Apr. 10—Built before the first Market Street Bridge, a farm house overlooked the Susquehanna River and a 100-acre farm that is today’s Kirby Park.
The farm house is believed to have been built by Revolutionary War soldier and Wyoming Massacre survivor Matthias Hollenback in 1803 or 1804.
The house withstood ice jams during the winter and severe floods for decades.
It took more than a week for it to be demolished.
“With the razing of the old farm house at the west end of Market Street Bridge, to make way for the extension of the traction company’s double track, there passes from the West Side one of its earliest, most picturesque and familiar landmarks. For over a week, a force of workmen have been engaged in tearing apart the rough hewn timbers, which constitute its framework, and all that remains of the old place are the crumbling walls of a huge open fire place of brick and stone,” the Wilkes- Barre Record newspaper reported April 18, 1912.
The Wilkes-Barre Railway Company was expanding its services throughout the Wyoming Valley in the early 1900s and outlined plans to lay a second track across the Kingston flats to accommodate the growing West Side population.
Electric street car service began on the west side in 1892 and expanded in 1912, extending street cars to Kingston corners, Edwardsville and Forty Fort.
Matthias Hollenback was a Luzerne County associate judge and owned thousands of acres across the region. He was also a farmer raising crops on today’s Kirby Park, offering his produce of beans, buckwheat, watermelons and corn in The Gleaner, one of the valley’s first print newspapers.
Several years before the first Market Street Bridge opened in 1819, Matthias Hollenback offered the farm house and farm for sale.
“For Sale, a very valuable FARM, situate on Kingston Flats, opposite of the Borough of Wilkesbarre, containing about one hundred and two acres, extending from the river to Main Street leading through Kingston. The whole land was certified by the State Commissioners as Being of the first quality, and it certainly possesses advantages in point of situation, equal at least to any other farm in the county. There are on the premises two dwelling houses, one of which is very well finished, and convenient, with a well fenced garden attached to it, a frame Barn, and two fine springs,” read an advertisement in the Gleaner on Nov. 1, 1811.
Matthias Hollenback was the first president of the Wilkesbarre Bridge Company in 1816 who lobbied, unsuccessfully, to have the first bridge spanning the Susquehanna River be built at Northampton Street.
Overruled, 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 extended from Kingston Corners to the river at that point,” the Wilkes-Barre Record reported April 18, 1912.
The Record story continued, “The farm house is situated upon a tract of land, originally owned by Matthias Hollenback, whose estate comprised all of the territory between the river and Kingston Corners, and it is believed that the house was built by him for the use of one of his farmer tenants.”
The house survived “great ice flows which have menaced it, and cannot help but admire the courage of its builders, who dared to erect, far below the high water mark, what was then considered a fine colonial residence,” the Record reported.
Another newspaper, the Record of the Times, reported about men in row boats saving a woman and several children from the farm house during a flood in March 1862.
The great ice flood of March 1865, which damaged the Market Street Bridge, covered the Kingston flats and farm house with “ice piled to a height of 10 to 12 feet.”