April 9th, 2012

Hotel Sterling

One need only glace inside the Hotel Sterling to know it has seen far better times than this. In here the flesh has long since been separated from bone,
and the frail remains left to fester. All the pieces of this once-elegant hotel thought to be of any monetary value are but a distant memory.
What endures today is little more than rotten wood, exposed supports, and crumbling walls. Hardly an end fitting of a place which was once held so dear
by the city which now clamors for its demise. In truth this old hotel currently lives outside of its designated demolition date, which was to have occurred
some time in February of 2012. A date unanimously agreed upon by the Wilkes-Barre City Council.

It was the summer of 1898 when the Hotel Sterling first opened its 170-plus rooms to the public, sitting upon the bank of the Susquehanna river.
In its heyday the hotel was held in quite a high regard by the people of Wilkes-Barre, and was viewed by many as a beacon of the city itself.
By the early 1920's, in an attempt to piggy-back on its popularity, a rival hotel opened its doors nearly next-door to the Sterling,
its 14 floors towering high above the smaller and older limestone hotel which was now sharing the same block on Market Street.
Size did not triumph in this battle however, and by 1927 the Sterling had assimilated the newer hotel, nearly tripling its size in the process.
Things kept more-or-less the same for a while, as the hotel enjoyed prosperity, and continued to garner notoriety as a hotel who's class could rival
any on the Eastern seaboard. This all began to dissolve shortly after the climax of World War II though, as the hotel's state began to mirror the hardships
of the city around it.

Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania, like nearly any city, was a city built upon a backbone of industry. The main export here was a special kind of coal known
as Anthracite, harvested from countless mines which employed many more countless residents of the city. At the closing of the second world war,
oil and gas were beginning to gain in popularity as a form of heating and energy. With the emergence of these alternative fuels, the demand for coal began to decline,
and by 1960 coal mining in the area had all but completely ceased. Hotel Sterling, no longer able to make its way as a true hotel, was turned
into low-income residential units. A creeping depression had engulfed Wilkes-Barre and the once-prominent hotel, and by its shuttering in 1998 the hotel
was an almost unrecognizable shadow of its past self. Even after all this, the misfortunes of the hotel were not yet at an end. On the horizon loomed
multimillion-dollar whirlwind of political controversy, and at its core sat the Hotel Sterling.

In the early 2000's an organization titled CityVest had just purchased the abandoned hotel at a tax sale. They write up a plan, which they present
to the city of Wilkes-Barre. In it they call for the razing of the 14-story hotel annex and auxiliary building, leaving the original Hotel Sterling
abutting an empty lot. These efforts are to attract new commercial development in the area immediately neighboring the old hotel.
After the razing, CityVest then planed to directed its attention to the restoration of the old hotel, with an end-goal of eventually reopening it to the public.
By all accounts, it seems that the hotel was going to catch a well-deserved break, and perhaps finally be able to remove the tarnish from its name.

By 2007 CityVest made good on its plans to demolish the 14-story hotel annex, and it did so through the use of $6 million in tax-payer funding.
This money was granted to them by the city, under the agreement that CityVest focus their efforts and resources on repairing the Hotel Sterling
immediately following. After the dust cleared and the debris was removed from the now-vacant lot, CityVest did indeed begin work on the old hotel,
thoroughly gutting the place as they went along. In many cases not even walls remain standing on any floor above the second.
This, of course, was all necessary perpetration work for the revitalization process to begin in proper... something that CityVest never made any effort to do.
The organization now claims that it has gone bankrupt, and that it has no plans whatsoever in regards to the preservation of the old hotel.
They have even gone so far as to tell the city to raze the building on their own dime, an idea that the city is not terribly keen on.

The real shame here, aside from the gross waste of public money, is that through shady dealing a beautiful piece of history lost its last chance at salvation.
Once down-turned, the Hotel Sterling's luck never improved. Now it simply awaits the executioners axe, quite likely with open arms.

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Former swimming baths, Hobart, Tasmania

This was an exercise in frustration. I was walking through Hobart when I saw this in front of me. Last time I walked past here, it was... not so neglected looking. It didn't even look like empty building unless you looked closely.

However, I'd just flattened the battery of the camera hanging off my shoulder and the phone was also complaining about its battery running low. I grabbed some quick photos but the phone camera is not the best.


Partial demolition (the facade will remain) and a new development (offices & apartments IIRC) were approved at the end of last year.

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