The last adventure of our trip brings us to the borough of Jim Thorpe. Jim Thorpe was a famous Native American athlete. He was what we know as before Bo Jackson or Dion Saunders multi-athlete. He won Olympic gold medals, played professional football and baseball.
We started our journey at the Asa Packer Mansion. Completed in 1861, it was the home of Asa Packer (1805–1879), a coal and railroad magnate, philanthropist, and founder of Lehigh University. The mansion is one of the best-preserved Italianate Villa homes in the United States, with original Victorian furnishings and finishes.
The Asa Packer Mansion was built over a cast iron frame and cost $14,000 dollars. It contains a total of three stories, 18 rooms, a red-ribbed tin roof, and a two-story covered porch.
Upon the death of Mary Packer Cummings, Mr. Packer’s daughter, the home was willed to the Borough of Mauch Chunk (today Jim Thorpe) to remain as a memorial to her father and his many accomplishments. The borough, not certain what to do with the home, closed it, and for 44 years the home sat idle.
Inside the home, everything is original, all of the furniture, carpet, wallpaper just as it was in 1912. It’s truly a beautiful home. I have never seen anything so old with everything original. Asa paid workers 50 cents plus room and board a day to hand carve all of the woodwork inside of the house. It took a year and a half to complete the hand carvings. How would you like workers in your home for a year and a half?
Asa never fully forgot his humble beginnings, his generous deeds spoke for him. A philanthropist throughout his lifetime, Asa gave 33 million dollars to the town of Mauch Chunk and the Lehigh Valley. At the time of his passing, Asa retained an estate valued at 54 and a half million dollars.
Because Mary Packer left the home to the town, the 5,000 residents all own the mansion. Very cool.
Next door was Asa’s son’s home which is a bed and breakfast today. It looks to be a mansion in itself.
We then walked the streets of Jim Thorpe looking at shops and restaurants. We had lunch and then headed to the old jail.
The jail was built in 1869–1870 and is a two-story, fortress-like rusticated stone building. It has thick, massive walls and a square, one-story guard turret above the main entrance.
It features arched windows on the main facade and the turret. There is a basement that was used for solitary confinement until 1980. The building is most notable as the jail where a number of suspected “Molly Maguire’s” were imprisoned while awaiting trial in 1875–1876 and subsequently hanged. There is a movie about the hangings that was filmed at the old jail.
In cell 17, there is a handprint left by Alexander Campbell, a “Molly Maguire” who was hanged in 1877, to proclaim his innocence. Legend has it that despite many attempts to remove it, including building a new wall, the mark remains today.
We enjoyed our day in Jim Thorpe, there also is a passenger train that departs from town. Cute town with plenty to do.