Look back: the farmhouse stood the test of time until 1912


Built before the first Market Street Bridge, a farmhouse overlooked the Susquehanna River and a 100-acre farm that is now Kirby Park.

The farmhouse is believed to have been built by Revolutionary War soldier and Wyoming Massacre survivor Matthias Hollenback in 1803 or 1804.

The house has withstood winter ice jams and severe flooding for decades.

It took over a week for it to be demolished.

“With the razing of the old farmhouse at the west end of the Market Street Bridge, to make way for the extension of the traction company’s double track, the west side passes one of its oldest landmarks , the most picturesque and familiar. For more than a week, a force of workmen has been busy tearing down the roughly hewn beams that make up its framework, and all that remains of the old place are the crumbling walls of a huge open fireplace in brick and stone. The Wilkes-Barre Record newspaper reported April 18, 1912.

The Wilkes-Barre Railway Company was expanding services throughout the Wyoming Valley in the early 1900s and introduced plans to lay a second track through the Kingston Flats to accommodate the growing West Side population.

Electric streetcar service began on the West Side in 1892 and expanded in 1912, extending streetcars to the corners of Kingston, Edwardsville, and Forty Fort.

Matthias Hollenback was an associate judge for Luzerne County and owned thousands of acres in the area. He was also a farmer growing crops in what is now Kirby Park, offering his produce of beans, buckwheat, watermelons, and corn in The Gleaner, one of the earliest printed newspapers in the valley.

Several years before the first Market Street Bridge opened in 1819, Matthias Hollenback offered the farmhouse and farmhouse for sale.

“For sale, a very valuable FARM, situated on Kingston Flats, opposite the Borough of Wilkesbarre, containing approximately one hundred and two acres, extending from the river to Main Street leading into Kingston. All the land has been certified by the State Commissioners as being of first quality, and it certainly possesses advantages of situation equal at least to any other farm in the county. There are two dwelling houses on the premises, one of which is very well finished and practical, with a well-fenced garden, a frame barn and two fine springs,” read an advertisement in the Gleaner on the 1st. November, 1811.

Matthias Hollenback was the first chairman of the Wilkesbarre Bridge Company in 1816 which unsuccessfully lobbied for the first bridge over the Susquehanna River to be built at Northampton Street.

Canceled, the Covered Bridge would be built at Market Street.

“The house was undoubtedly built long before the erection of the old wooden bridge and before the road had stretched from Kingston Corners to the river at this place,” reported the Wilkes-Barre Record on April 18, 1912.

Record’s story continues: “The farmhouse is situated on a plot of land, originally owned by Matthias Hollenback, whose estate included all the land between the river and Kingston Corners, and the house is believed to have been built by him for the use of one of his tenant farmers.

The house survived “the great ice flows that threatened it, and cannot help admiring the courage of its builders, who dared to erect, well below the high water mark, what was then considered a beautiful colonial residence,” reports the Record.

Another newspaper, the Record of the Times, reported that men in rowboats rescued a woman and several children from the farm during a flood in March 1862.

The Great Ice Flood of March 1865, which damaged the Market Street Bridge, covered the Kingston apartments and farmhouse with “ice piled 10 to 12 feet high”.


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