Imagine South Wilkes-Barre without the flood prone Solomon Creek.
If city officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had their way in the first half of the 20th Century, Solomon Creek would have been redirected through Hanover Township.
But those plans for whatever reason were not pursued.
Instead, today’s elected officials are faced with replacing the deteriorating, crumbling wall that channels the creek through the southern tip of Wilkes-Barre and maintaining the four specially built bridges on South Franklin, Regent, Barney and Waller streets.
During the 1910s and again in the 1930s, city leaders and engineers with the Army Corps wanted to re-channel Solomon Creek taking it out of South Wilkes-Barre.
Their plan called for a new channel to be constructed beginning on East Division Street near the current day Fraternal Order of Police lodge. The proposed channel would had been adjacent to train tracks of the Central Railroad of New Jersey that passed through manmade open cuts in the ground, under the South Main Street trestle to Lee Park where it would have flowed into a natural spring creek near the former Lee Park Little League field and back into Solomon Creek behind McDonald’s Restaurant on the Sans Souci Parkway.
If the plan was put in motion, open cuts in the ground for the railroad would have been widened to accommodate the creek in addition to a tunnel approximately 1,300 feet long, 40 feet below the surface near the modern day Hanover Village apartment complex, which was farmland in the 1910s.
A story published in the Times Leader on July 22, 1919, reported plans to redirect Solomon Creek was first talked about after the creek flooded many houses in 1911.
“The work will consume two or three years and the city’s burden of the expense will be $125,000, while the entire work would cost about $500,000,” the Times Leader reported July 22, 1919.
Consider this, today’s city leaders are planning to replace the crumbling channel walls at a cost of about $15 million.
After Solomon Creek flooded in 1933, the current walls from South Franklin Street to Division Street near Carey Avenue was constructed during the Great Depression as part of the Works Progress Administration at a cost of $200,000, according to a story in the Wilkes-Barre Record newspaper on Feb. 2, 1935.
The 1933 flood also reignited plans to change the course of the creek.
This time, two proposals were discussed in the mid-1930s.
One proposal followed the same route as planned in 1919, while another plan took the creek into Sugar Notch .
“The plan, as outlined, would involve a dam or spillway at or near the southerly side of Fall Street in Ashley, and a new channel from that point, extending to a location between Preston and Sugar Notch, where it would join Alles Creek, and continue on to Askam and follow a natural course to the river,” according to a story published Feb. 1, 1935 in the Times Leader.
An old Luzerne County map showed Alles Creek flowed in the general area of where the South Cross Valley Expressway was constructed.
The Wilkes-Barre Record reported city engineers in 1935 did not want to totally eliminate Solomon Creek in South Wilkes-Barre, as they believed the creek was needed for storm water runoff.
Multiple stories from the early 1900s suggest city leaders had a difficult time in how to control flooding by Solomon Creek. Citizens often complained at city council meetings, reporting the creek was filled with raw sewage, dead chickens and cattle, and was a dumping ground for coal companies.
Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Company used steam shovels to dredge the creek’s bed, and offered to replace the entire length of the creek’s earthen bed with concrete, a Times Leader story reported on Dec. 7, 1917.