In the immediate aftermath of the Flood of 2011 – while many people from flooded homes agonized over what to do and despaired of putting their houses back together – Charlene Maroni knew what to do.
Last September, standing in the gutted parlor of her home on Philadelphia and Susquehanna avenues in West Pittston which a week earlier had been under 8 1/2 of water, she said, "I love this house. And it's going to be nice again."
Today, as Charlene put it, "With the ceiling and everything underneath it replaced," the house is nice again. It has new floors, walls, cabinets, furniture, windows, electric system, and furnace.
Her determination to rebuild was fueled by her young love for what she called her dream house. She and her husband John had been in the house only 10 months when the flood hit.
Using their own savings as seed money parlayed with a flood insurance settlement the Maronis hired RK Construction to do most of the work. "We ended up with a great group of guys," she said of the RK crew. "They did custom tile, custom thresholds, a custom fireplace."
While the dream home was restored, another dream was lost in the flood. Just two months before the flood the Maronis had paid $3,000 for Charlene's dream baby grand piano. The water reduced the piano to a pile of rubble.
Hoping to change their luck, they replaced the original polished ivory piano with one of polished ebony.
Charlene said from the day the water receded her plan never wavered. "We were fortunate to be in best area of the best town. I wouldn't give that up."
While Charlene's house was taking on eight feet of water on Susquehanna Avenue, her business in West Pittston got a foot on the first floor. That was enough to put her salon, Char and Company, temporarily out of business.
In two weeks, with the business moved to the second floor, Char and Company was the first affected business to reopen in West Pittston.
Charlene said the area around the business – at what was West Pittston's pre-flood hot corner of Luzerne and Wyoming Avenues – was eerily pitch black at night. Nothing else was open.
It's not surprising that the building housing Char and Company withstood the flood; it's been through a few of them. The building is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in West Pittston.
Evidence of the building's provenience is a 1957 newspaper story wherein iconic Pittston historian the late Charlie McCarthy said the building, known as the Polen House, was standing in 1851 when the land was sold to the West Pittston Land Association.
The building has been considerably altered by add-ons and remodeling and was even moved once. The only architectural hints of its age left are basement beams of hand-hewn logs with axe chop marks.
Charlene said when she bought the buidlng in 2002 there was a plaque on it dating it to 1831, but it's not likely that old.
Mary Portelli of the West Pittston Historical Society said the society considers the Newry House on Exeter Avenue across from Nardone's Restaurant by the railroad tracks the oldest house in West Pittston. It was constructed by Thomas Jenkins, who was a 16-year-old boy during the Battle of Wyoming.
From Portelli's email:
"I do believe a portion of the old Polen home does still exist. I don't think that it is the oldest existing property in West Pittston, though. The Luzerne County Historical Society has since sold the Newry House to private owners but LCHS did have a historical architect examine the house before the sale. In the architect's opinion, the house is not quite as old as 1790 but I believe he dated it around 1820, some years before the Polen Home."