A picture is worth a thousand words but also can leave some simply speechless.
"I remember walking downtown with my mother when I was little and just thinking about how beautiful it was," Elena Castrignano said, describing Wilkes-Barre. "To see the photographs of those buildings now … They were just incredible, breathtaking. Some of the buildings were just so magnificent, but now they're all gone."
The 50-year-old Hanover Township resident and Luzerne County Community College librarian is helping to preserve the images from her youth by working with Arcadia Publishing, a company that preserves the past through book series in various categories, such as "Then and Now," "Postcard History," "Images of Rail" and "Legendary Locals," that focus on specific regions in the United States.
One of the most popular series is "Images of America," which records a town's or city's story through more than 200 historic images. Castrignano's Wilkes-Barre title will publish in December, and a book focusing on Mountain Top will be released Aug. 27.
Castrignano's first title with Arcadia, however, is "Wilkes-Barre Postcard History."
"I began collecting vintage postcards as a way to connect with a fellow library worker who had an interest in them," she said. "I ended up getting a lot of them off eBay and had a large collection, which eventually turned into a book."
One of the most surprising finds for Castrignano is now in that book.
"I never knew it, but there was a greenhouse on the River Common that was built after the courthouse was built, as a shadow of the courthouse, similar style. They grew all the plants for the city parks there."
The "Images of America, Wilkes-Barre" book will still focus on local structures but includes people of the city as well.
"There were so many people that made a difference in the world that lived right here," she said. "Lyman Howe, who lived on Riverside Drive, created one of the first moving pictures by taking pictures from a biplane."
Castrignano said she hopes to continue to put together more photo books and would like to focus next on the West Side.
Arcadia depends on authors like Castrignano to produce books. Though they sometimes seek out authors in certain places, it often happens that authors come to them. Arcadia has a hand in making sure the story the author wants to present flows well and does the material justice. Staffers also ensure that all images are "translated through current technology to meet the rigors of modern publishing, while still maintaining the charm of the original image," said Chanler Jeffers, sales and marketing specialist for the North and Mid-Atlantic regions, but, ultimately, it's in the author's hands.
Like Castrignano, Arcadia wants to ensure people are aware of the history that surrounds them and able to take it all in.
"Our books not only provide a source of information about how things used to be but also provide a sense of comfort to those who remember," Jeffers said. "Many times grandparents will purchase books for their grandchildren to show the younger generation where they came from and what things were like then. Other times, books will be purchased as gifts for older people, who then become absorbed in the memories they produce.
"Some of my favorite calls after a book releases come from people who have discovered a photo they had never seen before of a family member, because the book suddenly gives them back a tiny piece of their loved one who is gone.
"We want to remember a simpler time and preserve the wisdom of those who have gone before us."
All books are priced at $21.99 and can be purchased at or ordered through local bookstores or www.arcadiapublishing.com.
• "Wilkes-Barre Postcard History." Vintage postcards chronicle the evolution of Wilkes-Barre and surrounding towns, building by building. By Elena Castrignano.
This collection of historical-society photographs paints the picture of a town that began in 1748 and saw great growth thanks to the anthracite industry. Author Chester J. Zaremba is vice president and secretary/treasurer of the Nanticoke Historical Society.
• "Around Hazleton Postcard History"
Once called the jewel of Pennsylvania's middle anthracite coal fields, Hazleton today retains no evidence of such an industry, but it's remembered through this book, a source of information about not only Hazleton but surrounding towns. Historical writer/researcher Richard W. Funk authored two long-running newspaper series dealing with the old towns of Carbon, Luzerne and Schuylkill counties.
This book tells the tale of the Electric City, once the nation's third-largest steel manufacturer, and its rising industrialization. Several authors contributed to this book. Cheryl A. Kashuba, a freelance writer, serves as a Lackawanna Heritage Valley ambassador, Darlene Miller-Lanning is director of the Hope Horn Gallery at the University of Scranton, and Alan Sweeney is president of the Lackawanna Historical Society.
• "Pennsylvania's Back Mountain"
This book focuses on Kingston Township, Trucksville, Shavertown, Dallas, Huntsville, Lehman Township, and Harveys Lake and is a compilation of rare photographs that reveal the bygone era of amusement parks, hotels, railroads and steamboats.
Authored by Harrison Wick, who was an archivist for three years at Misericordia University and served on the Back Mountain Historical Association steering committee. He is the special-collections librarian and university archivist at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
• Luzerne County
Photographs provided by the Luzerne County Historical Society depict businesses, churches, coal culture, street scenes, area disasters, entertainment, railroads, steamboats and veterans, including the last survivor of the Battle of Wyoming in 1778 and the Civil War from a county that began its settlement in 1769.
Authored by Harrison Wick
• "Italians of Northeastern Pennsylvania"
This book focuses on the Italians of the region, who proudly celebrate their heritage through many traditional events, such as La Festa Italiana, La Corsa dei Ceri in Jessup and Dunmore's procession in honor of St. Rocco.
This collection of photographs shows how the Italian immigrants of the area became well-respected community leaders.
Authored by Stephanie Longo, a 1999 graduate of Bishop O'Hara High School who holds a bachelor's degree in Italian and French and a master's degree in history and a master's degree in journalism. She is a correspondent for the local publication Go Lackawanna.
Vintage photographs illustrate the town's history, which has come a long way from the small village named Bucktown to its 150th anniversary, which is celebrated this year.
Authored by Stephanie Longo.
Yet to be published:
• Wilkes-Barre, by Elena Castrignano and the Luzerne County Historical Society. To be published Dec. 10.
This book takes a look at Wilkes-Barre from its inception to now, including not only structural standouts but many public figures who were important to the area.
• Mountain Top, by Joseph Kubic, Darlene Miller-Lanning and the Mountain Top Historical Society. To be published Aug. 27.
Mountain Top's history is rich, beginning with settlers who established lumber camps, sawmills, and farms and having grown into a suburban community of nearly 17,000 people.