By Katie Pugh, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
Luzerne Foundation holds ‘Restore IT!’
DALLAS — Area residents enjoyed live music, games and food on Sunday, all in an effort to save one of downtown Wilkes-Barre’s skyline’s most prominent features.
The Luzerne Foundation held “Restore IT!” at the Irem Pavilion to raise funds to save the Irem Temple building.
The 1906 building, a large space on North Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre with four iconic spires that reach into the city’s skyline, is one of the most nation’s most significant examples of Moorish revival architecture, according to the Foundation officials.
“The event today is to bring awareness primarily to what we’re trying to do with the Irem Temple building,” said Christian Wielage, president of the Irem Temple Restoration Project. “The project is to take the existing auditorium, which from the 1930s to the 1980s was the primary theater in Wilkes-Barre, and what we want to do is return the main auditorium to its original flat configuration so you have a big, open 6,000-square-foot room where you can have weddings, vendor events and bands that don’t want seats in a theater.”
Wilkes-Barre Councilman and local historian Tony Brooks is also a member of the project.
“The Irem Temple has to do with what my vision of what Wilkes-Barre and what a community should be like. Part of that is historic preservation,” he said. “Part of what separates Wilkes-Barre from Scranton, from Allentown, from Philadelphia, from any other city is its historic buildings. That’s what makes it unique.
“To make Wilkes-Barre a beautiful community is to preserve its uniqueness.”
Brooks added that saving the Irem Temple could help all of Wilkes-Barre.
“In the 1970s, you would not want to go to Jim Thorpe. Jim Thorpe is now the textbook case of the turnaround from a couple generations that is now a little town from a postcard. We can do that in Wilkes-Barre, there just has to be the willpower, the vision and the leadership to take it to the next level,” he said.
The Luzerne Foundation is accepting donations for the project at luzernefoundation.org.