The city has announced that drivers in Wilkes-Barre may experience traffic delays today near the Hotel Sterling. Verizon crews will be on-site completing work underground at Market and River Streets beginning at 7 a.m.
Traffic controls will be in the area with flaggers on both Market and River Streets. Market Street traffic entering the city will be most impacted by this work and it is expected to continue throughout most of the day.
WILKES-BARRE — Years ago someone termed the Sterling Hotel a “magnificent wreck.” That was before years of neglect caused the once-grand hotel to, as a city inspector said, “come down from the inside out.” On Thursday, Brdaric Construction Co. will begin taking down the condemned seven-story structure on North River Street from the outside. The Luzerne-based company has moved all of its heavy equipment onto the site, and when the whistle blows at 7 a.m., the 115-year-old building will be taken down piece by piece. “It's going to go slow,” said John Brdaric, owner of the company. “It's not like we're imploding it. This will take three to four weeks to get down.” Brdaric said traffic patterns won't change much until the demolition gets to the River Street side of the building. At that time, traffic delays and stops will occur. Butch Frati, the city's director of operations, has advised motorists to avoid that area. “We just want to get the job done and do it safely,” Brdaric said. Reality setting in Sally Healey, who headed a group that fought to save the Sterling, said she won't be around when the demolition begins. “It's still difficult,” she said. “The Sterling coming down symbolizes the attitude of the county and of the city of not restoring historical buildings.” And, Healey said, surely the Sterling was historic. But she and Fred George, a 22-year employee of the Sterling, won't bear witness to demolition. “Instead, I will be thinking of all the great times that so many of us had at the Sterling,” Healey said. “It's over and it's sad. And it's just too bad we couldn't turn this all around.” George said he might stop by today to take a last look at the place he calls his second home. “What could I do?” he wondered. “I prefer to remember it as it was. I can't watch it come down — it hurts too much.” History erased Some historical items already removed from the Sterling have been taken to the Luzerne County Historical Society's Swetland Homestead in Forty Fort. Also, a magnificent chandelier that hung in the Sterling lobby has found a home at Canteen 900 on Rutter Avenue. Owner of the building that houses the restaurant Abby Billek-Singh bought the 800-pound chandelier — made of cut crystal — through Traver's Auctions in Dallas and had it restored. He said he paid around $1,500 for it and it took a month to restore it. In a 2002 a Times Leader story about an auction held to sell some of the hotel items, former Sterling owner June Camera said she fell in love with the hotel when her husband bought it and dreamed of playing a part in restoring it. CityVest, a nonprofit developer, purchased the shuttered Sterling for $1 million at a tax sale but was unable to find a developer to renovate it.