Wilkes-Barre agrees to aid quest, but official points out condemned building is still privately owned.

Last updated: April 18. 2013 12:01AM - 5025 Views

Mary Ann Rizzo said she wants an artifact from the Hotel Sterling to have framed to give her parents who spent their honeymoon there decades ago.
Mary Ann Rizzo said she wants an artifact from the Hotel Sterling to have framed to give her parents who spent their honeymoon there decades ago.
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WILKES-BARRE — Like many who had a connection to the Hotel Sterling, Mary Ann Rizzo wants a piece of the landmark building now slated for demolition.

Rizzo, of Berwick, drove to Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday to get a look at the once-grand hotel on at North River and Market streets where her parents spent their honeymoon night about 65 years ago. They stayed one night and then traveled to Harveys Lake for a week of camping.

Rizzo wants to present her parents, who are in their late 80s, with a framed Sterling artifact for their anniversary celebration in Georgia in July. She has asked the city many times to help her and she is supposed to receive something — perhaps a decorative tile — at a private meeting Friday at City Hall.

The city agreed to help her after a Times Leader reporter made inquiries.

The city has been reluctant to agree to publicize accommodating her request. City Administrative Coordinator Drew McLaughlin said once word gets out that Rizzo’s request was granted, the city would be inundated with hundreds of similar requests.

McLaughlin said the current legal owner of the building and the property is CityVest, a nonprofit corporation that tried unsuccessfully to preserve and market the Sterling.

“They can make a decision about to who and how they will dispense their own property,” he said. “At this time, the city is focused on completing the demolition — not acquiring title until the hazard has been removed.”

The city had no say in how the $6 million Luzerne County community development loan was spent by CityVest under the direction of the county, McLaughlin said.

CityVest officials have kept a low profile since the city condemned the hotel in 2011 because of structural problems.

The seven-story Sterling was built in 1897 and opened in 1898, but in recent decades it had deteriorated and has been shuttered for years. CityVest is the owner of record.

“At the current time, the building and land are privately owned,” he said. “It’s not our building or property.”

McLaughlin said anybody interested in obtaining a “piece of history” should contact CityVest. Several calls to CityVest and to its spokesman, Alex Rogers, were not returned.

“The city has an artifact already in possession from the building that was not used for the display case and we can give that to the Rizzo family,” McLaughlin said.

Tony Brooks, director of development and public relations at the Luzerne County Historical Society, said several granite and copper pieces of the Sterling are in the organization’s possession for safekeeping and future display. He said he has not received any inquiries from people seeking artifacts from the soon-to-be-demolished building.

“It’s important to our family and it would be a nice memento to commemorate my parents’ 65th wedding anniversary,” Rizzo said. “It’s a nice way to remember where they began their married life together.”

Rizzo was hoping to be able to locate the guest registry from the hotel, but her search turned up no leads. He parents were married on July 3, 1948, in Darby near Philadelphia and took a bus to Wilkes-Barre to stay at the Sterling.

Rizzo’s father grew up in Pittston and he and his wife spent their early married years there. They have five children and six grandchildren.

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