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Sunbury, Pennsylvania

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sunbury, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Route 61 and Pennsylvania Route 147 in Sunbury
Location of Sunbury in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.
Location of Sunbury in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.
Sunbury is located in Pennsylvania
Location of Sunbury in Pennsylvania
Sunbury is located in the United States
Sunbury (the United States)
Coordinates: 40°51′50″N 76°47′21″W / 40.86389°N 76.78917°W / 40.86389; -76.78917
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
CountyNorthumberland County
Incorporated (borough)1797
Incorporated (city)1920
 • TypeCity
 • MayorKurt Karlovich[1]
 • Total2.12 sq mi (5.50 km2)
 • Land2.02 sq mi (5.24 km2)
 • Water0.10 sq mi (0.26 km2)  1.40%
[3] (benchmark at city center)
450 ft (140 m)
Highest elevation
[3] (eastern city boundary)
640 ft (200 m)
Lowest elevation
[3] (Susquehanna River)
420 ft (130 m)
 • Total9,905
 • Estimate 
 • Density4,627.78/sq mi (1,786.88/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)570 and 272
FIPS code42-75304
WebsiteCity website

Sunbury /ˈsʌnbɛri/ is a city in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is located in Central Pennsylvania's Susquehanna River Valley on the east bank of the Susquehanna River, just downstream of the confluence of its main and west branches. It dates to the early 18th century and is the county seat of Northumberland County.[5]

Thomas Edison features in the town's history, and the historic Edison Hotel was renamed in his honor. Other historic sites include the Beck House, Northumberland County Courthouse, and Sunbury Historic District, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[6] Sunbury is the principal city in the Sunbury, PA Micropolitan Statistical Area and one of three principal cities in the Bloomsburg-Berwick-Sunbury, PA Combined Statistical Area.

Sunbury's population was 9,905 at the 2010 census.


Monument to Thomas Edison near Sunbury
Monument to Thomas Edison near Sunbury

The first human settlement of Sunbury was probably Shawnee migrants.[7] A large population of Delaware Indians was also forcibly resettled there in the early 18th century after they lost rights to their land in the Walking Purchase. Canasatego of the Six Nations, enforcing the Walking Purchase of behalf of George Thomas, Deputy Governor of Pennsylvania, ordered the Delaware Indians to go to two places on the Susquehanna River, one of which was present-day Sunbury.[7]

From 1727 to 1756, Sunbury was one of the largest and most influential Indian settlements in Pennsylvania.[7] At that time, it was known as Shamokin, not to be confused with the present-day city of Shamokin, Pennsylvania, which is located to the east.

In 1745, Presbyterian missionary David Brainerd described the city as being located on both the east and west sides of the river, and on an island. Brainerd reported that the city housed 300 Indians, half of which were Delawares and the other Seneca and Tutelo.[8]

In 1754, much of the land west of the Susquehanna was transferred from the Six Nations to Pennsylvania at the Albany Congress. However, Shamokin was not sold and was reserved by the Six Nations, "to settle such of our Nations as shall come to us from the Ohio or any others who shall deserve to be in our Alliance."[9] According to Weslager, "the Pennsylvania authorities had no opposition to the Six Nations reserving Wyoming and Shamokin from the sale, since friendly Delawares, including Teedyuskung (also known as Teedyuscung) and his people living in those settlements--and any other Indians who might be placed there--constituted a buffer against Connecticut."[9]

The French and Indian War brought fighting to much of the region. The Delaware Indian residents of Shamokin remained neutral for much of the early part of the war, in part because a drought and unseasonable frost in Shamokin in 1755 left them without provisions.[10] However, the Delaware Indians at Shamokin joined the war against Pennsylvania and the English after the Gnadenhutten massacre in 1755.[11] Pennsylvania Fort Augusta was built in 1756 at Shamokin. Read more about early history of Sunbury in Shamokin (village). Bloody Springs is a historic site from the era.

On March 21, 1772, Northumberland County was incorporated and subdivided.[12] The settlement of Shamokin was renamed Sunbury that same year, and the present-day city of Sunbury identifies 1772 as the date of its establishment.[13] It was named after Sunbury-on-Thames, a town in the Surrey borough of Spelthorne, England, just outside Greater London.

Lorenzo Da Ponte, the librettist of Mozart and of Salieri, lived in Sunbury for some years after his arrival in America. Thomas Edison installed the first successful three-wire electric lighting system in July 1883 at what was then known as the City Hotel. At the city's 150th anniversary celebration in 1922, it was renamed the Edison Hotel.[14]


Walking path in Sunbury
Walking path in Sunbury
Floodwall in Sunbury
Floodwall in Sunbury

Sunbury is at 40°51′50″N 76°47′21″W / 40.86389°N 76.78917°W / 40.86389; -76.78917 (40.863894, -76.789174).[15] It is located at the point where the west and north branches of the Susquehanna converge.[13]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.2 square miles (5.7 km2), of which 2.1 square miles (5.4 km2) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) of it (1.40%) is covered by water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)9,362[4]−5.5%
U.S. Decennial Census[16]

Sunbury is the largest principal city of the Sunbury-Lewisburg-Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, a Combined Statistical Area that includes the Sunbury (Northumberland County), Lewisburg (Union County), and Selinsgrove (Snyder County) micropolitan areas,[17][18] which had a combined population of 173,726 at the 2000 census.

As of the census of 2010, there were 9,905 people, 4,540 households, and 2,637 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,716.7 people per square mile. There were 4,864 housing units at an average density of 2,316.2 per square mile. The racial makeup of Sunbury in 2000 was 95.26% White, 1.29% African American, 0.14% Native American, 0.26% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.91% from other races, and 1.11% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.09% of the population.

In 2000, there were 4,540 households, of which 28.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.2% were married couples living together, 14.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.9% were non-families. 36.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 16.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.91.

In 2000, the city the population had 23.9% under the age of 18, 8.7% from 18 to 24, 29.5% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 17.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.7 males.

The median income for a household in Sunbury was $25,893 in 2000, and the median income for a family was $33,148. Males had a median income of $26,497 versus $18,994 for females. The per capita income was $13,350. About 14.6% of families and 18.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 26.7% of those under age 18 and 11.9% of those age 65 or over.


Sunbury is a city of the third class. Pennsylvania third-class cities are municipalities with a population of at least 10,000 (at one time), but fewer than 80,000 residents. The city operates under a commission form of government, with a mayor and four councilpeople. The mayor is a member and serves as president of the council. All third-class cities are governed by the Third Class City Code. Each councilman and mayor is in charge of one of the city's major departments. The current mayor is Kurt Karlovich.

These officials and the controller and treasurer are elected at-large for four-year terms. Appointments of all other city officers and employees are made by the council. The current members of city council are James Eister, Richard Reichner, Chris Reis, and Josh Brosious. The goals of these members are to enact legislation for the ethical operation of the city government, to assist in the planning of the city's revitalization and future, and to maintain discussions with the city administration and residents to ensure a smooth and efficient government to govern.[19]

The Chief of Police is Bradley Hare. He re-assumed the position in 2019.

The Sunbury Municipal Authority manages the following services for residents, businesses, and industries of the Sunbury and parts of Upper Augusta: drinking water, wastewater, flood control, recycling (for a fee), and the Municipal Transfer Station for large rubbish. Residents may bring their trash there for disposal for a per-bag or by-weight fee.

In July 2007, the city council voted to begin a program aimed at dealing with blighted properties. Initially, the program will address seven properties. The properties will be demolished at the taxpayer's expense and put to public use.[20]

The city is in the 108th District Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the 27th district of the Pennsylvania Senate in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. With regard to the U.S. House of Representatives, residents are in Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district.

Notable businesses

Weis Markets, a regional supermarket chain operating in seven states, is headquartered in Sunbury. The company is a significant employer in the city and the region.[citation needed]

Great Coasters International is a roller coaster design and manufacturing firm and lists its contact address in Sunbury, though it is located outside of the city limits.[citation needed]

Sunbury Motor Company is a family-owned and -operated company since 1915; it is on North 4th Street.[21]

The Squeeze-In on Market Street is an iconic business that sells hot dogs seven days a week with just five stools. The business is just 7.5 feet wide. Hot dogs are sold to-go out the service window. Serving hot dogs since 1945.

Zimmerman Motors on Market Street is a family business that began making horse-drawn carriages in 1889 and now sells automobiles. [21]


Map of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania Public School Districts
Map of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania Public School Districts

The local public school system is the Shikellamy School District. The administrative offices are at Administration Center, 200 Island Blvd, Sunbury, PA 17801. Shikellamy High School has an 84% graduation rate according to the district report card 2010. In 11th grade, 49% were proficient in math. For reading 62% were proficient in 2005-2006. Shikellamy High is ranked 384th out of 606 public high schools in Pennsylvania.

In 2007, the Pittsburgh Business Times ranked the district 434th out of 499 Pennsylvania school districts based on three years of Pennsylvania System of Student Assessment test scores.[22]

The Shikellamy School Board set the budget at $34.62 million for 2007–2008. The board levies taxes to support its programs. These include 62.5 mills real estate tax in 2007.[23] Per capita taxes are $5 per resident. An earned income tax of one-half of 1 percent of income yields a revenue of approximately $1.8 million. Additionally, the real estate transfer tax of one-half percent (Northumberland Borough, Point Township, Rockefeller Township) and one percent (Snydertown borough) is levied on real estate transfers.[24]

Voters rejected a tax referendum in May 2007 which would have increased local earned income tax by 0.5% to reduce property taxes for homeowners and farmers by $176.[25]

SUN Area Technical Institute is a regional vocational school, offering adult education classes, vocational education, and technical career training. SUN Tech serves over 1500 people annually. It is ISO9001 and Middle States Accredited. SUN Tech was presented with the Significant Achievement Award in Education for raising their Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award score to 648 points, a 345-point increase from 303 points in August 2000.

Residents have a selection of alternative schools. By law, the local public school must provide transportation to schools within 10 miles (20 km) of the borders of the school district at no charge to the student.[26]


In Fall 2017, Lackawanna College opened the Sunbury Center at 1145 North 4th Street in the Sunbury Plaza. Students can earn bachelor's degrees in five different disciplines or associate's degrees in ten subjects. [27]


The Degenstein Community Library at 40 South Fifth Street provides print, video, microfilm, and online resources.

The Northumberland County Historical Society maintains the Charlotte Darrah Walter Genealogical Library. It contains material on local history along with thousands of records of early families from Northumberland County and surrounding counties. Access to records is on a fee basis. The permanent exhibits deal with the site in prehistoric times, at the time of the Moravian Mission and blacksmith shop, and Fort Augusta during the French and Indian War and later under the Americans, during the Revolutionary War.[28]


The local newspaper is The Daily Item. There are a variety of local radio stations, including the all news/sports channel WKOK 1070 kHz AM, the Big Country Radio Network (WLGL 92.3 FM, WQBG 100.5 FM, and WWBE 98.3 FM) and WFYY Y106.5 FM and 94.1 WQKX.

Notable people

In popular culture

In the episode titled "Nixon vs. Kennedy" in first season of the AMC cable drama Mad Men a train supposedly carrying the unrecognizable body of Pvt. Dick Whitman, who was killed in the Korean War, arrives in Sunbury. The escort officer with the casket is said to be Lt. Don Draper, and the casket is met by Dick Whitman's adoptive mother, his half brother, Adam and his mother's second husband. In fact, the person killed in Korea was Don Draper, and Dick Whitman has switched identities with Draper. Though Dick Whitman posing as Draper attempts to hide, Adam Whitman sees him, recognizes him, and chases the train as it leaves the station.[34]

On September 29th 2020, Sunbury was featured on the Comedy Central television series Tosh.0 in a recurring video category called Shithole of the Week, a segment in which host Daniel Tosh takes images or videos of various communities found online and will select the "Winner" based on the comedic negative features based in that community. The image that secured Sunbury's placement was a June 2020 video of a man spray painting "WIGHTE LIVES MATTER" on his personal fence with the intent of spelling "White Lives Matter".[35] Nearby city Shamokin was a previous "winner" of the same segment in 2016.

Parks and recreation

The extensive Sunbury Riverfront Park Project is in the planning and implementation stages in Sunbury. An extensive floodwall protection system was designed and built by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1951. Additional height was added to the wall in 2003. The system has provided protection from 15 major flood events over the past 50 years.[36] In 1972, flood waters from Hurricane Agnes crested at 35.8 feet (10.9 m) at Sunbury, two feet higher than the crest in 1936. The wall held back the water and residents showed their gratitude in messages they wrote on the wall.[37]

Hurricane Agnes in late June 1972 was blamed for 10 deaths in Lancaster County, eight in Dauphin County, five in York County and four in both Northumberland and Luzerne counties, according to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.[38]

Additionally, a multimillion-dollar fish ladder is being built across the river in Shamokin Dam to mitigate the impediment of the shad migration up the Susquehanna River caused by the annual inflation of the Adam T. Bower Fabri Dam.[39]

The Adam T. Bower Memorial Dam, an inflatable fabric-tube dam barrage impounding the Susquehanna River, creates the 3,000 acres (12 km2) Augusta Lake for recreation. It is inflated in May and deflated in the fall. The new waterfront development in Sunbury will provide a marina with transient boat docks, walking trails, gardens, an amphitheater and a new accessible fishing pier. Three acres of land will be added to the river side of the flood wall.

The city offers baseball fields, a skating park, tennis courts, playgrounds, a community pool and a small park that is next to the county courthouse, in the downtown area.[40]

A vacant building in the Shikellamy State Park along the river is under consideration for redevelopment as an environmental research and education center. Designed in the 1960s, the facility was originally the Basse Beck Environmental Center. It has been empty for several years.


The city and state struggle economically, part of America's "Rust Belt". A Brookings Institution publication has cited reasons including a lack of inter-municipal coordination and cooperation, a changing employment base and a dearth of jobs paying a living wage, out-migration of young people, an aging population, the need for workforce development, and an inequitable local tax structure.[41]

The Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way in 2006 commissioned a study regarding what matters most in area communities. They found that some major concerns were alcohol and drug use among all age groups and its effects on the community, the dependency on social services and assistance across generations, and a lack of public transportation.[42] It is the intention of the organization to focus spending on these issues.

The Susquehanna Industrial Development Corporation (SIDCO) received $173,500 in planning grant funding (2005) to support the redevelopment of the Wilhold Manufacturing facility in Sunbury. The BOS funding paid for a market study, phase II environmental study, wetland review, traffic impact study and title survey. The site, an 11.6-acre (47,000 m2) former rail yard and plastic manufacturing plant, is to be developed into four, 2-acre (8,100 m2) shovel ready sites. It was suggested that the redevelopment of this facility will result in the creation of 120 jobs.[43] The site was purchased by Moran Industries, based in Watsontown, for $200,000.[44] Moran is using the space for food grade storage.

Weis Markets has its corporate headquarters in Sunbury.[45]

External links

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Mayor". City of Sunbury, Pa ( Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  2. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "Sunbury Topo Map, Northumberland County PA (Sunbury Area)". TopoZone. Locality, LLC. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  5. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  6. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c Weslager, C. A. (1972). The Delaware Indians: A History. Rutgers University Press: News Brunswick, p. 192.
  8. ^ Rev. John Edwards, ed., Memoirs of the Rev. David Brainerd, New Haven, 1822, p. 233.
  9. ^ a b Weslager, C. A. (1972). The Delaware Indians: A History. Rutgers University Press: News Brunswick, p. 215.
  10. ^ Weslager, C. A. (1972). The Delaware Indians: A History. Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, p. 225-227.
  11. ^ Weslager, C. A. (1972). The Delaware Indians: A History. Rutgers University Press: News Brunswick, p. 229.
  12. ^ "Area History :: Northumberland County Historical Society".
  13. ^ a b "Home". City of Sunbury, Pa (
  14. ^ "Home". City of Sunbury, Pa (
  15. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  16. ^ United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved November 20, 2013.
  17. ^ MICROPOLITAN STATISTICAL AREAS AND COMPONENTS Archived 2007-06-29 at the Wayback Machine, Office of Management and Budget, 2007-05-11. Accessed 2008-08-01.
  18. ^ COMBINED STATISTICAL AREAS AND COMPONENT CORE BASED STATISTICAL AREAS Archived 2007-06-29 at the Wayback Machine, Office of Management and Budget, 2007-05-11. Accessed 2008-08-01.
  19. ^ "Sunbury- City Council". Retrieved 20 April 2011.
  20. ^ Scott, Rob, "City to take over 7 vacant houses." The Daily Item, July 24, 2007.
  21. ^ a b Scicchitano, Eric (July 7, 2019). "Century of commerce in the Valley: Firms thrive, transform through decades". The Daily Item. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  22. ^ Valley schools all over the chart Archived 2012-07-30 at, Daily Item, June 6, 2007
  23. ^ Shikellamy school board adopts $34.6M budget, Daily Item, June 20, 2007
  24. ^ Shikellamy budget approved, Daily Item, May 19, 2007
  25. ^ Tax reform proposal falls in all Valley school districts Archived 2012-07-23 at, Daily Item, May 19, 2007.
  26. ^ "Pennsylvania Department of Education" (PDF).
  27. ^ "Sunbury Center at Lackawanna College - Lackawanna College | Life-Changing College Education". Retrieved 2021-03-17.
  28. ^ Northumberland County Historical Society website Archived 2007-06-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ J. L. Floyd & Co., Genealogical and Biographical Annals of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, 1911, page 160
  30. ^ 'Wisconsin Blue Book 1880,' Biographical Sketch of Charles Dering, pg. 505
  31. ^ "Shikellamy Historical Marker",, Harrisburg, PA, USA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, retrieved July 28, 2012, Oneida chief and overseer or vice-regent of the Six Nations asserting Iroquois dominion over conquered Delaware and other tribes. He lived at Shamokin Indian town, Sunbury, from about 1728 until his death, 1748. Said to be buried near here.
  32. ^ Merrell, James. "Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier". Missing or empty |url= (help)
  33. ^ Grumet, Robert Steven (1996), Northeastern Indian lives, 1632-1816, Native Americans of the Northeast, Amherst, MA, USA: University of Massachusetts Press, hdl:2027/mdp.39015037293696, ISBN 1558490019, LCCN 95033144, OCLC 605358451closed access(subscription required)
  34. ^ Mad Men, Season One dvd
  35. ^ WKOK Staff (2020-06-22). "'Wighte Lives Matter' painted on fence in Sunbury goes viral |". Retrieved 2021-03-17.
  36. ^ Background Information and Data, Sunbury Riverfront Park Project "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2007-06-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  37. ^ History of Sunbury The flood wall Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine SEDA-COG, Oct. 12, 2005.
  38. ^ Tropical Storm Agnes in the Susquehanna River Basin June 21–24, 1972, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Information Sheet
  39. ^ "DCNR to Remove Last Impediment to Shad on Susquehanna".
  40. ^ Public parks of Sunbury "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-08-25. Retrieved 2007-06-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  41. ^ Alter, Theodore R. "Strengthening Rural Pennsylvania" Brookings Institution. Archived 2007-07-11 at the Wayback Machine March 2007.
  42. ^ "Group works to define quality of life issues." The Daily Item, July 15, 2007.
  43. ^ PA Department of Community & Economic Development Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  44. ^ Finnerty, John, "Moran buys Wilhold site", The Daily Item, Jan 13, 2006.
  45. ^ "Contact Us." (Archive) Weis Markets. Retrieved on May 7, 2012. "1000 South Second Street PO Box 471 Sunbury, Pennsylvania 17801"
This page was last edited on 17 March 2021, at 17:54
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