Oldest house in Wilkes-Barre saved from demolition, plans for restoration

Oldest house in Wilkes-Barre saved, has plans for restoration

WILKES-BARRE (WOLF) -- Driving down South River Street, you may not easily catch sight of Wilkes-Barre's first house.

'The Butler House', sits amongst others, showing the wear and tear of its years - built in 1793.

While its outside my appear somewhat ordinary, its first resident was anything but.

"Colonal Zebulon Butler was the leader of the American Revolutionary Forces at the Battle of Wyoming in 1778," said Tony Brooks.

He's the Director and Curator of the Wilkes-Barre Preservation Society, and says that this historic house has sat empty for the last five years, after changing hands over the last two centuries.

And, more recently, it was at risk of being torn down.

"A bunch of us in the neighborhood who've always known this was the oldest house in Wilkes-Barre got together, went to the owner, and said 'please don't demolish the oldest house, we'll raise the money'," said Brooks.

The Wilkes-Barre Preservation Society, with the help of the Shawnee Fort Chapter of the Daughters of the America Revolution and the Downtown Residents' Association, raised $10,000 and bought the house, they announced Friday.

"We knew about this property for years and its significance. And then when we became aware that it was in crisis, you know, with Tony and some of the other neighbors, everybody just stepped up to the plate. It was really astounding," said Wilkes-Barre Preservation Society Chairman Gordon Williams.

They now have plans for major transformation: a house museum, exhibiting the four generations of the Butler family who lived here, a community center, and a garden.

"We want to restore it back to the 1810s. If people know there's a Denison House and the Swetland House. This house would fit in the middle of that so we don't duplicate historic homes in the area," said Brooks.

"We're just gonna have at it, you know. We've got a great many people that are willing to help us tear out the old and put in the new," said Williams.

But for those with the preservation society, saving this house has an even greater meaning.

"Every town should take care of its historical assets, it's who we are as a community," shared Brooks.

"Every year you lose more of the historic buildings in the city, but to save the oldest one that's left, but to save the oldest one, is pretty significant, I think," said Wiliams.

The organization is looking for volunteers to help with various aspects of the restoration process. You can find more information on their Facebook Page or contact society director Tony Brooks at 570-793-3631.

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