By Mary Therese Biebel, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
Downtown Residents Associations plan Wilkes-Barre house tour
WILKES-BARRE — Walk along South Franklin Street in downtown Wilkes-Barre and you can admire flower beds in front yards, decorative wreaths on doors, maybe even a fountain statue of a cherubic child clutching a fish.
But, did you ever want to see what’s behind the big wooden doors of some of the grand old homes?
High ceilings, you might expect. Wide staircases. Hardwood floors. Perhaps a china closet built into a wall, or a story about the original owners.
If you’re curious, you’re in luck. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 24 the Downtown Residents Association is holding a self-guided tour of seven downtown residents plus First Presbyterian Church. The first place to visit is the Mary Stegmaier Mansion, 156 South Franklin St., where you can pick up a map and information about the other stops on the tour.
The tour costs $25 in advance, $30 on the day of the event. For an additional $25, you are invited to lunch at the Mary Stegmaier Mansion, which owner Joseph Matteo has carefully restored, in keeping with the grandeur of the Frederick Stegmaier Mansion, just down the street.
If people stay for the optional lunch, Matteo said, it’s likely to include croissants with tuna salad and chicken salad, soup, a green salad, dessert and punch.
But, whether or not they sign up for lunch, house tour visitors will be able to see the Mary Stegmaier Mansion’s solarium, ballroom and lots of natural woodwork.
The mansion is from the Edwardian era, Downtown Residents Association member Tony Brooks said, “So if you want to experience what the beginning of “Downton Abbey” was like, this building will take you back to the era.”
“You will literally see what beer has built,” he said, referring to the brewery that increased the Stegmaier fortune.
Other parts of the tour that will greatly interest people, he predicted, are the Hillard House on West River Street, which dates back to the 1860s and has a single-passenger elevator, and a private residence on South Franklin Street that served three generations of the McClintock family before it became a women’s dormitory for what was then Wilkes College.
“I can imagine the women who lived there when it used to be a women’s dormitory would be excited to see what it looks like now,” he said.
And, whether you lived there or not, you’d probably be fascinated by the stained glass ceiling in the kitchen, a room once used as a library.
Tour participant Pat Parks, who will welcome people to her historic home on South Franklin Street, said she is eager to show people some of the beautiful aspects of Wilkes-Barre.
Free parking for the tour is available at the Guard Insurance Co. parking lot, 24 S. River St., and in any of Wilkes University’s parking lots.
For reservations call 570-826-0410 or 570-814-5848.