Old Wilkes-Barre train station boards new life as Luzerne County Visitors Bureau
From a press release:
A 154-year-old building on the outskirts of downtown Wilkes-Barre that spent time as a historic train station and even a nightclub has reopened after more than a decade, welcoming residents and visitors alike as the new home of Visit Luzerne County.
Opening to the public on Feb. 14, the remodeled office features an expanded visitors area with more than 100 free pamphlets, brochures, and booklets highlighting all there is to see and do in Luzerne County and throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. Tourists can also pick up a free copy of the Visit Luzerne County Visitors Guide, a 40-page booklet packed with information and color photos highlighting local attractions.
The guest area serves as a homage to the history of the building while highlighting some of the current attractions in the region. There are two giant canvas prints of the train station, dating back approximately 100 years, displayed on each side of the lobby. There are also framed prints featuring Mohegan Sun Arena, the F.M. Kirby Center, kayaking on the Susquehanna River, Eckley Miners’ Village, Mohegan Sun Pocono, and Rockin’ the River at the River Common, as well images of local historical sites. There is also a giant cut-out of Mr. Peanut, referencing the founding of Planters in Wilkes-Barre, and nods to the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Additionally, there is a 9-foot color image of a waterfall at Ricketts Glen State Park.
“We are thrilled to be at our new home inside the historic train station. It’s a move that the visitors bureau had been hoping to do for many years, and it was an honor and a privilege to have been able to witness the renovations and to have been a part of it. Our compliments to George Albert, the owner and developer of the property. It’s been a very smooth transition,” said Alan K. Stout, executive director of Visit Luzerne County.
“This is an iconic building here in Luzerne County. That alone gives the office of Visit Luzerne County much higher visibility in our own community. And it makes it a fun and interesting place to visit for people coming from outside the region looking information. The building alone is a wonderful conversation piece; it’s in a high-profile location, and we can now offer our guests plenty of free parking.”
The new headquarters also has a new address. The address was, at one time, on Wilkes-Barre Boulevard, but it is actually the back of the building that faces the boulevard. Knowing that visitors might use a GPS to find the visitors center, Visit Luzerne County worked with Albert, the county, and the city of Wilkes-Barre to have the previously unnamed road that runs in front of the building named “Old Train Station Road.” Using a GPS, this will eventually bring guests directly to the parking lot of Visit Luzerne County. The address is now 200 Old Train Station Road, Wilkes-Barre, PA, 18702.
The history of the train station dates back to 1868, when it was originally constructed for the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad. In 1871, it came under control of the Central Railroad of New Jersey and became well-known for its passenger trains. In 1882, the first parlor cars were run from Wilkes-Barre to Philadelphia, and the finest luxurious Pullman cars were also run between Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and New York. Passenger service ceased in 1963 and the station closed in 1972. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Throughout the 1980s, ’90s and early 2000s, the renovated train station – then called The Station and Market Street Square – was a popular nightclub, restaurant, and hotel. It sat empty for approximately 15 years and was renovated again in 2021 to become the current bureau of Visit Luzerne County.
Future plans for the building include a 3×7 digital billboard, which will be located on Wilkes-Barre Boulevard and will highlight upcoming events in Luzerne County. A smaller digital display will also be placed inside the guest area. An official grand opening/ribbon cutting event for the new home of Visit Luzerne County will be held in the spring.
Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. As per COVID-19 guidelines implemented by Luzerne County, all visitors to county offices must wear a mask until further notice.
“When you come into our guest area, you’ll find more than 100 different pamphlets, booklets, and brochures on the various activities and attractions that can be found in Luzerne County and Northeastern Pennsylvania. And you’ll see some great photographs of some of our biggest attractions. But well beyond that, our greatest resource is our staff,” Stout noted.
“Everyone here is a native of Luzerne County and has years of professional experience in celebrating and promoting all that is good about our region. If someone comes in looking for specific information on activities and attractions, or suggestions for restaurants or hotel accommodations, we can help. That’s what we do. That’s why we’re here. And we have a wonderful staff.”