I drove up to Jim Thorpe Friday thinking it would be cooler in the mountains (not) and because it is a funky place (this was not my first visit, hence I already knew it was funky).
Jim Thorpe is the county seat of Carbon County. Carbon County has a total land area of 387 square miles and 65,249 residents, based on the 2010 Census (a population density of 171 persons per square mile). Jim Thorpe’s population was 4,804 (2000 census) with a land area of 14.5 square miles (mostly undeveloped, obviously). Carbon County borders Lehigh County to the south and Luzerne County to the north.
Jim Thorpe was originally two towns across the Lehigh River from one another – Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk. The two towns merged and adopted the name Jim Thorpe, after famed Native American Olympian Jim Thorpe who is buried in the borough. Originally, what is now Jim Thorpe was a railroad and coal-shipping center. Like many Pennsylvania towns, Jim Thorpe found itself on the downside of post-industrialization and languished for many years. Becoming Jim Thorpe was the first attempt to boost the local economy. This offered only limited success and so the town leadership needed to find other means of ramping up their economy.
Today, Jim Thorpe is a bustling small town that has become a destination using its natural surrounding, its heritage and some good marketing.
Jim Thorpe has capitalized on being a former railroad town. You can take an awesome train ride along the Lehigh River. During the trip you learn about local history, play games and answer questions. It is very enjoyable and affordable. Asa Packer and his son Harry Packer have mansions in Jim Thorpe. Asa’s mansion is a museum and Harry’s mansion is a B&B. Asa Packer founded the Lehigh Valley Railroad and Lehigh University.
Jim Thorpe is a river town. The Lehigh River runs between both sides of town. Taking advantage of being a river town, Jim Thorpe offers whitewater rafting on the Lehigh.
Jim Thorpe is also a mountain town. It’s called the “Switzerland of America”. Taking advantage of being in the mountains, the town offers mountain biking and hiking. They threw in paintball just because. And don’t forget the Anthracite Triathlon, paying homage to being a coal-shipping center and part of the Coal Region.
Jim Thorpe is a historic town, full of 19th century architecture. One can see examples of Federalist, Greek Revival, Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, the Carbon County Courthouse, the Packer Mansions, the Train Station, the Hotel Switzerland, historic Broadway, the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Building and the Carbon County jail are some of the architectural attractions in town.
Jim Thorpe is so cool. How cool is it?? Jim Thorpe was listed as number 7 on Budget Travel magazine’s America’s Coolest Small Towns in 2009.
Downtown Jim Thorpe is full of restaurants, bars, boutiques and stores of all kinds. No empty or blighted buildings. Everything is clean and neat. There is signage every where so you can find your way. There is plenty of cheap parking…you have to pay but it is only a few dollars for the day. There is plenty of foot and vehicular traffic coursing through the downtown.
Great family fun abounds in Jim Thorpe! To learn more about Jim Thorpe or to plan a visit to Jim Thope, I suggest you study their website so you can make full use of you time when you visit! http://www.jimthorpe.org/