Brief history of Jim Thorpe also know as Mauch Chunck PA

I’m starting with the history of Jim Thorpe PA also known as Mauch chunck PA, I have gotten this brief history from and also from what I know as well along with facts that I know as well, The photos that are going to be shown are from me and images that I have found on the web as well. Mostly I will be taking photos of the town on my days off from work as well.


Jim Thorpe is a  borough in "WelcomeCarbon County, Pennsylvania, USA. The population was 4,804 at the 2000 census. It is the  county seat of Carbon County. The town has been called the “Switzerland of America” and  also “Germany of America” due to the picturesque scenery, mountainous location, and architecture; as well as the “Gateway to the Poconos.” 

 View of Mauch Chunck 1869

The name Mauch Chunk , was derived from the term “bear mountain” in the language of the native Lenape people, an apparent reference to a local mountain that resembled a sleeping bear. The town was founded in 1818 by  Josiah White, founder of the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company. It rapidly became a railroad and coal-shipping center, and was home to the  Mauch Chunck Switchback Gravity Railroad, generally acknowledged as the first roller coaster in the United States. The city was the location of one of the trials of the Molly Maguires (There is also pub named of them as well here in town) in 1876, which resulted in the hanging of four men found guilty of murder. The population in 1900 was 4,020; in 1910, it was 3,952.

Following the 1953 death of renowned athlete and  Olympic medal winner Jim Thorpe, the boroughs of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk merged and adopted the name of Jim Thorpe in hopes of attracting attention and tourism to bolster the local post-industrial economy. The town bought the athlete’s remains from his third wife and erected a monument to the Oklahoma native, who began his sports career as a student at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (2 hours southwest, near Harrisburg). On June 24, 2010, a son of Jim Thorpe (Jack Thorpe of Shawnee, Okla.) sued the town over his father’s remains under a Federal law designed to return Native American artifacts to their tribal homelands.

1915 postcard showing a bird’s eye view of the community

The history of the borough is inscribed in the architecture that makes up its many 19th century styles. Former resident and architectural historian Hans Egli noted the vast range of architectural styles: Federalist, Greek Revival, Second Empire,Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque. Most of these architectural examples remained intact beneath aluminum or vinyle siding that has since been removed.

Robert Venturi, renowned Philadelphia architect, conducted a little-known planning study in the 1970s that attempted to understand the dynamics of historicism and tourism, notions that have come into their own in contemporary times. While Venturi’s planning study was unique at the time, it has since become a critical factor in Jim Thorpe’s rebound as a functioning and economically stable community. Jim Thorpe benefits from tourism initially spurred on by the celebration of its old architecture, which has developed new industries and modern creations. Two of these relative newcomers to the Jim Thorpe area are paintball and white water rafting.

In 1827, the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company, a coal mining and shipping company with operations in Summit Hill, Pennsylvania, constructed an 8.7 mile (14.0 km) downhill track, known as a gravity railroad, to deliver coal (and a miner to operate the mine train’s brake) to the Lehigh Canal in Mauch Chunk. This helped open up the area to commerce, and helped to fuel the Industrial Revolution in the United States. By the 1850s, the “Gravity Road” (as it became known) was providing rides to thrillseekers for 50 cents a ride (equal to $11.64 today). This is often designated as the first roller coaster in the United States. The Switchback Gravity Railroad Foundation was formed to study the feasibility of preserving and interpreting the remains of the Switchback Gravity Railroad on top of Mount Pisgah.

As of the census of 2000, there were 4,804 people, 1,967 households, and 1,335 families residing in the borough. The  population density was 332.1 people per square mile (128.2/km²). There were 2,193 housing units at an average density of 151.6/sq mi (58.5/km²). The racial makeup of the borough was 98.36% White, 0.62% African American, 0.04% Native American, 0.27% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.04% from other races, and 0.62% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.83% of the population. A plurality of Jim Thorpe’s residents are of  Irish descent, typified by the connection to the Molly Maguires and large amount of Irish pride seen throughout the town (e.g. flags).

There were 1,967 households of which 28.2% had children under the age of 18, 50.6% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.1% were non-families. 27.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 2.93.

In the borough the population was spread out with 21.0% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 28.8% from 25 to 44, 24.9% from 45 to 64, and 17.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 95.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.9 males.

The median income for a household in the borough was $35,976, and the median income for a family was $43,710. Males had a median income of $31,141 versus $23,490 for females. The per capira income for the borough was $17,119. About 7.8% of families and 10.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.3% of those under age 18 and 6.8% of those age 65 or over.

Harry Packer Mansion

In a poll conducted by Budget Travel magazine, Jim Thorpe was recently awarded a top 10 spot on America’s Coolest Small Towns, Circa 2009. The town registered 3,920 votes to land the #7 spot on the list. Jim Thorpe is becoming a tourist destination, with many businesses catering to white water rafting,mountain biking,paintball and hiking. Along with these sports, Jim Thorpe is popular among railroadingfans and is known for its extraordinary architecture.

The town is home to the Asa Packer and Harry Packer Mansions. The former was the founder of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and Lehigh University; the latter was Asa’s son. Both mansions sit next to one another on a hill overlooking downtown Jim Thorpe. The Asa Packer Mansion is a museum and has been conducting tours since Memorial Day of 1956. The Harry Packer Mansion is a bed and breakfast.

Jim Thorpe is home to the Anthracite Triathlon, an Olympic distance triathlon open to amateur and professional triathletes. The swim portion occurs in Mauch Chunck Lake. The bike course takes riders through the mining towns of  Summit Hill,Nesquehoning, Lansford and Jim Thorpe. The running portion of the course is generally along the former alignment of a historic switchback railroad.


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