The Hotel Sterling is being razed. Long may her memory reign, huzzah, huzzah.
Now let’s move on.
There has been an abundance of hand-wringing about the landmark structure and for good reason – the Sterling stood as a symbol of Wilkes-Barre’s hey-day, when the streets were packed with shoppers and residents, the menus included foi gras and consomme and women and men wore hats. And not sideways.
Those were the days.
But those days are the past of a long, long time ago. We can cherish the memory, but we need to move forward.
The Hotel Sterling suffered from neglect for years, well before the nonprofit CityVest entered the picture. Let the questions continue about the allocation of taxpayer money to City to stabilize and save the building.
Obviously stabilization didn’t work. On THhursday heavy machinery made short work of the masonry walls and steel beams.
But the writing may have been on the wall long before graffiti marred the sides of the building at River and Market streets.
That location is no longer the only gateway to the city. Population shifts have changed that. The location, size of the project and numerous other factors — including a sputtering economy — didn’t help to make the Sterling a prime building to rehab.
While it was a landmark, experts generally agree that the Sterling isn’t an outstanding example of architecture. And it hasn’t been much of a hotel or restaurant in a generation.
What the Sterling does represent is a time when people could speak proudly of Wilkes-Barre.
Dreams and memories aren’t enough to get us on the path back to that pride. There needs to be a plan.
An old structure can be saved only with a plan that includes realistic use and funding. An example a few blocks away was the transformation of the Paramount Theatre rehabbed in 1985 and 1986 into the Kirby Center through a combination of private donations, taxpayer money and enormous public support. The Kirby Center has had its ups and downs, but it continues to find a place to thrive through thoughtful management.
We should try to protect and even save historic buildings. Even plain, old buildings add charm to the community. But every project needs a realistic plan, particularly when taxpayer funds are involved. For many reasons, that never materialized for the Hotel Sterling.
So three cheers for the Hotel Sterling. Now let’s get the traffic moving again.