Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel
Backstory and Context
In the early 1900s, Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad president William Truesdale approved a plan to replace the railroad's Scranton station, an old brick structure located on Lackawanna Avenue near Franklin Avenue. The new station, to be built about seven blocks east at 700 Lackawanna Avenue, would be a far grander structure that would also house the railroad's offices, with the exception of the executive offices in New York City. The railroad commissioned New York architect Kenneth Murchison, who executed the design in French Renaissance style.
Constructed of brick and steel at a cost of around $600,000, it has concrete floors and partitions. The exterior is faced with Indiana limestone and it has an 8-foot bronze clock on the façade. The main entrance leading to the former waiting room is furnished in Formosa, a soft, pinkish-yellow Italian marble. Its Grand Lobby, two and a half stories tall, has an ornamented mosaic tile floor, a barrel-vaulted Tiffany stained-glass ceiling, rare Siena marble walls, and 36 unique Grueby Faience tile murals. The tiles are styled after the work of American artist Clark Greenwood Voorhees, and represent scenes along the DL&W's Phoebe Snow main line from Hoboken, N.J. to Buffalo, N.Y.
A tall radio antenna was installed after a while on the roof; the railroad was a pioneer in the use of wireless communications between trains and terminals. The building, originally five stories tall, had a sixth added for office space by 1923. The last train left the station on January 6, 1970. The building was then shuttered and neglected.
In the early 1980s, as Scranton struggled with 13 percent unemployment and a slumping economy, city leaders conceived of a redeveloped station as a tourist attraction and rallying point. "Basically, we're looking for people to come to Scranton who would not come to Scranton normally," Mayor James McNulty told the Associated Press in 1982. "We want to give the hotel a dimension as a destination instead of a way station, so this can be someplace to go."
The building was later purchased by MetroAction, a Scranton Chamber of Commerce corporation that focused on downtown development. Its redevelopment, the "linchpin of Scranton's downtown revitalization program," was ultimately spearheaded by The Erie-Lackawanna Restoration Associates, a group of private investors, and funded to the tune of $13 million through a combination of federal, state, and municipal money, plus donations from banks and other local businesses. The building was renovated as a hotel, furnished by Bethlehem Furniture Manufacturing Corp., and renamed The Hilton at Lackawanna Station. The renovation work was designed by Balog, Steines, Hendricks, and Manchester Architects, Inc., and won a 1984 Design Honor Award from the Ohio chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
The building reopened on New Year's Eve in 1983, ushered back to life by some 650 partygoers dancing to the Guy Lombardo Orchestra under the direction of Art Mooney.
The station renovation was just half of the railroad-related repurposing meant to enliven downtown Scranton; the other half was Steamtown USA, a museum being built on the old Lackawanna railyard. On February 3, 1984, McNulty stood before the station to welcome the first of Steamtown's exhibits to the city: a 350-ton Canadian Pacific steam locomotive chugging up with a baggage car and five passenger cars. "Welcome to the first day of Scranton's new future," McNulty told a crowd, which cheered.
In 1993, the hotel was purchased for $4 million by DanMar Hotel Inc., which shifted its hotel-chain affiliation two years later from Hilton to Radisson. DanMar began trying to sell the building in December 2004 to the University of Scranton but university officials formally declined the offer in May 2005. DanMar ultimately sold the building for $7 million to Akshar Lackawanna Station Hospitality LP, a unit of El Centro, Calif.-based Calvin Instruments LLC, which owned about a dozen hotels at the time. The contract was signed up in July 2005 and the sale was completed in October. The new owners pledged to spend $1.5 million to $1.7 million on renovations to wrap up in summer 2006, but the work actually took place in 2007-09.
The hotel is the setting, though not the actual filming location, for "Dwight's Speech" in the American television show The Office. Many of the show's cast members stayed at the hotel during the October 2007 fan convention and again during the show's public wrap party in May 2013.
As of 2011, regular passenger train service to Scranton is slated to be restored under a plan to extend New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) service from New York City and Hoboken, NJ, via the Lackawanna cut-off. The trains would pass the Lackawanna Station building and pull in at a new Scranton station on Lackawanna Avenue.
Roddy, Michael (December 30, 1982). "Repeating for All Needing." Associated Press. Kashuba, Cheryl A.; Darlene Miller-Lanning; Alan Sweeney (2005). Scranton. Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 38–39.