Sunbury, Pennsylvania

Coordinates: 40°51′50″N 76°47′21″W / 40.86389°N 76.78917°W / 40.86389; -76.78917
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
 • MayorJosh Brocious [1]
 • Total2.11 sq mi (5.46 km2)
 • Land2.01 sq mi (5.20 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)
 • Total9,719
 • Density4,842.55/sq mi (1,870.07/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/ SUN-berr-ee) is a city and county seat of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, United States. The principal city in the Sunbury, PA Micropolitan Statistical Area, it is also one of three principal cities in the Bloomsburg-Berwick-Sunbury, PA Combined Statistical Area.

Located in Central Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Valley on the east bank of the Susquehanna River, just downstream of the confluence of its main and west branches, Sunbury dates to the early 18th century.[5] Its population was 9,905 at the 2010 census.

Rich in history, its Hotel Edison became the first building in the city to be lit with Thomas Edison's three-wire system in 1883,[6] and was later named in his honor. John W. Treadwell, Jr., a nine-year-old boy in the crowd of onlookers, was given the privilege of throwing the switch that turned on those new lights.[7]

Other historic sites include the Beck House, Northumberland County Courthouse, and Sunbury Historic District, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[8]


Walking path in Sunbury

The first human settlement of Sunbury was probably Shawnee migrants.[9] 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.[9]

From 1727 to 1756, Sunbury was one of the largest and most influential Indian settlements in Pennsylvania.[9] 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.[10]

Monument to Thomas Edison near Sunbury

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."[11]: 215  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."[11]

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.[12]

However, the Delaware Indians at Shamokin joined the war against Pennsylvania and the English after the Gnadenhutten massacre in 1755, and Shamokin was abandoned in May 1756.[13] Pennsylvania Fort Augusta was built in 1756 on the former site of the village of Shamokin. Bloody Springs is a historic site from the era.

On March 21, 1772, Northumberland County was incorporated and subdivided.[14] The settlement was named Sunbury that same year, and the present-day city of Sunbury identifies 1772 as the date of its establishment.[15] 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.

In July 1883, American inventor Thomas Edison installed the first successful three-wire electric lighting system in at what was then known as the City Hotel. At the city's 150th anniversary celebration in 1922, it was renamed the Edison Hotel.[16]


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).[17] It is located at the point where the west and north branches of the Susquehanna converge.[15]

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) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) (1.40%) is water.


Climate data for Sunbury, Pennsylvania (1991–2020 normals, extremes 1957–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 71
Average high °F (°C) 35.3
Daily mean °F (°C) 27.1
Average low °F (°C) 18.9
Record low °F (°C) −15
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.98
Average snowfall inches (cm) 7.6
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 10.0 8.9 9.8 12.1 13.5 12.4 10.6 11.0 9.1 10.8 8.8 10.0 127.0
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 4.4 4.2 1.9 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.7 2.4 14.1
Source: NOAA[18][19]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[20]

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,[21][22] 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 $37,851 and the average $52,975 in 2020. About 19.8% of the population was below the poverty line.[23]

Notable businesses[edit]

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.[24]

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.[24]


Map of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania Public School Districts

The local public school system is the Shikellamy School District. There is a campus of Lackawanna College in the city.


The Degenstein Community Library at 40 South Fifth Street provides books, DVDs, internet access, educational classes, summer reading, and adult programs. The Degenstein Community Library was awarded a Gold Star from the Pennsylvania Library Association in 2018 for its participation in the PA Forward Star Library program. The library has maintained its gold star for the past 5 years.

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.[25]


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[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

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.[31]

On September 29, 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".[32] Nearby city Shamokin was a previous "winner" of the same segment in 2016.

Parks and recreation[edit]

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.[33] 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.[34]

Floodwall in Sunbury

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.[35]

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.[36]

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.[37]

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.[38]

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.[39] 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.[40] The site was purchased by Moran Industries, based in Watsontown, for $200,000.[41] Moran is using the space for food grade storage.

Weis Markets has its corporate headquarters in Sunbury.[42]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Mayor". City of Sunbury, Pa ( Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  2. ^ "ArcGIS REST Services Directory". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 16, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c "Sunbury Topo Map, Northumberland County PA (Sunbury Area)". TopoZone. Locality, LLC. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  4. ^ "Census Population API". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 12, 2022.
  5. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  6. ^ Scott, Rob. "Edison Hotel has long, colorful history." Sunbury, Pennsylvania: The Daily Item, July 2, 2007, p. B1 (subscription required).
  7. ^ "J. W. Treadwell Paid Tribute by PRR Chief." Sunbury, Pennsylvania: The Daily Item, p. 6 of pp. 1, 6 (subscription required).
  8. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  9. ^ a b c Weslager, C. A. (1972). The Delaware Indians: A History. Rutgers University Press: News Brunswick, p. 192.
  10. ^ Rev. John Edwards, ed., Memoirs of the Rev. David Brainerd, New Haven, 1822, p. 233.
  11. ^ a b Weslager, C. A. (1972). The Delaware Indians: A History. Rutgers University Press: News Brunswick
  12. ^ Weslager, C. A. (1972). The Delaware Indians: A History. Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, p. 225-227.
  13. ^ Weslager, C. A. (1972). The Delaware Indians: A History. Rutgers University Press: News Brunswick, p. 229.
  14. ^ "Area History :: Northumberland County Historical Society".
  15. ^ a b "Home". City of Sunbury, Pa (
  16. ^ "Home". City of Sunbury, Pa ([permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  18. ^ "NowData – NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved August 7, 2021.
  19. ^ "Station: Sunbury, PA". U.S. Climate Normals 2020: U.S. Monthly Climate Normals (1991-2020). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved August 7, 2021.
  20. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ "Explore Census Data". 2020. Archived from the original on October 30, 2023. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ Northumberland County Historical Society website Archived 2007-06-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ J. L. Floyd & Co., Genealogical and Biographical Annals of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, 1911, page 160
  27. ^ 'Wisconsin Blue Book 1880,' Biographical Sketch of Charles Dering, pg. 505
  28. ^ "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.
  29. ^ Merrell, James. "Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier". {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  30. ^ 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)
  31. ^ Mad Men, Season One dvd
  32. ^ WKOK Staff (June 22, 2020). "'Wighte Lives Matter' painted on fence in Sunbury goes viral |". Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  33. ^ Background Information and Data, Sunbury Riverfront Park Project "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 10, 2007. Retrieved June 26, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  34. ^ History of Sunbury The flood wall Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine SEDA-COG, Oct. 12, 2005.
  35. ^ Tropical Storm Agnes in the Susquehanna River Basin June 21–24, 1972, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Information Sheet
  36. ^ "DCNR to Remove Last Impediment to Shad on Susquehanna".
  37. ^ Public parks of Sunbury "City of Sunbury: Merle Phillips Park". Archived from the original on August 25, 2007. Retrieved June 26, 2007.
  38. ^ Alter, Theodore R. "Strengthening Rural Pennsylvania" Brookings Institution. Archived 2007-07-11 at the Wayback Machine March 2007.
  39. ^ "Group works to define quality of life issues." The Daily Item, July 15, 2007.
  40. ^ "Welcome to nginx". PA Department of Community & Economic Development. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007.
  41. ^ Finnerty, John, "Moran buys Wilhold site", The Daily Item, Jan 13, 2006.
  42. ^ "Contact Us." (Archive) Weis Markets. Retrieved on May 7, 2012. "1000 South Second Street PO Box 471 Sunbury, Pennsylvania 17801"

External links[edit]