Despite its relative nearness to New York City and Philadelphia, settlers did not penetrate these mountains and put down roots until 1802. Originally the city was called Ragged Island, then Barrendale. The true pioneers of the upper Lackawanna River Valley were brothers from Philadelphia, William and Maurice Wurts, who believed the anthracite (hard) coal they found in the region could produce cheap energy as well as the popular bituminous (soft) coal of the day. They staged a demonstration in New York City and found enough subscribers in their enterprise to send their “Black Gold” out of the Moosic Mountains to New York to form America’s first private million-dollar corporation.
By 1828 the Wurts’ Delaware and Hudson Canal Company had hand-dug and blasted a 108-mile canal from Honesdale to Kingston, New York, an engineering marvel that would ignite the growth of the region. In June 1831, the first underground Anthracite Coal mine in the United States was opened near the base of Seventh Avenue. Washington Irving, a famous author, and Philip Hone, founder of Honesdale, Pennsylvania have been credited by many with choosing the name of Carbondale, “carbon” meaning coal discovered here and “dale” meaning valley.
Still the coal had to be moved from Carbondale over the Moosic Mountains to the head of the canal in Honesdale. The Delaware & Hudson solved this problem by means of a “gravity railroad.’’ Cars loaded with coal were hauled up on tracks on a series of planes, or inclines, to the top of Farview by stationary steam engines, then lowered by gravity down planes on the other side to the town of Waymart, finally coasting on a steady downgrade into Honesdale. Empty cars were brought back to Waymart by horse or mule.
The city boomed. By 1851 Carbondale had over 5,000 citizens and was incorporated on March 15, 1851, making it the oldest (the “Pioneer”) city in Lackawanna County, PA, and the fourth oldest city (after Philadelphia, Lancaster, and York) in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Carbondale grew and prospered from the mining industry. Many Europeans from different backgrounds traveled to the New World in search of great opportunities and found it all here in Carbondale. Mining remained the chief economic source in the city until the late 1940s and early 1950s when light manufacturing became the new economic lifeblood of the community.
Our walking tour will begin at the site of a former grand train station near the world’s first underground anthracite coal mine where there is abundant parking...
Delaware and Hudson Canal
behind Main Street parking lot
Carbondale once hosted six train stations - a grand one built in 1895 stood on this site. Passenger service to Carbondale ended on January 4, 1952 and the station burned to the ground on July 3, 1970. Lackawanna Heritage Valley constructed the present platform to greet tourists traveling from Steamtown National Historic Site.
FOLLOW THE TRACKS OVER TO SEVENTH AVENUE AND TURN RIGHT.
Coal Mine Monument
north side of Seventh Avenue
This monument marks the site of America’s first underground coal mine. The city founders, the Wurt brothers, opened the mine in June of 1831.
RETURN TO THE PARKING LOT AND WALK OUT TO RIVER STREET. TURN LEFT.
Trinity Episcopal Church
58 River Street
The Episcopalian church organized in 182, one of the earliest in Carbondale; the first service at this location took place on July 17, 1842. The present stone church replaced the original wooden structure in 1901. Several of the stained glass windows are from the original church. Four of the windows were signed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and three others were made by John LaFarge, a Tiffany protege.
CROSS THE LACKAWANNA RIVER ON SIXTH AVENUE. TURN LEFT ON MAIN STREET.
Carbondale City Hall
1 North Main Street
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this Romanesque Revival red-brick municipal building was designed by Truman I. Lacey around the original two-story structure to the rear by changing the roof, adding the three-story wing and incorporating the signature clock tower. The home for city government offices opened in 1894.
Miners & Mechanics Savings Bank Building
19 North Main Street
The Miners & Mechanics Savings Bank opened for business in 1871 and moved into this Neoclassical vault, designed by Edward Langley, in 1914. The bank failed in 1931 after a run through the Ionic columns. Today the building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is now the home of Adams Cable Television.
Pioneer Dime Bank Building
27 North Main Street
This ornate Beaux Arts bank operated from 1904 until the 1970s. The building stands out of the Carbondale streetscape for its intricate detailing and stone carvings. During its life as a bank, large decorative coins embellished each side of the facade at the first floor. The Carbondale Chamber of Commerce now occupies the building.
Pennstar Bank Building
41 North Main Street
This fine example of Art Deco architecture has been in use as a bank since 1928. The building sports large stone eagles on the exterior facing Main Street and its meticulously restored lobby with marble floors, large windows and intricate chandelier.
55 North Main Street
The first visitors signed the Hotel American guest book in 1893. The four-story structure is made of Pocono sandstone, quarried near Forest City. The building features intricate decorative carvings in the facade.
Carbondale Post Office
69 North Main Street
The handsome Beaux Arts United State Post Office was built in 1911. It features an elaborate entranceway between Ionic columns and beneath a pair of carved eagles.
Ben Mar Restaurant
89 North Main Street
The Ben Mar Restaurant is the last remaining building from the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company Gravity Railroad. To the rear of the white-washed restaurant resided the Gravity Shops. The first facility was built in 1832. In 1857, a 14,000-square foot building was constructed here at the base of the railroad’s Plane 1 to provide machine and blacksmith work on rolling stock and other equipment. the facility served the D & H until 1955. Attempts at restoration were unsuccessful and the building was demolished in 1988.
82 North Main Street
In 1912, Catherine and Anna Alexander, daughters of a prominent Carbondale businessman, donated $10,000 for the establishment of the YMCA. Architect Boyd & Stewart, architects from Pittsburgh, won the commission and delivered this eight-bay Colonial Revival headquarters. Today the exterior of the building looks much as did when it was completed in 1914.
TURN LEFT ON CHURCH STREET.
southeast corner of Garfield and Church streets
This monument was placed in 1923 to mark the beginning of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company Gravity Railroad in its centennial year. The park stands at the foot of the Gravity Railroad’s Plane 1.
TURN AND WALK BACK INTO TOWN ON CHURCH STREET.
First Presbyterian Church
33 Lincoln Avenue on northwest corner of Church Street
The church was dedicated on April 1, 1889, built on the site of the town’s first foundry that was established in 1833 by Abiran Gurney and Alanson Reed. The building was devastated by fire on August 21, 1968 and was rebuilt over a two-year period.
First Presbyterian Church
76 Salem Avenue at southeast corner of Church Street
Founded in 1829, this was the first organized church in Carbondale and the oldest Presbyterian congregation in Lackawanna County. Four church buildings have stood on this site; the first appeared in 1834. The current Gothic-inspired structure dates to June 3, 1951.
First United Methodist Church
20 North Church Street
A single-story wood structure built in 1832 served as the first Methodist church on the site. In 1892 Edward Langley designed a new church that was soon destroyed by fire. The congregation rebuilt using the identical plans and incorporating bits and pieces salvaged from the rubble of the former building. The church was dedicated on March 8, 1903.
Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church
6 North Church Street
This is the third church to be built on this location. The first was constructed in 1832, the second a decade later. The present church, that serves one of the largest parishes in the Scranton diocese, was built in 1872.
TURN RIGHT AND WALK INTO MEMORIAL PARK.
between 6th and Park avenues
In the 1880s, under the leadership of William H. Davies Post 187 of the G.A.R. Memorial Park was established on the former Carbondale militia parade ground and a monument and fountain were erected to honor the veterans of the Civil War. Over the years, monuments were added to honor the memory of veterans of the Spanish American War, World War I and II, the Korean War and Vietnam conflict, along with plaques recognizing Patrick De Lacey and Lieutenant Joseph R. Sarnoski, both recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
CONTINUE WALKING STRAIGHT ON 6TH AVENUE BACK TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.