Despite being a city of more than 25,000 people, the Luzerne County community of Hazleton is often overlooked by those traveling along Interstate 81. However, for those that want to get off the highway and explore this northeastern Pennsylvania city, the Greater Hazleton Historical Society and Museum offers a great chance to learn about the region’s history.
The Greater Hazleton Historical Society and Museum is located in the Pioneer Fire Company building, which was built in the early 1900s. The historical society took over the building in the 1980s, turning it into a well-curated museum dedicated to telling the story of Hazleton and the surrounding communities.
The museum claims to have the largest collection of local history artifacts in northeastern Pennsylvania, and after checking out their three-story museum, I don’t doubt that it’s true. Inside the museum, there are many items that you can find at other historical society museums in Pennsylvania. However, there are also a surprising number of artifacts that make the museum unique and worth visiting even if you have no connection to the local area.
Tours start on the first floor of the museum, which showcases what life was like in the Hazleton area throughout the decades. While many of these items can be found at many other historical society museums in the state, I enjoyed the local flair of the sauerkraut maker and noodle maker on display. These showcase two of the region’s most influential immigrant populations.
The second floor of the museum features a very large collection of Native American artifacts from the area, which include arrowheads, glass beads, and pottery. In this section, there is also a gun on display that had been used by a Native American during the Sugarloaf Massacre of 1780.
This portion of the second floor also includes a nice fossil collection of items found locally. Many of these fossils were found in and around the region’s coal seams and include things like ferns, wood, and crystals.
In my opinion, one of the most interesting pieces in the museum’s collection is a set of opera glasses that are located in a display case on the museum’s second floor. According to the museum, these glasses were once the property of Robert Sinex, who was one of the agents on duty the night that President Lincoln was assassinated and was one of the soldiers that chased Booth down a few days later. While there is no way to prove the story, it’s still an interesting piece of local lore and makes the opera glasses quite interesting to look at and think about what they may have seen.
Another room on the third floor showcases the history of coal mining in the area. Scranton might get all the attention, but coal was also a major industry around the Hazleton area. Visitors can take the opportunity to learn more about the coal fields in the area and get a basic overview into the history of coal mining in northeastern Pennsylvania. Don’t miss the chart of mine deaths, which soberingly reminds visitors how unsafe the industry was.
The museum’s basement has a large collection of military items used, worn, and collected by local soldiers, as well as many other artifacts related to life in the Hazleton area. Also in the basement is the museum’s newest artifact, a large piece of metal from the World Trade Centers in New York City. While this doesn’t have anything directly to do with Hazleton, it does offer visitors a chance to reflect on one of the most important events of the 21st century.
Overall, I enjoyed my visit to the Hazleton Area Historical Society and Museum. It is a great example of what a community historical society museum should be, and certainly offers items of interest, both for those that call the area home and for those with no connections to Hazleton. If you’re a history lover and find yourself traveling through Hazleton along Interstate 81, this museum is definitely worth a stop.
Note: My visit to the Hazleton Area Historical Society and Museum was hosted by the site. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Greater Hazleton Area Historical Society and Museum
Hours: See website
Address: 55 N Wyoming St