AskDefine | Define Scranton

Dictionary Definition

Scranton n : an industrial city of northeastern Pennsylvania

Extensive Definition

The City of Scranton is the county seat of Lackawanna County in Northeastern Pennsylvania, USA. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 76,415 (2003 estimate: 74,320) (2006 estimate: 72,861). After Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, and Reading, Scranton is Pennsylvania's sixth most populous city.
Scranton is the geographic and cultural center of the Lackawanna River valley. It is the largest city located in a contiguous quilt-work of former anthracite coal mining communities including the smaller cities of Wilkes-Barre, Pittston, and Carbondale. Scranton was incorporated as a borough on February 14, 1856 and as a city on April 23, 1866.


Humble beginnings (1776-1865)

Present-day Scranton and the surrounding area had been inhabited by the native Lenape tribe, from whose language "Lackawanna" (or "le-can-hanna", meaning "stream that forks") is derived. Gradually, settlers from New England came to the area in the late 1700s, establishing mills and other small businesses, and their village became known as Slocum Hollow. Isaac Tripp, known as the first settler, built his home here in 1778 which still stands in the Providence section of the city as a testament to this era.

Industrial foundations established: iron, coal and railroads (1846-1899)

Though anthracite coal was being mined in Carbondale to the north and Wilkes-Barre to the south, the industry that precipitated the city's growth was iron and steel. Iron T-rails were first manufactured in America at the Montour Iron Works in Danville, Pennsylvania, on October 8, 1845. Prior, they were made in England and shipped overseas. In 1847, brothers Seldon T. and George W. Scranton began producing iron T-rails for the Erie Railroad in New York state. Soon after, Scranton became a major producer of these rails. The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (DL&W) was founded in 1851 by the Scrantons to transport iron and coal products from the Lackawanna valley. The Pennsylvania Coal Company built a gravity railroad here for this purpose as well. In 1856, the Borough of Scranton was officially incorporated and named after its industrious founders. The Delaware and Hudson (D&H) Canal Company, which had its own gravity railroad from Carbondale to Honesdale, built a steam railroad that entered Scranton in 1863.
Scranton was incorporated as a city of 35,000 in 1866 when the surrounding boroughs of Hyde Park (now part of the city's West Side) and Providence (now part of North Scranton) were merged with Scranton. The nation's first successful, continuously-operating electrified streetcar (trolley) system was established in the city in 1886, giving it the nickname "The Electric City". In the late 1890s Scranton was home to a series of early International League baseball teams. By 1890, three other railroads had built lines to tap into the rich supply of coal in and around the city, including the Erie Railroad, the Central Railroad of New Jersey and finally the New York, Ontario and Western Railroad (NYO&W). Underneath the city, a network of coal veins was mined by workers who were given jobs by the wealthy coal barons with low pay, long hours and unsafe working conditions. Children as young as 8 or 9 worked 14-hour days separating slate from coal in the breakers.

Growth and prosperity (1900-1945)

By the United States Census of 1900, the population of Scranton was about 102,026, making it the 38th largest city in the United States. The turn of the 20th century saw many beautiful homes of Victorian architecture built in the Hill and Green Ridge sections of the city. In 1901, the dwindling local iron ore supply took the Lackawanna Steel Company away to Lackawanna, New York, where iron ore from Minnesota was more readily available by ships on the Great Lakes. The city lost the industry on which it was founded.
Scranton forged ahead as the center of Pennsylvania's anthracite coal industry. During the first half of the 20th century, it became home to many groups of newly arrived immigrants from Eastern Europe. This patchwork still survives and is represented by the Catholic and Orthodox churches that primarily dot the North Scranton, West Side and South Side neighborhoods of the city. In 1903, an electric interurban railroad known as the Laurel Line was started, and two years later connected to nearby Wilkes-Barre, 20 miles southwest. Working conditions for miners were improved by the efforts of labor leaders like John Mitchell, whose is honored with a statue on the downtown Courthouse Square. By the mid-1930s, the city population had swelled to over 140,000 due to the extensive growth of the mining and silk textile industries. World War II created a great demand for energy, which was satisfied by expanded strip mining operations throughout the area.

The end of an era (1946-1984)

After World War II, it became clear that coal was losing favor to other energy sources such as oil and natural gas. In contrast to other cities in the United States that prospered in the post-war "boom", the fortunes and population of Scranton (and the rest of Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties) began to diminish. Coal production and rail traffic declined rapidly throughout the 1950s. In 1952, the Laurel Line ceased passenger service. The trolleys of the Scranton Transit Company that gave the city its nickname transferred all operations to buses as the 1954 holiday season approached. In 1955, some eastern and southern parts of the city were destroyed by the floods of Hurricane Diane, and 80 lives were lost in the area. The NYO&W Railroad, which depended heavily on its Scranton branch for freight traffic, was completely abandoned in 1957
The Knox Mine Disaster of January 1959 all but erased the mining industry in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The event terminated thousands of jobs as the waters of the Susquehanna River flooded the mines. The DL&W Railroad, nearly bankrupt by the drop in coal traffic and the effects of Hurricane Diane, merged with the Erie Railroad in 1960. Scranton had been the hub of its operations until the Erie Lackawanna merger, when it was no longer needed in this capacity; it was another severe blow to the labor market. Mine subsidence was a spreading problem in the city as pillar supports in abandoned mines began to fail; cave-ins sometimes consumed entire blocks of homes. The area was then scarred by abandoned coal mining structures, strip mines and massive culm dumps. During the 1960s and 1970s, the silk and other textile industries also shrunk as jobs moved south or overseas. During the 1970s and 1980s, many of the downtown storefronts and theaters became vacant as suburban shopping malls became the dominant venues for shopping and entertainment.

Stabilization and restoration (1985-Present)

There has been an emphasis on revitalization since the mid-1980s. Local government and much of the community at large have adopted a renewed interest in the city's buildings and history. Aged and empty properties are being redesigned and marketed as tourist attractions. The Steamtown National Historic Site captures the area's once-prominent position in the railroad industry. The former DL&W train station is restored as the Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel. The Electric City Trolley Museum was created next to the DL&W yards that "Steamtown" occupies. The two-story Mall at Steamtown was built in 1993 and has advanced the downtown business district's return as a regional shopping destination. Developers and brokers are beginning to descend on dilapidated buildings and vacant lots to further sculpt a new downtown to be characterized by modern and attractive office, residential and retail space. Nay Aug Park has been a particular target for current Mayor Chris Doherty, having seen numerous renovations after many years of disrepair.
In spite of this progress, a 2001 Washington Post Magazine column described Wilkes-Barre as "awful" and Scranton as "awfuler" and named it a contender for the "armpit of America." There has since been an attempt to renew pride among Scrantonians by elected officials. Other attractions responsible for recent popularity and favorable attention to Scranton include the Snö Mountain ski resort (formerly Montage Mountain), the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (formerly the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons), AAA affiliate of the New York Yankees, and their PNC Field, and the Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain concert venue.
In addition, the hit NBC sitcom The Office has brought attention to Scranton, culminating in the Office Convention, and a Washington Post article titled "Scranton, Making All the Dwight Moves."


Scranton is located at (41.410629, -75.667411). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.4 square miles (65.9 km²). The city has 25.2 square miles (65.3 km²) of land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km²) of water. The total area is 0.83% water.
The elevation of "Center City" is approximately 750 feet (229 m) above sea level. Generally, the city is hilly, with its inhabited portions ranging approximately from 650 feet (220 m) to 1400 feet (425 m). The city is flanked by mountains to the east and west whose elevations range from 1900 feet (580 m) to 2100 feet (640 m).


Scranton is broken up into four major sections: West Side, South Side, the Hill Section and North Scranton. Two major subsets are Green Ridge, an area two miles from downtown Scranton between the Hill Section and North Scranton, and Minooka, in the southwest part of South Scranton, bordering on neighboring boroughs Taylor and Moosic. The Hill Section is located in the eastern part of the city. Other sections include: East Mountain, an off shoot of South Scranton; West Mountain, an off shoot of West Side; Tripp Park, a small area located between West Scranton and North Scranton; the Plot, a flood prone neighborhood at the foot of the hills of Green Ridge; Bull’s Head, a largely Portuguese and Italian neighborhood between North and West Scranton; Pine Brook which is between downtown Scranton and Green Ridge, and Bellevue, a section bridging lower North Scranton, West Scranton, and South Scranton. Green Ridge is known to be the wealthiest of the neighborhoods. It is in Green Ridge and the Hill Section that the mansions built by former coal barons still stand. As with most cities and neighborhoods, boundaries can be ambiguous and are not always uniformly defined.


As of the census of 2000, there were 76,415 people, 31,303 households, and 18,124 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,029.2 per square mile (1,169.4/km²). There were 35,336 housing units at an average density of 1,400.8 per square mile (540.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 93.54% White, 3.02% African American, 0.11% Native American, 1.08% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.16% from other races, and 1.07% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race make up 2.62% of the population.
There were 31,303 households out of which 24.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.8% were married couples living together, 13.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.1% were non-families. The city had 36.7% of its households with single occupancy and 18.1% whose individual was aged at least 65. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 3.01.
The population's age is distributed with 20.8% under 18, 12.3% from 18 to 24, 25.5% from 25 to 44, 21.2% from 45 to 64, and 20.1% at least 65. The median age was 39. For every 100 females there were 87.0 males. For every 100 females aged at least 18, there were 83.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $28,805, and the median income for a family was $41,642. Males had a median income of $30,829 versus $21,858 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,174. Found below the poverty line are 15.0% of the population, 10.7% of families, 18.9% of those under age 18 and 12.0% of those at least age 65.
Ancestries: Irish (30.3%), Italian (19.4%), German (15.7%), Polish (14.8%), Welsh (6.9%), English (5.8%) (
Scranton has a notably large Irish American population. According to the census of 2000, over 30% of the total population reported Irish ancestry, which is the highest percentage of Irish ancestry for a city of this size.
The local dialect of American English is "Northeast Pennsylvania English", at least for the older generations of Scranton residents.
As of the 2006 American Community Survey the average family size is 2.95. Of the population that's 25 years old and over 83.3% of them have graduated from High School. 18.7% of them have a Bachelor's degree or higher. In labor force (population 16 years and over) 57.6% of them work. The per capita income (in 2006 inflation-adjusted dollars) is 17.187.

Public Safety

Fire Service

Incorporated as a paid service in 1901, the Scranton Fire Department services the city 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The fire department is a full-time service consisting of approximately 140 firefighters. Scranton's Fire Headquarters is located on Mulberry Street in Central City. The fire department also has stations in the city's South Side, the Pinebrook section, West Side, North Scranton, Bull's Head, the Petersburg section and on East Mountain.


The Scranton Police Patrol Division is broken down into three shifts. Each shift has a minimum of 26 officers. Police headquarters is located on South Washington Avenue near the border between downtown Scranton and the city's South Side. Special Units include Arson Investigations, Auto Theft Task Force, Child Abuse Investigation, Crime Scene Investigation, Criminal Investigation, Juvenile Unit, Special Investigations Unit, Canine Unit, Community Development and Highway Unit.

Emergency Medical Services

Emergency medical services are provided by two private companies, Community Life Support and Lackawanna Ambulance. The city requires that only Advanced Life Support units respond to emergencies, which include a crew of a Paramedic and an EMT. Ambulances are dispatched by an advanced GPS system which allows the 911 dispatcher to send the closest ambulance to the scene of the emergency.



The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area is the 54th largest television market in the United States. Local television stations include WNEP, an ABC affiliate, WBRE, an NBC affiliate, WYOU, a CBS affiliate, WVIA, a PBS affiliate, WOLF, a FOX affiliate and WSWB, a CW affiliate. Additionally, local government and public access programming is aired on Comcast cable channels 61 and 62.
Scranton is headquarters of Times-Shamrock Communications, which publishes the city's major newspaper, The Times-Tribune, a Pulitzer Prize winning broadsheet daily founded in 1870. Times-Shamrock also publishes Electric City, a weekly entertainment tabloid and The Citizens' Voice, a daily tabloid based in Wilkes-Barre. The Times Leader is a daily paper that primarily covers Wilkes-Barre, but also publishes in Scranton and the Weekender is a Wilkes-Barre based entertainment tabloid with distribution in Scranton. There are also several other print publications with a more narrow focus, including the Union News, La Voz Latina, Melanian News and the Antenna, an arts and culture zine.
Scranton's radio market is ranked #70 by Arbitron's ranking system. The following boxes contain all the radio stations in the area:


Scranton has a long history of supporting professional sports, dating back to the late 19th century when minor league baseball first came to the area. The Scranton Indians were the cities first professional baseball team and began play in 1887. The city was host to minor league baseball teams in the Pennsylvania State League, Eastern League, Atlantic League, New York State League, New York-Pennsylvania League. Currently the city is home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. The Yankees play their home games at PNC Field.
In other sports, the Empire Football League's Scranton Eagles are the league's most dominant team, having won 11 championships. The af2 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers, who play at Wachovia Arena in Wilkes-Barre have made the playoffs for 4 years straight and contended for the Arena Cup in 2007. The North East Pennsylvania Miners of the North American Football League have recently started play in the area. Syracuse men's basketball coach, Jim Boeheim played professional basketball in Scranton before his career as a coach. The city's former basketball teams include the Scranton Apollos and the Scranton Miners. Hockey came to the area in 1999 when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins began play at the Wachovia Arena. The team has since won conference championships in 2001 and 2004.

Landmarks and attractions

Many of Scranton's attractions celebrate its heritage as an industrial center in iron and coal production as well as its ethnic diversity. The Scranton Iron Furnaces are remnants of the city's founding industry and of the Scranton family's Lackawanna Steel Company. The Steamtown National Historic Site seeks to preserve the history of steam locomotives. The Electric City Trolley Museum preserves and operates pieces of Pennsylvania streetcar history. The Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour at McDade Park is open for those who desire to learn about the history of mining and railroads in the Scranton area. The tours are conducted inside a part of a former working mine. The DL&W Passenger Station is now a Radisson hotel with dining and banquet and conference facilities called Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel..
Museums in Scranton include the Everhart Museum in Nay Aug Park, which houses a collection of "natural history, science and art" exhibits and the Houdini Museum features films, exhibits, and a stage show. It is housed in a unique, century-old building. Terence Powderly's house, still a private dwelling, is one of the city's many historic buildings and the city's other National Historic Landmark besides Steamtown. Tripp House was built by the Tripp family in 1771 and is the oldest building in the city.
The city's religious history is evident in the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Ann which draws thousands of pilgrims to its annual novena and St. Stanislaus Cathedral which is the national seat of the Polish National Catholic Church in North America. The history of the founding of this denomination is intricately tied with Polish immigration to Scranton in the late 19th century.
Scranton's large Irish population is represented in the annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade, first held in 1862. It is organized by the St. Patrick's Day Parade Association of Lackawanna County and is now the nation's fourth largest. Over 8,000 people participate on the Saturday before Saint Patrick's Day including floats, bagpipe players, high school bands and Irish groups. In 2008, crowds estimated as high as 150,000 people congregated downtown for the event.
For recreational opportunities, there is Snö Mountain Ski Resort (formerly called "Montage Mountain"), which rivals the numerous resorts of the Poconos in popularity and offers a relatively comprehensive range of difficulty levels. The 26.2-mile Steamtown Marathon has been held each October since 1996 and finishes in downtown Scranton. Nay Aug park is the largest of several parks in Scranton and was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park in Manhattan, New York City.
The Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain, a partially covered amphitheater seating 17,500, is Scranton's primary concert venue. In the summer months, musical artists ranging from James Taylor to Dave Matthews Band perform. Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple is an impressive piece of architecture which houses several auditoriums and a large ballroom. It plays host to the Northeast Philharmonic, Broadway Theater and other touring performances.

Scranton in popular culture

The city has made numerous appearances in popular culture, notably as the setting of current NBC sitcom The Office. Video of the city filmed by cast member John Krasinski's friends is featured in the opening theme. The program makes frequent references to actual attributes of Scranton and the surrounding area, including the Mall at Steamtown, Farley's Pub, Poor Richard's Pub, Montage Mountain, The Scranton Anthracite Museum, and Lake Wallenpaupack. In a February 2006 episode, Steve Carell's character Michael Scott describes New York City as "Scranton on acid. No, on speed. No, on steroids." In a November 2006 episode called "The Merger", Scott creates an orientation video titled "Lazy Scranton" (a parody of "Lazy Sunday") in which he highlights many popular Scranton attractions. Also many local items are placed around the office like a quilt with the University of Scranton's logo on it, a Froggy 101 bumper sticker (local radio), and bobble head dolls from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons.
The city also served as the setting of the 1973 Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play That Championship Season by Jason Miller was based on the fictional lives of Scranton's 1957 state basketball champions. Miller wrote and directed the 1982 screenplay in which all exterior scenes were filmed in Scranton at his insistence.
Scranton has also been referenced in a cartoon in a May 2005 issue of The New Yorker, on the Travel Channel's Magic Road Trip program featured the city's Houdini Museum as one of the world's top magic attractions, in Harry Chapin's 1974 song "30,000 Pounds of Bananas," which dramatizes the wreck of a truck carrying bananas on March 26, 1965 just outside downtown Scranton, the city is also the subject of George Inness's 1855 painting the "Lackawanna Valley", which now hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.


The main highways that service Scranton are Interstate 81, which runs north to Binghamton, New York and Ontario and south to Harrisburg and Tennessee; Interstate 84, which runs east to Milford and New England; Interstate 380, which runs south to Mount Pocono and Interstate 80 east to New York City; Interstate 476/Pennsylvania Turnpike Northeast Extension, which runs south to Allentown and Philadelphia; U.S. Route 6, which runs east to Carbondale and parallel to I-84 to New England and west to Erie; and U.S. Route 11, which runs parallel to I-81.
Scranton's provider of public transportation is the County of Lackawanna Transit System (COLTS). COLTS buses provide extensive service within the city and more limited service that reaches in all directions to Carbondale, Daleville, Pittston, and Fleetville.
Martz Trailways and Greyhound Lines provide coach bus transportation from its downtown station to New York City, Philadelphia and other points in the northeast.
Private operators such as Posten Taxi and McCarthy Flowered Cabs service the Scranton area. They are hired by telephone through central dispatch and cannot be hailed on the street as in larger cities.


Rail transportation plays an important part in the city's history and continues to have an impact today. The Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Rail Authority is a bi-county creation of both Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania and Monroe County, Pennsylvania to oversee the use of common rail freight lines in Northeastern Pennsylvania, including one formerly owned by Conrail running from Scranton, through the Pocono Mountains towards New Jersey and the New York City market. One of its primary objectives is to re-establish rail passenger service via New Jersey Transit between Scranton and Hoboken, New Jersey by way of the New Jersey Cut-Off, with connecting service into Manhattan, New York.
The Canadian Pacific Railway (Delaware and Hudson division) operates the former DL&W line between Scranton and Binghamton, with frequent through trains often jointly operated with Norfolk Southern Railway. The Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad services the former DL&W Keyser Valley branch in the city.
The Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad, as designated operator of county-owned rail lines, oversees the former Delaware and Hudson line from Scranton north to Carbondale, the former DL&W line east to the Delaware Water Gap and the former Lackawanna and Wyoming Valley Railroad third-rail interurban streetcar line south to Montage Mountain, Moosic. These are the lines hosting the seasonal passenger trains of both the Steamtown National Historic Site and the Electric City Trolley Museum and now under the jurisdiction of the new Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Rail Authority.


The city's public school's are operated by the Scranton School District. The school district operates the two public high schools in the city, Scranton High School and West Scranton High School. Almost 10,000 students are taught in the city's public schools. The city's other high schools are Holy Cross High School which is operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton and Scranton Preparatory School, a private Jesuit school. The Pennsylvania Depart of Education provides oversight for the Scranton State School for the Deaf.
With regards to colleges and universities, Lackawanna College, Marywood University, the University of Scranton and Johnson College all make the city their home. Penn State operates a satellite campus in the suburb of Dunmore.
The Lackawanna County Library System administers the libraries in Scranton, including the Albright Memorial Library and the Lackawanna County Children's Library. As of 2005, Scranton libraries serve a population of more than 120,000 people and have a circulation of over 624,000.
P.J. Carlesimo, Joe Collins, Jim Crowley, Paul Foytack, Charlie Gelbert, Cosmo Iacavazzi, Ralph Lomma, Gerry McNamara, Mike Munchak and brothers Jim and Steve O'Neill are among the notable residents who are famous for their contributions to athletics.

Sister cities

Scranton has two official sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:
Scranton in German: Scranton (Pennsylvania)
Scranton in French: Scranton (Pennsylvanie)
Scranton in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Scranton, Pennsylvania
Scranton in Italian: Scranton
Scranton in Dutch: Scranton (Pennsylvania)
Scranton in Norwegian: Scranton
Scranton in Polish: Scranton (Pensylwania)
Scranton in Portuguese: Scranton (Pensilvânia)
Scranton in Russian: Скрентон (Пенсильвания)
Scranton in Swedish: Scranton
Scranton in Ukrainian: Скрентон
Scranton in Volapük: Scranton (Pennsylvania)
Scranton in Chinese: 斯克蘭頓 (賓夕法尼亞州)
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