerous attractions to the park such as a skating ring, Ferris Wheel, Whip, and a kiddie land with boats, pony carts and fire engines.

Interest in the park started to decline during the 1970s. In 1980, when the “Speed Hound” roller coaster shut down because of structural damage, the park lost the ability to draw much of a crowd. The park closed after the 1984 season and its contents were auctioned off. In local newspapers, Don Hanson attributes the decision to close the park to the fact the liability insurance skyrocketed in 1984. For a few years after the park closed, a Bud Light Amphitheater operated on the picnic grounds.

To see more abandoned places in NEPA, visit my collection at:

Cheri Sundra © 2010
All Rights Reserved

Bud Light Amphitheater Remains

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