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Weiss Hall was one of a group of nineteenth-century homes built by the financial and industrial elite of Wilkes-Barre and situated along the waterfront of the north branch of the Susquehanna River. The collection of mansions along the river was unusual, occupying an area normally associated with industry and commerce, and was a result of the location of the North Branch Canal several blocks inland. The mansions in this narrow three-block strip belonged to the entrepreneurs leading the development of the anthracite coal industry in the region, which played an important role in the industrial revolution.
The building was originally constructed circa 1890 to 1900 as a home for Edmund Taylor, a Luzerne County judge. It originally looked more like Catlin Hall with a Greek revival style that emphasized symmetry and smooth wall surfaces. In 1886, after Samuel L. Brown, the president of Keystone Coal Co., bought the house, construction began to alter the house's facade in keeping with the fashionable Queen Anne style. Perhaps the most apparent change made to the exterior of the home was the addition of the tower on the corner facing South River and Northampton Streets.
After passing through various hands, the house was donated to Wilkes in 1957 by Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Weiss. Mr. Weiss was a local businessman who founded the Triangle Shoe Company in Wilkes-Barre and served as a Trustee of Wilkes College. In return for the donation of the home, the Weiss family asked that the building bear the family name. Since then, it has been used as a student residence hall, and is now known for the Homecoming displays traditionally hung from its second-floor balcony.
From the National Register report:
The Weiss House is a fine example of Queen Anne architecture which was copied from the building of the British exhibit at the Exposition of 1876. This building has all the features of the style that was so popular in the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The building has a recessed balcony, sharply pitched gables and roof, large dormers, ornate turnings on the balustrades, oak used freely on the inside, stained glass and large window panes, ornate brassware, wide entrance hall with a fireplace, and several materials covering the exterior - brick, stone, and shingles. The Queen Anne style was eagerly reproduced by Americans of the later nineteenth century who were anxious to display their new wealth. Though not the only example of Queen Anne architecture in Wilkes-Barre, it is one of the finest examples testifying to this flamboyant era in American history.
Andrews, Ronald L. "An Inventory of Historical Landmarks on the Campus of Wilkes College, Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania." Typescript. July 1975. Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Andrews, Ronald L. Historic Sites Survey of Wilkes-Barre: Final Report. Wilkes-Barre, PA: Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, 1979.
Cox, Harold E. The Wilkes University Historical Atlas. Wilkes-Barre, PA: Wilkes University Press, 1997.
Pennsylvanis Register of Historic Sites and Landmarks. Weiss Hall [Wilkes University]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1972.