Road Trip: Scenery and history in Jim Thorpe, Pa.
By William Loeffler
Published: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, 9:03 p.m.
Few places boast the history, scenery and singular pedigree of Jim Thorpe.
Start with its dramatic topography and lush wooded surroundings. The picturesque Victorian hamlet hunkers down at the foot of a valley carved by the Lehigh River in Carbon County in the eastern part of the state.
From 1850 to 1910, Jim Thorpe was second only to Niagara Falls as a honeymoon destination. A writer for Harper's Weekly dubbed it “The Switzerland of America.”
Back then, it was known as Mauch Chunk (Sleeping Bear). It was renamed Jim Thorpe on May 18, 1954, when the towns of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk voted to unite and take the name of the Native American and Olympic champion that many consider to be the greatest athlete of the 20th century. Thorpe had died the previous year.
Patricia Thorpe wanted her husband to have a proper resting place. Borough officials hoped the name change and the prestige of being Thorpe's final resting place would help to reverse their declining economic fortunes.
Prior to the name change, however, the town had already distinguished itself as a linchpin of the Industrial Revolution as a transportation center for anthracite coal. Coal and railroad tycoons built mansions; at one time, 70 percent of the nation's millionaires owned residences there.
In addition to museums, railroad memorabilia, outdoor sports, art galleries and upscale restaurants, Jim Thorpe's wooded abundance makes for a spectacular show every autumn, when the leaves seem to catch fire. October is the busiest month, when the town hosts the Fall Foliage Festival on weekends.
Bart Springer, president of the Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce, suggests visiting during the week if you know what's good for you. The town, which has a population of about 4,800, receives as many as 20,000 visitors on weekends in October.
Pittsburgh native Burr Beard moved to Jim Thorpe after a career in radio that took him to Virginia and North Carolina. He plays dulcimer for the band Devilish Mary and volunteers at the local chamber of commerce.
“You come down the mountains, and the first thing you get are these four mountains that all come together and the ribbon of the Lehigh River cutting through it.” Beard says.
Jim Thorpe recently came in fourth in the 2012 Best Small Towns in America Contest survey hosted by USA Today and Rand McNally. The town was included in the 100 Best Adventure Towns in a survey by National Geographic.
William Loeffler is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7986.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Alvarez struggles as Pirates fall short against Brewers
- Orpik: Penguins must keep their cool
- Pirates trade for Mets first baseman Davis
- Penguins’ Bylsma wants Cup version of Letang
- Dems in Pa. governor’s race vow to close loophole, say firms skirt corporate tax
- Rossi: Pens sticking to power-play plan
- Latrobe woman texts searchers in Linn Run State Park to tell them she’s OK
- Former Mystic Inn burns in Republic, Fayette County
- Gorman: Can Mike Tyson save boxing?
- City’s efforts bolstered to track illegal dumping
- Investment in Western Pa. startups reaches 5-year high