Today, the historical building at the end of Institute Street in Wyoming is known as the Wyoming Institute. Owned by the United Presbyterian Church of Wyoming and located on the corner of Wyoming Avenue, the Institute was built by the Presbytery of Luzerne in 1849 to house an academic prep school of Wyoming Seminary quality. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1879.
The presbytery also built a dormitory for students on Wyoming Avenue across from the church, next to where Dileo’s Service Station is today. To call the students from the dorm to class at the Luzerne Presbyterial Institute, the presbytery ordered a bell from the Meneely Foundry in West Troy, New York. Between its founding in 1826 and closing in 1952, the Meneely Foundry cast tens of thousands of bells for churches, schools, factories and even a lighthouse in the United States, Canada and Europe. For years, the bell house was open. It was closed off with brick text probably in the 1940s or ’50s.
Earlier this year, the church pastor, the Rev. Jim Thyren, whose office is on the second floor of the Institute near the bell tower’s rope chute, noticed the chute was leaking. Hudak Waterproofing from Scranton was contracted to fix the problem. Workers discovered while the tower’s skeleton beams were solid, the bell’s infrastructure was rotting. They recommended taking the bell down. This was done and it was cleaned up. One of the workers fabricated a replica of the bell’s infrastructure and it is now on display in the Institute’s yard.
The Institute School taught “young gentlemen” Latin, Greek, French and German; higher mathematics, sciences, music and art. In 1854, the presbytery established a girls school with a similar curriculum in Wilkes-Barre. A newspaper ad in 1854 says the cost for “22 weeks tuition, room, board, fuel, etc.” was $60 for the girls school. The cost of the boys Institute in Wyoming was probably comparable.
The first Presbyterian Church in Wyoming was built in 1840 on grounds which now include the Wyoming Cemetery. After lightening and a fire damaged the original church in 1854, the congregation moved services to the Institute, while they built the current brick church which was dedicated on Oct. 22, 1857.
The Institute School closed around 1880.
Today, the Wyoming Presbyterian Church has a “shared space agreement” with West Pittston Presbyterian Church congregation, which was forced out of its church on Exeter Avenue in West Pittston by the flood of 2011. The Institute is known as the “Home of First United Presbyterian Church of West Pittston at Wyoming.”
The West Pittston Presbyterians have Sunday service at 11 a.m. in the Wyoming church, after the 9 a.m. Wyoming Congregation services. Wyoming and West Pittston have joint services for special occasions, including on Christmas Eve.
West Pittston uses the Institute for events such as a strawberry festival and flea market in June and a community picnic and campfire in July and seminars such as CPR training, gardening and a hearing clinic. It is emphasized these events are open to the public.
Pastor Thyren said the Institute is starting a tutoring service for Wyoming Area students who are identified as needing academic help but can’t afford private tutoring.