PITTSTON — Gaetano Buonsante and Laura Baut thought they knew a lot about Pittston and its history, but they were wrong.
The two Exeter natives and Misericordia University students recently completed a summer research project with the Greater Pittston Historical Society (GPHS) that focused on Main Street in Pittston.
The two students, along with four other Misericordia students — Michael Boutanos, Kingston; Stefany Krasson, Plymouth; Briana Scorey, Wilkes-Barre; and Michael Shott, Hazleton — spent 10 weeks researching the changes Main Street underwent over the years.
“I think growing up around this area and actually learning about this area are two different things,” Baut, 20, said. “I came into this project thinking I knew a lot about Pittston, but I don’t. I really, really don’t.”
The project served as a credited course for the class History 440: Public History Practicum.
“We did a lot of research with some of the buildings there and we looked at what used to be in those buildings from 50 years ago, 100 years ago and all the way back to the 1890s,” said Buonsante, 19. “That was one half of the project. The other half was looking at different topics.”
Buonsante did research on churches while Baut focused on clothing store businesses.
Both students looked into the histories of their topics in terms of the impact they had on the community and how long they were around on Main Street, if they weren’t there anymore.
Baut discovered several clothing stores once lined Main Street.
“I had to go decade by decade through the city directory to find tailors, dress makers or any keyword that was with clothing or tailoring,” she said. “That was really interesting to see how many people were involved in this industry. I found 40 per decade, so there were 40 stores per decade on one street at one point.”
The students conducted their research by looking through old newspapers; studying maps, photos, books; and going through oral recordings, all provided by the historical society.
Despite various sources as their disposal, the students still had, at times, difficulties finding information they needed.
“Sometimes the research, depending on what we were looking for, we couldn’t always find certain topics,” said Buonsante. “When looking through newspapers certain families might not have talked to the paper about their new business, so it was hard to find stuff about their businesses.”
The end result of the project is an online interactive digital map as well as several published narratives in a special issue of the GPHS quarterly newsletter.
Misericordia University Assistant Professor of History and Government Dr. Jennifer Black said this was the second time the university and GPHS teamed up for a summer research project.
“I had a student interested in an internship and I had an email forwarded to me through a chain saying that (GPHS President) Ron (Faraday) and the GPHS needed interns,” she said. ” I reached out to Ron and we just got it going that way.”
Faraday said he loved working with the students the past two years and said the students conducted themselves in a professional manner.
“It’s hard to put into words how helpful they are,” he said. “Trying to get volunteers isn’t easy, there’s a lot of competing organizations… and it’s done extremely professional. I’ve worked with Jennifer for over a year now, and the quality of work that her and her students do is incomparable to anything that just a normal volunteer will do.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher