Spotlight on Broadway
Nanticoke’s Broadway, one of the oldest streets in town, was once the hub of the commercial district and began at E. Main Street, extending through Arch, Oak and Lee Streets (the latter two now the parking lot of Mr. Z’s Supermarket), then on to the Nanticoke railroad bridge where citizens paid a toll to cross the Susquehanna River into West Nanticoke.
In July 1876, a fire that started in the basement of Snyder Hall on E. Market Street spread to the adjoining structures on the western side of Broadway between Main and Arch Streets, destroying the entire block of 11 buildings and 22 businesses, including three hotels, five saloons, two clothing stores, one jewelry store, one butcher shop, a wholesale liquor store, a tobacco store and eight other business places. The loss was estimated at between $50,000 and $75,000.
This 1909 ad for the Broadway Hotel appeared in the dedication program of the new Nanticoke Hospital. The hotel was on the southeast corner of Broadway and Arch Streets.
As clean up and rebuilding efforts took place, a second fire erupted in October 1877 in a three-story frame building on Broadway, sometimes called the #6 breaker on account of its height. The entire eastern side of Broadway was consumed from Main to Arch, reducing hotels, stores, lodge rooms, stables and offices to ashes.
Traffic may have consisted of horses, wagons and pedestrians on foot, but that apparently did not stop the sportsmen of Nanticoke from playing baseball in the middle of the thoroughfare. In 1895, borough council was called upon to stop the playing of baseball on Broadway lest they be responsible for any damages done.
The Broadway Opera House was built in 1877 to replace the original opera house that was destroyed by fire the previous year. The Opera House hosted touring theatrical shows, political meetings and local talent shows. It later became the first Nanticoke Armory.
Some property owners maintained sidewalks, probably in the first couple of blocks from Main Street to Lee Street, but people venturing beyond that point found only a boardwalk separating them from the muddy, often swampy ground that was made more odorous by the lack of a sewer system. By 1907, even the boardwalk had deteriorated to such a condition that it was virtually impassable on foot. To further add insult to possible injury, the area was a haven for thieves and tramps who made it one of the most dangerous sections of the borough at night.
A number of attempts were made to alleviate the situation over the years, including construction of the first Broadway sewer in 1913 and the laying of crushed stone over the roadway. In 1915, borough council approved the Broadway Paving Project. Nanticoke contractor Caradoc Rees was hired to lay down asphalt block, which eliminated many of the problems approaching the newly constructed Nanticoke Bridge for auto and foot traffic. In all, some 73,000 asphalt bricks were placed in the roadway. Unfortunately, the new paving blocks became a temptation for speeders, a condition that continues over the modern roadway to this day.
Broadway in an undated photo; the building in the distance is at Lee Street, now the parking lot of Mr. Z’s Supermarket.
By 1930, Rees’s asphalt blocks had deteriorated to such a deplorable state that the residents were dubbing Broadway “the rocky road to Dublin.”
Broadway during the 1936 flood
Broadway as it appeared in 1973, a year after the Agnes Flood. Most of the buildings in the photo are long gone and the street is unrecognizable as the Broadway of today.