Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pennsylvania - Day 2...

Pennsylvania is a lot like Oregon, in that it has a wealth of photo opportunities. Now, I consider the Pacific Northwest to be just about the most photographically perfect place I've ever been, so it raised the bar raised pretty high. That said, Pennsylvania's no slouch.

My second day on Pennsylvania would be spent in the small, historic town of Jim Thorpe (also known as the "Switzerland of America"). Now, yes, I know what you're thinking: "Who the Hell gives a nice, quaint little town a name like that?"

Well, the story is a bit unusual.

Jim Thorpe was, and is, widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes ever. He played college football, professional football, professional baseball, and competed in the Stockholm Olympics in 1912. He was an athlete's athlete. The Associated Press named him the third greatest athlete of the 20th century, behind Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan.

Jim Thorpe was born near the small town of Prague, Oklahoma. After he passed away on March 18, 1953, his widow, Patricia, tried to get Oklahoma to erect a memorial to her husband. Oklahoma refused. The small towns of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, determined to increase business and tourism, actually purchased Jim Thorpe's remains. They combined the two towns into one entity and changed their name to "Jim Thorpe".

Essentially, the town which now bears his name is a town Jim Thorpe had never been to.

An overhead view of the town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania...

Jim Thorpe's tomb, and one of the two statues erected in his honor...

A close-up view of the statue near Thorpe's grave...

The final resting place of Jacobus Franciscus Thorpe. The inscription on the tomb is a quote from King Gustav of Sweden, following Thorpe's 1912 Olympic performance: "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world."

Jim Thorpe, the town, is a textbook example of small town Americana. In 2009, it was awarded a top 10 spot on "America’s Coolest Small Towns". In 2012, Jim Thorpe was voted the fourth most beautiful small town in America in the Rand McNally/USA Today Road Rally series.

Originally, Mauch Chunk was a "company town" for the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Co. As is the case with most such towns, it continued to grow and, before long, became an actual town.

Tourism has been a great bright spot for the area, as has outdoor sports such as cycling and white-water rafting. You can enjoy both of those here. The Lehigh River runs right through town.

From a photographer's perspective, Jim Thorpe is wonderful. From trains to mansions to street side houses, it's a visual feast:
 

Engine #426 of the Lehigh Valley Scenic Railway. Tickets for adults, for a one hour, 16-mile scenic journey along the Lehigh River, start at just $12.00 for adults and $9.00 for kids...

The Hotel Switzerland, home of Molly Maguire's Irish Pub...

DeFeo's Manor Bed & Breakfast, one of several in town...

Old bunting draped below a window on West Broadway...

The Asa Packer mansion. Asa Packer established the firm of A. & R. W. Packer, which built canal-boats for the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company...

Homes along Center Street...

The Black Bread Cafe on Oak Street...

The Carbon County Courthouse...

The Harry Packer mansion, which is now a bed & breakfast. Harry, Asa's son, received the mansion as a wedding gift from his father. The exterior served as the inspiration for Walt Disney's "Haunted Mansion"...

Before visiting here, I never would've guessed that this little town would offer up such an array of things to shoot. For years, I would hear the name "Jim Thorpe" and think "Great name for an athlete. Really silly name for a town". 

Now when I hear that name, I'll remember when I had the chance I had to shoot a true Americana gem in the heart of eastern Pennsylvania's Lehigh Gorge...


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