Square sym­bols:

The Citizens' Voice - - FRONT PAGE - BY BILL WELLOCK STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: bwellock@cit­i­zensvoice.com 570-821-2051, @CVBillW

De­signs carved into some of the stones on Pub­lic Square are a hid­den se­cret of the down­town.

WILKES-BARRE — It’s not hard to find the pre­his­toric duck on WilkesBarre’s Pub­lic Square, but it helps to first know where the rhi­noc­eros is.

Just walk to­ward North Main Street from the cen­ter of the square, and look for the three cir­cles near the cor­ner. Turn left and search for the trum­pet.

Take a left, walk past two planters and there it is: A “pre­his­toric duck” etched into a paving stone, near a rhi­noc­eros and other de­signs. They are a few of the dozens of sym­bols hid­den in the stones around the city’s square.

When Bohlin and Pow­ell Ar­chi­tects re­designed the square af­ter Hur­ri­cane Agnes, they in­cluded nearly 150 de­signs carved into stones. As pedes­tri­ans walk through the space, they pass over mod­ern pet­ro­glyphs show­ing sym­bols of na­ture, technology, ar­chi­tec­ture and lo­cal his­tory.

“They are re­ally one of the un­sung fea­tures of the 1970s re­design of the square, one of the won­der­ful lit­tle se­crets of down­town. In many ways, it’s this scav­enger hunt built into the de­sign,” said Larry New­man, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Di­a­mond City Part­ner­ship.

Some de­signs are easy to iden­tify. Images of leaves dot stones through­out the park. A cat, a pret­zel, hands and lips are in the seat­ing area; and crops like straw­ber­ries, onions, mel­ons, ap­ples and peaches are hid­den among the planters on the edges of the square. Else­where the sharp-eyed pedes­trian can spot a bee­hive — a sym­bol of the city — and a map show­ing the out­line of the Susque­hanna River in the area.

Other carv­ings are less ob­vi­ous. One sym­bol hon­ors the Na­tional Par­lia­ment de­signed by ar­chi­tect Louis Kahn in Dhaka, Bangladesh, one of sev­eral images in­spired by ar­chi­tects. An­other un­clear carv­ing is ex­plained on a map as “crunched per­son.”

The pro­files of peo­ple in one cor­ner show not just any­one, but the out­lines of Peter Bohlin and Dick Pow­ell, who started the ar­chi­tec­ture firm that be­came Bohlin Cy­win­ski Jack­son.

The firm has a map of the pet­ro­glyphs. It shows where you can find de­signs around the nowdry large and small foun­tains, walk­ways, planters, cor­ners and small sunken seat­ing area.

Place­ment might not be ex­act, but a re­cent search found many de­signs can be tracked down us­ing the map.

Some de­signs might be miss­ing, or just hard to spot. They could have been moved, or a con­trac­tor might not have had ex­act di­rec­tions for where to place spe­cial stones.

In some places, the stones have come up, and in the south­east cor­ner, an as­phalt mix fills in spots.

Some stones need to be re­set in the ground, but the gran­ite the de­signs are etched into is durable and will last for longer than pavers or con­crete, said ar­chi­tect Ni­cholas Sny­der of Bohlin Cy­win­ski Jack­son.

The sym­bols are a way to con­nect peo­ple to the square, he said.

Con­sider a he­li­copter etched into one of the stones. It might re­mind one per­son of the he­li­copters that helped af­ter Hur­ri­cane Agnes. An­other per­son might re­call chop­pers from the Vietnam War. Some­one else might see an­other story.

“Then peo­ple start ask­ing, ‘Why is it like that?’ And the next thing you know, you have peo­ple en­gaged in Pub­lic Square,” he said.

This com­pos­ite photo shows some of the nearly 150 sym­bols etched into the paving stones on Pub­lic Square in Wilkes-Barre.

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