WILKES-BARRE — An anthracite mining art gallery and a tribute to Father Josef Murgas and Mr. Peanut playing the glockenspiel are just some of the historical highlights of the new King’s College medical building — King’s on the Square — coming to the former Ramada Hotel.
The $17 million project is nearing completion. Contractor John Panzitta said the building on Public Square will be ready for students at the start of the school year.
“It’s a total transformation,” Panzitta said of the project. “And not just a physical transformation. There will be a transformation of people as well.”
Freddie Pettit, vice president for institutional advancement at King’s College, said with completion of the first phase of the revitalization of the northwest anchor corner of Public Square into King’s on the Square fast approaching, “a dynamic and vibrant center for learning and living” will soon be in the heart of Wilkes-Barre’s downtown.
John McAndrew, spokesman for King’s, said about 500 students will be centered at the new facility — between bachelor’s and master’s programs in Physician Assistant Studies, Exercise Science (new major) and Athletic Training. The capacity for residential students on the top three floors — 6th, 7th and 8th — is approximately 200. Floors 3 through 5 have been mothballed for now, Panzitta said.
According to Panzitta, 36,000 square feet of space on the first floor will house the physician’s assistant department, exercise science and athletic training, in addition to the student cafe in the former Tiffany Room and offices and labs. A gross anatomy lab is also on the first floor, along with state-of-the-art lecture halls, study rooms, faculty offices and a locker room.
There is an outdoor dining patio off of the student dining room and the second floor houses classrooms and offices.
The top three floors offer great views of the city from the dormitory suites that have one and two bedroom units. There is a laundry room and student lounge and a third elevator is being added to make access easier.
Every floor from 2 through 8 contains 12,000 square feet of space, Panzitta said. The athletic training department is located on the second floor with offices and classrooms. The former Keenan’s Pub will now be an exercise science lab, he said.
Panzitta said students will enter from the side entrance that faces the parkade, but the main entrance off Public Square will remain to allow easy access for visitors.
The entire corridor on the first floor will feature an anthracite art display of acrylic paintings done by local artist Sue Hand of Dallas. Hand said she painted 300 anthracite scenes and 203 were purchased by former King’s College board chairman Jim Burke who donated them to the college for the display. She said a few other people who also purchased paintings from the collection decided to donate them to King’s as well.
Pettit said the collection — “The Anthracite Miners and Their Hollowed Ground” — is a 203-piece collection of artwork that tells the story of the anthracite mining history.
“The collection is believed to be the only art collection representing the entire history of an industry,” Pettit said. “The college is also working with other benefactors in connection with the presentation and display of other works.”
Hand grew up in the Back Mountain area, but she said she really didn’t know much about the local mining industry, other than she remembered large breakers that were very noisy and she recalled the Knox Mine Disaster.
While Panzitta said Kraft Foods has given permission to use a likeness of the iconic Mr. Peanut to ring the glockenspiel on the building, Pettit said King’s is considering a variety of options for characters that will be displayed as part of the refurbishment of the glockenspiel.