Scranton may seem a long way from the museum dedicated to magician and escape artist Harry Houdini, but it's still one of my favorite pastimes. As I visit the area many times a year to write for this site, here are some of the top things I have done in and around the city in recent years.
Scranton and the rest of Lackawanna County have plenty to see and do, with museums celebrating the city's industrial and transportation past. Located in a station that once belonged to Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, the museum traces the history of rail travel in the United States with a focus on steam-powered locomotives. In this fantastic museum, visitors can not only learn about the history of the region, but also learn more about how the coal mines have shaped the history of the region from the early days of coal mining to the present day. The museum shows what life was like for the workers in the mines, and there are also a variety of interactive exhibits to help visitors learn about the history of the area.
The University of Scranton has a beautiful campus, and there are a number of old and new buildings that have merged into one campus. Originally a Masonic temple, it was built as a Scottish rite cathedral and is about 180,000 square feet in size, according to the university's website.
The village was originally called Unionville, Slocum Hollow and Harrison before being called Scrantonia and finally Scranton, after the family who founded the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company there in the 1840s. Like many proud factory towns, it has been hit by jobs migrating abroad and the collapse of manufacturing. The city diversified its economy and won national recognition for its "Scrantson Plan," which created jobs through industrial expansion.
In Scranton, an astonishing 41.3 percent of under-18s have retired from the workforce altogether, the New York Times reported. In Camden, New Jersey, one of America's most devastated cities, nearly half of the police and one-third of the firefighters have been laid off in the past two years, according to a report by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFL-CIO). In Scranons, fire and police chiefs complain that their members are canceling leave, spending food stamps and risk going unpaid if wages are cut.
Last month, more than half of restaurants, bars and hotels in Scranton went bust. Last week, the head of the state's largest private bank, Wells Fargo, warned in the Los Angeles Times that his company could cease to exist. The financial consultant, whose fifth-generation family lives in Scrantson, sees his city as a symbol of a crisis originating elsewhere in America.
When former President Barack Obama introduced Biden in 2008, it was a line about a scrappy Scranton boy who "beat the odds," a line his supporters still use. Republican Paul Ryan tried to get under Biden's skin, noting that unemployment in Scrantson had risen to 10 percent under Obama's watch. Democratic Senator Robert Casey grew up in the city, and his legal career began there. His family grew up in scrap metal, including his eponymous son, who later served as governor of the state.
The president came to Scranton last year to talk about the importance of extending the payroll tax cut, and he's back this week to talk about education and technical training. The president will be back in town next week to talk about Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and education reform.
Experts warn that a wave of municipal bankruptcies will sweep the United States, plunging cities and counties into black holes and collapsing under the weight of huge debts and lower revenues. Scranton is in the midst of a dysfunctional, squabbling political system that is struggling to find a solution to what has happened to many in America as a whole. But there is one detail already playing out in Scrantson: budget cuts.
Trump yard signs are everywhere, while a significant number of homes carry Biden signs, especially in and near Scranton. But as the election approaches, it becomes harder to throw a rock at Scrantson without hitting a campaign or news anchor.
Back on South Main Street, Merrit Boyle, who runs a personal training business and wears a Trump tank top, draped a table with red, white and blue flags and grills. Outside the Cabinet where Trump delivered his speech, about a hundred people lined the street outside the store. The other stores were full of Trump signs. "Build it back better" and "America First" - and handmade banners with the words "Trump for President," "Donald J. Trump for President" and other slogans were draped on the walls.
The Electric City Trolly Museum Association is a voluntary, nonprofit group that supports the development and preservation of the city's historic coal mines and caves in Scranton, PA. Coal mining cave tours are popular in Pennsylvania, and this tour takes you to an anthracite mine 300 feet underground to explore. One of our top activities in and around Scranon PA offers visitors the opportunity to visit former coal mines and learn what life and working conditions were like for coal miners in northeastern Pennsylvania. The area was inhabited by Algonquian - speaking Munsee Indians - when white settlers arrived in the region in the mid-18th century.