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Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

 

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
City of Wilkes-Barre

Downtown Wilkes-Barre, looking west from Giants Despair
Nickname(s): The Diamond City, Coal City, Dub City, The W-B
Motto: Pattern After Us
Luzerne County, Pennsylvania

Coordinates: 41°14′40″N 75°52′41″W / 41.24444°N 75.87806°W / 41.24444; -75.87806Coordinates: 41°14′40″N 75°52′41″W / 41.24444°N 75.87806°W / 41.24444; -75.87806

Country United States of America
State Pennsylvania
County Luzerne
Founded 1769
Incorporated 1806–Borough
  1871–City
Government
 • Mayor Thomas M. Leighton (D)
Area
 • City 18.6 km2 (7.2 sq mi)
 • Land 17.7 km2 (6.9 sq mi)
 • Water 0.9 km2 (0.3 sq mi)
Elevation 160 m (525 ft)
Population (2011)
 • City 41,465
 • Density 2,200/km2 (5,800/sq mi)
 • Metro 563,629 (94th)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Website www.wilkes-barre.pa.us

Wilkes-Barre /ˈwɪlksbæri/[1] is a city in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, the county seat of Luzerne County. It is at the center of the Wyoming Valley area with a population of 41,498, making it the 13th largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is one of the principal cities in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area, which had a population of 563,631 as of the 2010 Census making it the fourth largest metro/statistical area in the state of Pennsylvania. According to the city's Facebook page, Wilkes-Barre houses the 4th largest downtown workforce in the state of Pennsylvania. Wilkes-Barre was founded in 1769 and formally incorporated in 1806.

Wilkes-Barre and the surrounding Wyoming Valley are framed by the Pocono Mountains to the east, the Endless Mountains to the west and the Lehigh Valley to the south. The Susquehanna River flows through the center of the valley and defines the northwestern border of the city.

History


Beginnings

The Wyoming Valley was first inhabited by the Shawanese and Delaware Indian tribes in the early 18th century. By 1769, a group led by John Durkee became the first Europeans to reach the area. The settlement was named Wilkes-Barre after John Wilkes and Isaac Barré, two British members of Parliament who supported colonial America.

The initial settlers were aligned with Connecticut, which had a claim on the land that rivaled Pennsylvania's. Armed men loyal to Pennsylvania twice attempted to evict the residents of Wilkes-Barre in what came to be known as the Pennamite Wars. After the American Revolution, the conflict was resolved so that the settlers retained title to their lands but transferred their allegiance to Pennsylvania.

In 1797, several decades after the city's founding, Louis Philippe, later the King of France from 1830 to 1840, stayed in Wilkes-Barre while traveling to the French Asylum settlement.

Industrial foundations: manufacturing, coal and railroads

Wilkes-Barre's population exploded due to the discovery of anthracite coal in the 19th century, which gave the city the nickname of "The Diamond City." Hundreds of thousands of immigrants flocked to the city, seeking jobs in the numerous mines and collieries that sprung up. The Vulcan Iron Works was a well-known manufacturer of railway locomotives from 1849 to 1954.

During Wilkes-Barre's reign as an industrial and economic force in America, a number of franchises decided to plant their roots in the city, such as Woolworth's, Sterling Hotels, Planter's Peanuts, Miner's Bank, Bell Telephone, HBO, Luzerne National Bank, and Stegmaier. In addition, the demolished Old Fell House on Northampton St is believed to be the first place in the entire world Anthracite was burned for heat.[2]

20th century

Wilkes-Barre is the birthplace of the Planters Peanuts Company, which was founded in 1906 by Italian immigrant Amedeo Obici and partner Mario Peruzzi.

It is said that Babe Ruth hit one of the longest home runs in history in Wilkes-Barre early in the 20th century. This statement is quoted from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders News page: "On October 12, 1926, Babe Ruth visited Wilkes-Barre's Artillery Park to play in an exhibition game between Hughestown and Larksville. Suiting up for Hughestown, the Yankee slugger challenged Larksville's hurler Ernie Corkran to throw him his 'best stuff'—a fastball right down the heart of the plate. Corkran obliged and Ruth crushed the pitch into deep right field. When the ball cleared the fence, a good 400 feet away from home plate, it was still rising. It finally landed in Kirby Park on the far side of a high school running track. Ruth himself was so impressed by the feat that he asked for his homer to be measured. Originally estimated at 650 feet, the prodigious blast is considered to be the longest home run in baseball's storied history."[3]

The coal industry survived several disasters, including an explosion at the Baltimore Colliery in 1919 that killed 92 miners, but it could not survive the gradual switch to other energy sources. Most coal operations left Wilkes-Barre by the end of World War II, and the 1959 Knox Mine Disaster marked the end of King Coal's heyday. The city went into a decades-long decline, hastened by Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

In November 1972, 365 subscribers of Service Electric Cable were the first to receive HBO's service, making Wilkes-Barre the birthplace of modern cable TV programming.

Disastrous flooding

Manufacturing and retail remained Wilkes-Barre's strongest industries, but the city's economy took a major blow from Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972. The storm pushed the Susquehanna River to a height of nearly 41 feet (12 m), four feet above the city's levees, flooding downtown with nine feet of water. While no lives were lost, 25,000 homes and businesses were either damaged or destroyed; damages were estimated to be $1 billion, with President Richard Nixon sending aid to the area.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Wilkes-Barre attempted to repair the damage from Agnes by building a levee system that rises 41 feet; it has successfully battled less threatening floods of 1996, 2004, and 2006, and the Army Corps of Engineers has praised the quality of the levees. In 2006 the city made the front page of national newspapers when 200,000 residents were told to evacuate in the wake of flooding that was forecast to reach levels near that of 1972 but fell short of predictions.

In late August 2011, Hurricane Irene off the New Jersey coast caused the Susquehanna River to rise to flood stage but was no cause for alarm for the city. However, from September 6 to September 8, heavy rains from the inland remnants of Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Katia offshore funneled heavy rain over the Wyoming Valley and into the Susquehanna River watershed. The Susquehanna swelled to record levels across the state, and in Wilkes-Barre crested on September 9 at an all-time record of 42.66 feet (13.00 m),[4] nearly two feet higher than the previously disastrous water levels from 1972's Hurricane Agnes. Wilkes-Barre was spared from any major flooding by the levees built on the river banks of the city, however nearby boroughs that were unprotected by levees such as West Pittston, Plymouth, and parts of Plains Township were affected by extreme flooding and the subsequent water damage.

21st century

On June 9, 2005, Mayor Thomas M. Leighton unveiled his I believe... campaign for Wilkes-Barre, which was intended to boost the city's spirits. Construction began on a planned downtown theatre complex which had a grand opening on June 30, 2006, and renovation of the landmark Hotel Sterling was being pursued by CityVest, a nonprofit developer. The expansion of Wilkes University and King's College has taken place. Also, the canopy and matching street lights in Public Square and across downtown were removed; the replacements are new green lampposts.

The City of Wilkes-Barre celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2006. There were several events which were scheduled to commemorate this occasion over the July 4 weekend, including a free concert with the Beach Boys in the city's Kirby Park. However, due to extremely heavy rains, the Susquehanna River crested high enough that most of the city had to be evacuated on June 28, 2006, forcing the cancellation of the events. Afterwards, the city rescheduled their Bicentennial Blastoff, their Bicentennial Parade and the Bicentennial Gala to different dates throughout August. The Beach Boys rescheduled their concert and played a Kirby Park concert on Labor Day weekend, Sunday September 3, 2006, attended by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

The Riverfront revitalization project (River Common), which broke ground in 2007 and was fully completed in early 2010, once again made the riverfront pleasant and accessible to the public. The riverfront now includes an amphitheater, handicapped-accessible ramps and sidewalks, fountains, as well as full lighting including color-changing LED accent systems underneath two bridges which carry pedestrian traffic across the normally-open levee breachings. These breachings can be promptly closed in the event of high water by way of an insert which is stored on rails inside the wall at each breaching. The project stretches approximately four blocks from the Luzerne County Courthouse to the intersection of S. River Street and W. South Street. The River Common has since played host to concerts and charity events such as Relay for Life and is used by residents on a daily basis as a nearby retreat from the city itself.

Since completion of the River Common, various improvements to city infrastructure have been progressing. New crosswalks have been installed downtown, which include signage reminding motorists that pedestrians have the right-of-way. The completion of the James F. Conahan Intermodal Transportation Facility has added parking and moved Luzerne County Transportation Authority buses from their former Public Square staging locations, reducing congestion in the square. Private carrier Martz offers coach bus service from the terminal as well.[5] The widening and realignment of Coal Street, a major road connecting Wilkes-Barre city with Wilkes-Barre Township, was completed in 2012. The new Coal Street provides four lanes over the original two lanes, making travel between the highly commercial Wilkes-Barre Township and the city itself much easier. The 2012 realignment also provides a rather spectacular view of the city center when traveling west into Wilkes-Barre City.

Political corruption in Wilkes-Barre and Luzerne County became a major regional news story following nationwide publication of stories about the http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/w-b-towing-company-owner-busted-in-sting-fbi-says-1.1498547

Tallest buildings

Wilkes-Barre is by no means a city characterized by tall buildings, but it has a large skyline for a city of its population and size, and it is home to more than 30 high rise buildings (Daniel J. Flood Tower is in Kingston and the VA Medical Center is in Plains Township, but they are part of the Wilkes-Barre skyline, being close enough to blend in), the tallest of which (from tallest to shortest) are as follows.

  • Luzerne Bank Building
  • Hotel Sterling Plaza Tower (Demolished)
  • Hotel Sterling (Demolished)
  • Daniel J. Flood Tower (Kingston)
  • Citizen's Bank Financial Center
  • St. Nicholas RC Church
  • PNC Bank Building
  • Washington Square Apartments
  • University Tower
  • VA Medical Center (Plains Township)
  • Lincoln Plaza Apartments
  • Wilkes-Barre General Hospital
  • Holy Cross Hall: King's College
  • 15 South Franklin
  • B'Nai B'Rith Apartments
  • Valley View Terrace Apartments
  • Geisinger Hospital (South End)
  • Frontier: Wilkes-Barre Center
  • Provincial Tower
  • Hollenback Coal Exchange (Demolished)
  • Woodlands Inn and Resort
  • Blue Cross Operations Center
  • Sherman Hills Apartments
  • Ramada Plaza Hotel On-The-Square
  • Luzerne County Correctional Facility
  • City Heights Apartments
  • Stegmaier Federal Building
  • Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center (Plains Township)
  • Luzerne County Courthouse
  • Verizon Building
  • Allegheny Building
  • Cumberland Apartments
  • Wilkes-Barre City Hall
  • Courthouse Square Tower
  • The Twin Cubes (the brown & beige building located on the Northeastern block of Public Square)
  • The Reddington
  • Hotel Sterling (Original building/Demolished)
  • Lion Brewery
  • Guard Insurance Center[12]

Geography

Wilkes-Barre is located at 41°14′40″N 75°52′41″W / 41.244581°N 75.877918°W / 41.244581; -75.877918.[13]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.2 square miles (19 km2), of which 6.8 square miles (18 km2) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2), or 4.60%, is water. While the Susquehanna River has a wide floodplain that has necessitated the construction of floodwalls to protect a large percentage of the city, the areas away from the river increase in elevation approaching Wilkes-Barre Mountain. The elevation of the downtown is about 550 feet (170 m) above sea level.

Neighborhoods

According Wilkes-Barre.pa.us, Wilkes-Barre houses 12 official neighborhoods, which are:

Downtown

(The 16 blocks)-This is where it all started. The area now referred to as "Downtown", between South and North Streets, and bordered by River Street and Wilkes-Barre Boulevard to the West and East respectively is the original foundation of Wilkes-Barre, the 16 blocks claimed by the Connecticut settlers who founded the city. Throughout the city's history, the area has remained a hub for all of Luzerne County. During the city's boom, this small area was home to the headquarters of more than 100 national corporations. Today, it still houses the NEPA Headquarters for Verizon, Citizen's Bank, Blue Cross, PNC Bank, Luzerne National Bank, Guard Insurance, and a number of other companies. An estimated 40,000 people live and/or work in Downtown Wilkes-Barre every day.

North End

This is the area directly Northwest of Downtown. It comprises a number of urban and suburban communities, and is renowned for its interesting and beautiful architecture.

Parsons

This is a more quiet part of town that almost feels like a suburb. It houses 2 city parks, a golf course, and a number of factories.

Miners' Mills

Named after an early prominent local family, it is the last neighborhood on the Northern border of the city.

South Wilkes-Barre - This is the area directly southwest of Downtown. Home to the national headquarters of Planter's Peanuts and the Bell Telephone Company in the 20th Century. The tallest church in Luzerne County, St Nicholas Roman Catholic Church, dominates the South End skyline at nearly 200'.

East End - This is the area directly northeast of Downtown. The East End, along with Heights and Mayflower, are fairly new areas compared to the rest of the city, having only been developed in the 20th Century. Old pictures of the Stegmaier Building (which is the oldest highrise in Wilkes-Barre and the last one on Downtown's eastern border) show that everything east of Downtown was forests and coal mines.

Heights a.k.a. Compton - This is the area directly east of Downtown centered between East End and Mayflower. It is home to three low-income housing projects, two elderly high-rise apartment buildings, and the AHL team The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Coal St Park.

Mayflower

This area is located southeast of Downtown. Once, a wealthy area home to many beautiful mansions owned by various "big wigs", the area is now a more affordable neighborhood, also housing the OKT, Lincoln Plaza, and Park Avenue residential housing communities. It can be argued that from the high streets of Mayflower, the best view of the downtown skyline can be seen.

Additional neighborhoods include Brookside in the Northern end of the city and Rolling Mill Hill, Iron Triangle, and Goose Island in the southern end of the city. There is also a number of smaller sub-neighborhoods within these neighborhoods that are not officially recognized

Adjacent municipalities

Climate

Wilkes-Barre has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfa) with four distinct seasons. Winters are cold with a January average of 26.4 °F (−3.1 °C). On average, temperatures below 0 °F (−17.8 °C) occur 3 days per year and there is 37 days where the maximum temperature remains below 32 °F (0.0 °C).[14] The average annual snowfall is 42 inches (107 cm). Summers are warm with a July average of 71.9 °F (22.2 °C). In an average summer, temperatures exceed 90 °F (32.2 °C) occur on 9 days and can occasionally exceed 100 °F (37.8 °C).[14] Spring and fall are unpredictable with temperatures ranging from cold to warm although they are usually mild. On average, Wilkes-Barre receives 38.2 inches (970 mm) of precipitation each year, which is relatively evenly distributed throughout the year though the summer months receive more precipitation.[14] Extreme temperatures range from −21 °F (−29.4 °C) on January 21, 1994, to 101 °F (38.3 °C) in July and September.[14] Wilkes-Barre averages 2303 hours of sunshine per year, ranging from a low of 96 hours in December (or 33% of possible sunshine) to 286 hours in July (or 62% of possible sunshine).[15]

Climate data for Wilkes-Barre (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 67
(19)
73
(23)
85
(29)
93
(34)
93
(34)
97
(36)
101
(38)
98
(37)
101
(38)
88
(31)
80
(27)
71
(22)
101
(38)
Average high °F (°C) 33.6
(0.9)
37.2
(2.9)
46.6
(8.1)
59.3
(15.2)
70.1
(21.2)
78.1
(25.6)
82.2
(27.9)
80.4
(26.9)
72.6
(22.6)
61.1
(16.2)
49.7
(9.8)
37.8
(3.2)
59.1
(15.1)
Average low °F (°C) 19.1
(−7.2)
21.3
(−5.9)
28.3
(−2.1)
38.7
(3.7)
48.2
(9)
57.1
(13.9)
61.5
(16.4)
60.1
(15.6)
52.7
(11.5)
41.8
(5.4)
33.9
(1.1)
24.3
(−4.3)
40.6
(4.8)
Record low °F (°C) −21
(−29)
−16
(−27)
−4
(−20)
14
(−10)
27
(−3)
34
(1)
43
(6)
38
(3)
29
(−2)
19
(−7)
9
(−13)
−9
(−23)
−21
(−29)
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.38
(60.5)
2.08
(52.8)
2.55
(64.8)
3.31
(84.1)
3.51
(89.2)
4.01
(101.9)
3.79
(96.3)
3.43
(87.1)
4.06
(103.1)
3.33
(84.6)
3.14
(79.8)
2.64
(67.1)
38.23
(971)
Snowfall inches (cm) 11.7
(29.7)
10.0
(25.4)
7.6
(19.3)
2.9
(7.4)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0.1
(0.3)
2.6
(6.6)
7.0
(17.8)
42.0
(106.7)
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 11.9 10.8 11.8 12.2 13.0 12.7 11.1 11.1 9.9 10.4 11.1 11.5 137.6
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 8.7 7.4 4.7 1.6 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 2.0 6.5 31.1
Mean monthly sunshine hours 130.3 143.7 185.7 210.5 246.9 269.7 285.7 257.2 200.2 173.3 104.3 95.9 2,303.4
Source: NOAA (normals 1981−2010)[14][15]

Government


Executive

The city is headed by a mayor, elected to a four-year term. The current mayor is Tom Leighton, a Democrat who was first elected to office in 2003.

Legislative

The legislative branch of Wilkes-Barre is the City Council, comprising five members who are elected by district to four-year terms. Current members of Council are Bill Barrett; George Brown; Tony George; Maureen Lavelle; and Michael Merritt. Barrett and George are former Wilkes-Barre City police chiefs.

Judicial

The City of Wilkes-Barre is served by two City Attorneys, Timothy Henry and William E. Vinsko Jr. who advise both the Mayor and City Council.

The Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas is the trial court of general jurisdiction for Wilkes-Barre. Its probation system is divided into two divisions: adult and juvenile. The Court has ten judges: President Judge Thomas Burke; as well as Judges David Lupas, William H. Amesbury, Tina Polachek Gartley, Lesa Gelb, Richard Hughes III, Fred Pierantoni III, Jennifer Rogers, Joseph Sklarosky, Jr., and Michael Vough. Luzerne County senior judges are Hugh F. Mundy, and former President judges Joseph Augello, Chester Muroski, and Patrick Toole.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania sits at the Max Rosenn United States Courthouse in downtown Wilkes-Barre on South Main Street. Bankruptcy Judge John J. Thomas is son of Thomas C. Thomas, a prominent produce dealer whose terminal remains a prominent part of the Wilkes-Barre skyline.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
2011 estimate

As of the 2010 census, the city was 79.2% White, 10.9% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 1.4% Asian, and 2.9% were two or more races. 11.3% of the population were of Hispanic or Latino ancestry.[16] The Hispanic population was just 1.58% of the population as of the 2000 census.

As of the census of 2000, there were 43,123 people, 17,961 households, and 9,878 families residing in the city. The population density was 6,296.3 people per square mile (2,430.6/km²). There were 20,294 housing units at an average density of 2,963.1 per square mile (1,143.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 92.30% White, 5.09% African American, 0.11% Native American, 0.79% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.53% from other races, and 1.15% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.58% of the population.

The average household size was 2.20, and the average family size was 2.96.

In the city the population was spread out with 19.9% under the age of 18, 12.6% from 18 to 24, 26.1% from 25 to 44, 20.8% from 45 to 64, and 20.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.7 males.

The local accent of American English is Northeast Pennsylvania English.

Roads, railways, and transportation

Interstate 81 passes north–south near Wilkes-Barre, and the city is also located near the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and is about 10 miles (16 km) north of Interstate 80.

Public transportation is provided by the Luzerne County Transportation Authority. In addition to servicing the main arteries of the city, it provides transportation for the northern half of the county, as well as a connecting bus to Scranton via an interchange at Pittston with County of Lackawanna Transit System (COLTS), the public transit authority of Lackawanna County.


Five international airlines fly from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport in nearby Pittston Township. Smaller, private planes may also use the Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley Airport in Forty Fort.

The city was at one time served by the Lehigh Valley Railroad, Central Railroad of New Jersey, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (later Erie Lackawanna Railway), Delaware and Hudson Railway, the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Wilkes-Barre and Eastern Railroad, and the Lackawanna and Wyoming Valley Railroad (known as the Laurel Line). The Wilkes-Barre Traction Company formed a streetcar line from Georgetown to Nanticoke and over the river into Plymouth ceasing operations in the mid-1940s. At present, the Canadian Pacific Railway (successor to the Delaware and Hudson) and the Luzerne and Susquehanna Railroad (designated-operator of a county-owned shortline) provide freight service within the city.


Local attractions


Colleges and universities

High schools

Professional sports

Club League Venue Established Parent Club League
Championships
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders IL, Baseball PNC Field 1937 New York Yankees 2
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins AHL, Ice hockey Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza 1999 Pittsburgh Penguins 0[22]

Local media


Television

Radio

Wilkes-Barre's radio market is ranked No. 69 by Arbitron's ranking system. The following box contains the list of all radio stations receivable in the area.

  • WRGN-The Good News Network 88.1FM and 100.3FM
  • WCLH-90.7 FM Wilkes University College Radio
  • WEJL/WBAX/WQFM-ESPN Radio 630–1240 AM and 96.1/100.1/100.5 FM
  • WFUZ-FM 92.1 Adult Alternative-90's Radio
  • WMGS-Magic 93
  • WBHT-97BHT Hit Radio
  • WSJR-JR 93.7 Country Radio
  • WGMF-WZMF-Gem 104 104.5 and 95.3 Classic Hits/Oldies
  • WBSX-97.9X Active Rock
  • WGGY-Radio Country
  • WILK News Radio Station
  • WKRZ – 98.5 popular music
  • WEZX-106.9 Rock 107 Classic Rock

Large employers not otherwise mentioned

Popular culture

  • In the Collier brothers' book My Brother Sam is Dead, it is revealed in the end that Timmy and his mother move to Wilkes-Barre.
  • Wilkes-Barre's economic plight is featured in the movie Capitalism: A Love Story, directed by Michael Moore.[23]
  • James K. Morrow's book Towing Jehovah describes the body of God as being about the size of downtown Wilkes-Barre.
  • The Wilkes-Barre variation (or Traxler variation, as it is more commonly known) of the Two Knights' Defense is named for the Wilkes-Barre chess club.[24]
  • Comic strip hero Joe Palooka was from Wilkes-Barre.
  • The Broadway musical Tovarich features a song called Wilkes-Barre,Pa
  • In the film All About Eve, Margot Channing, played by Bette Davis refers to having played little theatre in Wilkes-Barre .
  • In the book by Duncan More [The Epiphany of Hunter Dixon] the main character spends much of his time in Wilkes-Barre and attends a performance at the Little Theatre.

Notable people

See also

References

External links

  • City of Wilkes-Barre official website
  • Osterhout Free Library
  • Wilkes-Barre Bicentennial
  • More interesting facts about Wilkes-Barre
  • DMOZ

Template:PA Home Rule Municipality

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