Main Street

Agnes Flood Walking Tour

Learn more about the buildings and locations that were most affected by the historic Hurricane Agnes flood with the Remembering Agnes walking tour.


Main Street in Wilkes-Barre has been a significant road in the city’s history.
Wilkes-Barre street flooded in the days following Hurricane Agnes
A mannequin floats down South Main Street.

In the Spring of 1772, the road had been constructed starting at the head of Main Street in the town-plot of Wilkes-Barre and leading all the way to Pittston, following a north-easterly direction to the settlement below the Lackawanna River. From the 19th through mid-20th centuries, Main Street has been filled historically with vitrified brick and three and four story business houses.

Many famous stores have been located along Main Street, including The Boston Store which was opened by Scottish immigrants George Fowler, Alexander Dick and Gilbert Walker in 1879. Because of its central location in the city and near the Susquehanna River, Main Street has had a long history of recorded flooding that dates back to the late 1890s.

The Impact of Agnes

When Hurricane Agnes hit Wilkes-Barre in June 1972, the city’s most commercial street was flooded for days until the water receded. During cleanup efforts, employees of businesses piled their destroyed mud-filled merchandise and furniture out along the street. Some store owners tried to salvage their inventories by watering them down while others left them out to be removed. Looting was widely reported although few store owners seemed to mind, some even encouraged it since their stocks were ruined.

The Redevelopment Authority, led by Horace Kramer and Leon Case, demolished buildings that could not be saved. The demolition work and all of the work to prepare the land to receive the restoration was done with federal funds. Utility companies such as Bell of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Power and Light, and Pennsylvania Gas and Water, saw the revitalization of downtown Wilkes-Barre as an opportunity to rebuild their underground infrastructure.

With the assistance of the Flood Recovery Task Force’s Urban Renewal program, the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and other federal and state programs, downtown Wilkes-Barre was gradually revitalized and commercial structures and businesses rebuilt.

Main Street before Hurricane Agnes
Before the Flood
Main Street after Hurricane Agnes
After the Flood

View More Photos of the Hurricane Agnes Flood external website

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