Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ALMOST TORN DOWN IN '80s SCRANTON'S LACKAWANNA HOTEL PROVIDES HOPE FOR CIVIC ARENA PRESERVATIONISTS



Today, "PITTSBURGH: THRU THE LENS OF GARY GAYDA" makes its' triumphant return to the computer airwaves of "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold" and in this re-inaugural segment our intrepid photographer, Gary Gayda, was given an assignment: Go and find the most beautiful old building in the state that was almost torn down.

I figured this would accomplish two things: First, it would help drive home my point about saving the Civic Arena. Second, it would create a good excuse for going to Scranton, PA. (that's where he found the building).

For those of you who are unknowing of the exact whereabouts of the home of the Baby Penguins, let me first tell you that it is located in one of the most scenic sections of this beautiful state of ours. Scranton is about six hours away from the Burgh, but it is among the most relaxing six hours you'll ever drive anywhere in the world.

LEFT: Tucked into the Northeastern corner of Pennsylvania lies the Wilkes Barre-Scranton area, home of the Baby Penguins and the Pocono Mountains.

Driving through State College and further east through the Pocono's and "Pennsylvania Wild" territory, you will see parts of the Keystone State that haven't changed much since William Penn first was given ownership. The forest, on these steeply-climbing mountains is very dense. I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like to be lost in them. Ah, never mind... cancel that thought.

Scranton itself is a very old town with many grand old buildings with dates on them from the mid-1800s. It is a very quiet, clean, well-maintained town that has the University of Scranton nestled right in the heart of the city.

Just adjacent to the University sits one of the grandest buildings in the state or anywhere, the Lackawanna Hotel (now a part of the Radisson chain).

                                        PB&G photo by Gary Gayda
ABOVE: Built in 1908 and once a former train station for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, the six story Lackawanna Hotel has been fully restored to its' original splendor. It took a few million bucks, but at least the people here figured out what they had! Those eagles on top are just spectacular!

                                                            PB&G photo by Gary Gayda
 ABOVE: Picture this: This beautiful floor, with some 300 pound construction worker with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, jack-hammering it up. Yeah, that makes sense!


                                       PB&G photo by Gary Gayda
ABOVE: The main lobby of the neo-classical former train station has been transformed into an elegant lounge area. On the day we were there, the Lackawanna was getting ready to host a wedding reception to be held in this area. Now there's a different use for an old space! ATTENTION PITTSBURGH PENGUINS, SPACES CAN BE REUSED!!!

                                                    PB&G photo by Gary Gayda
ABOVE AND BELOW: This is one of many exposed rivited trusses in the rear deck of what was the former train boarding area. This section has now been enclosed and converted into a bar. Notice the iconic exposed beam concept that has been preserved Pittsburgh! In Scranton, people aren't afraid to reuse old buildings with character. It takes money, but they do it.

                                                                PB&G photos by Gary Gayda
ABOVE: Beautiful frescoes line the main ballroom bathed in warm light. Picture this: A wrecking ball slamming through the middle of this artwork. This nice image brought to you by the Penguin's President, David Morehouse.

                                                        PB&;G photo by Gary Gayda
ABOVE: A gorgeous ceiling capped off with a mosaic of windows. Yeah, I'd tear this down, sure. Let's put a mall here, that's a great idea! Especially if some developer pays us millions to do it! Hey, it's valuable property!!!

EPILOGUE: The people of Pittsburgh can learn a lot from the lesson of the Lackawanna Hotel. This place was almost torn down back in the 80's! We cannot let that happen to another grand old iconic building...The Pittsburgh Civic Arena. The Lackawanna was saved, and the Arena can be too. But it will take creativity and Pittsburghers letting their voices be heard!!!